First Drive : Jaguar XF (2015)

Carole Nash Classic Insurance Specialists

The all-new, second-generation Jaguar XF breaks cover and ,as part of its maker’s renaissance, it has its sights aimed aggressively at the Audi A6, BMW 5-Series and Mercedes-Benz E-Class.

Does the aluminium beauty have what it takes? Motoring Research‘s Tim Pitt gets behind the wheel…

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Without doubt, 2015 has so far been a very busy year for Jaguar. With the launch of the all-new XE entry-level model, expanding into new market sectors with the F-Pace, running up a new range of engines from an equally shiny factory – and, to top it all, a new aluminium platform that will be spun across the range. So you’d be forgiven for not really noticing the arrival of the second-generation XF.

But here it is – and very impressive it is, too, given that as recently as the turn of the millennium, the idea of a new Jaguar appearing more often than once in a blue moon, would have seemed like heresy. The XF is all-new – more closely related to the XE than its predecessor – and it needs to be good to continue the work its 2007 forebear started. The new XF’s body is built largely from aluminium to save weight, and new Ingenium diesel engines look set to deliver big gains in fuel efficiency.

There are four engines from launch: 160bhp or 177bhp 2.0-litre diesel, the 297bhp 3.0-litre V6 diesel and 375bhp 3.0-litre V6 petrol. The 2.0-litre diesels come with six-speed manual or eight-speed automatic gearboxes; the 3.0-litre engines are auto-only. The entry-level diesel is the expected to be the best-selling variant, particularly for company car drivers, and certainly delivers promising numbers – 0-60mph in 8.2 seconds and 70.6mpg with CO2 emissions of 104g/km.

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At the upper end of the scale, the 380hp supercharged XF S storms to 60mph in just 5.1 seconds and returns 34.0mpg and 198g/km (£265 car tax). Buyers can choose from four trim levels: Prestige, R-Sport, Portfolio and S. All come with Jaguar’s InControl Touch media system, with an 8in touchscreen, navigation and voice control. Optional InControl Touch Pro arrives later this year, with a larger 10.3in screen and ‘virtual’ instrument display. XF prices start at £32,300 for the 2.0d 163 Prestige, rising to £35,100 for the mid-range 2.0d 180 R-Sport. The range-topping 3.0 V6 S is £49,945.

The new XF is a sports saloon in the mould of the BMW 5-Series, and as such, its ride is on the firm side, especially at low speeds around town. The V6 we tried had optional adaptive dampers and was noticeably better in this regard, although still a little stiff on huge 20in alloys and rubber-band tyres. Fortunately, the trade-off for a little wiggle and jiggle is secure and confidence-inspiring handling. The XF turns in eagerly, its standard torque vectoring system subtly braking the inside wheels to really tug you around tight corners.

The steering is direct and full of feedback, while the eight-speed automatic gearbox adapts seamlessly to your driving style. Only a rather spongy brake pedal lets the side down. Frustratingly, the predicted bestseller – the 163hp 2.0-litre Ingenium diesel – wasn’t available to drive at the launch. However, we did try the 180hp version, which costs between £500 and £900 more to buy (depending on spec) and is only slightly less efficient. The new engine is an impressive all-rounder: smooth, refined and decently quick (0-60mph takes 7.5 seconds). It’s all you really need. Just don’t drive it back-to-back with the 3.0-litre V6.

Ah, yes, the V6. This flagship 380hp lump is lifted straight from the F-Type and transforms the XF into something very far from ‘old man’. Kick-down is downright savage with the gearbox in Sport mode, and the whine of the supercharger as this luxurious saloon gathers its skirts and charges for the horizon is addictive stuff. We also sampled the – somewhat more sensible – XF 3.0-litre diesel, which occupies the middle-ground between these two extremes. Its muscular low-rev torque makes it feel almost as quick as the petrol V6 in normal driving, but you’ll pay a hefty price – nearly £11k more than the most expensive 2.0-litre diesel.

The outgoing XF didn’t just ditch the soft suspension of Jaguars past. It also swapped trad walnut-n-leather for an interior more akin to a trendy wine bar. Aluminium detailing and cool blue lighting were the order of the day. The new XF keeps the rotating air vents and rotary gear selector of its predecessor, but the rest is all new. A low seating position and wide centre console make the driver feel cocooned inside the car, while the sporty, three-spoke steering wheel feels great.

There’s good news for passengers, too. Rear legroom is up by 15mm, while headroom has increased by up to 27mm. Spend a little more and you can even treat the kids to heated rear seats and four-zone climate control. Most XFs have conventional dials, but a 12.3in virtual display is available, in conjunction with the new InControl Touch Pro media system.

We tried a developmental version of this set-up, which isn’t available until the end of 2015. It’s bold, bright and very user-friendly, with iPad-style swipe and ‘pinch to zoom’ functionality on the central touchscreen. However, we were less enamoured with the virtual dials, which are harder to read than the old-fashioned physical type. The XF comes with all the safety kit you’d expect, including automatic emergency braking. However, Jaguar has followed the German brands’ lead elsewhere, relegating many of the most desirable features to the options list.

Full-LED headlights, a laser head-up display, adaptive cruise control, auto parking and a ground-shaking 17-speaker Meridian sound system are all available, if your pockets are deep enough.

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Jaguar’s 15 years of expertise with aluminium has certainly paid off. Not only is the XF 2.0d 163 the lightest car in its class by 80kg (equivalent to ditching an adult passenger), it also boasts the lowest CO2 emissions of any non-hybrid model – at 104g/km. That’s great news for company car drivers and means just £20 annual car tax at 2015 rates. Claimed fuel economy of 70.6mpg is not to be sniffed at either.

The XF isn’t cheap to buy, though. Its starting price of £32,300 is around £1500 more than an equivalent BMW 5-Series. However, residual values are forecast to be among the best in class and, according to Jaguar, that reduces whole-life running costs for the 2.0d to less than the Germans. One question mark with the new XF is reliability. The marque has fared well in recent JD Power surveys, which focus on newer cars. However, the – more in-depth and comprehensive – Which? Car Survey points to longer-term reliability issues across the existing Jaguar range.

Verdict

The new XF isn’t a game-changer like its predecessor, but it doesn’t need to be. It builds on the strengths of the outgoing car, with added ‘grace, space and pace’. Oh, and a large dollop of extra efficiency, too. If you’re looking for the last word in luxury, you’ll be better served by a Mercedes E-Class. The XF is unashamedly a sports saloon, and it rewards keen drivers with a chassis that matches the best BMW can muster.

Nonetheless, all its main competitors are very competent cars that we’d happily drive every day. Much of your choice essentially comes down to design – and here the XF excels. Removing our objective road-test hats for a moment, the XF is comfortably the best-looking car in this segment. It’s sleek and elegant, with a low-slung silhouette that hints at sportiness within. The fact that it looks very similar to the smaller XE hardly seems to matter – identikit cars have done Audi and Land Rover no harm.

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Keith Adams

Keith Adams

Editor and creator AROnline at AROnline
Created www.austin-rover.co.uk in 2001 and built it up to become the world's foremost reference source for all things BMC, Leyland and Rover Group, before renaming it AROnline in 2007.

Is the Editor of the Parkers website and price guide, formerly editor of Classic Car Weekly, and launch editor/creator of Modern Classics magazine. Has contributed to various motoring titles including Octane, Practical Classics, Evo, Honest John, CAR magazine, Autocar, Pistonheads, Diesel Car, Practical Performance Car, Performance French Car, Car Mechanics, Jaguar World Monthly, MG Enthusiast, Modern MINI, Practical Classics, Fifth Gear Website, Radio 4, and the the Motoring Independent...

Likes 'conditionally challenged' motors and taking them on unfeasible adventures all across Europe.
Keith Adams

13 Comments

  1. Very interesting read. My brother has sold his previous XF and ordered a new XF R Sport. It certainly looks more elegant and distinctive than the BMW & Audi competition… The range of new engines should mean it has something for everyone, with that kind of money.

    Long may Jaguar’s success continue with their expanding product range

  2. What have they done to the inside? Dour, awfull, plain. Yes an engaging drive, I agree, but will it be trounced by the 2016 E class?

    • I have had a quick look at the Jaguar website and customers can choose a light interior and different veneers. Unfortunately, you cannot order a Deltic.

  3. Say what you like about the XF but its been a real success story for Jaguar. Whereas the S Type was a poor relation to the range topping XJ models the XF has always felt a great compromise.

    The original XF seemed to me to be the first Jag in living history not to shed 70% of its value (and some of its trim) in the first 5 years. There is actually a real danger of an early XF becoming more expensive than a similarly aged X350! People are buying the XF and holding on to them for many many years. All the used ones seem to have done stratospheric mileages yet look as fresh as a daisy.

    My only criticism and sadly its commonplace amongst ‘executive’ cars now, they all have cheap looking plastic door handles. What was wrong with something silver and shiny?!

  4. I wonder when if ever in Jaguar history we have seen the launch of two world class cars in such close succession.

    Thinking of the decades the original XJ (Range Rover and XJS as well) had to soldier on to overcome the misguided and under investment of British Leyland and the Ryder Plan, you would never imagine one day Jaguar having the resources to do this.

  5. JLR are definitely catching up with their German rivals in speeding up product launches, helped by finally having a logical platform strategy, when you think back to the X-type, S-type, and XJ all being completely unrelated! With the X-Pace next to be launched, that’s a whole range of cars launched within a year

    It’s tough out there, Jaguar will next need the Ingenium Petrol engines and Hybrids, as diesels aren’t big sellers outside Europe

  6. Why must they insist on bin-liner grey interiors?
    Surely the whole point of a Jaguar is that it should offer a bit more individual character than the high-volume produced Germans?

  7. We have experience of the XF since launch and can compare it to all its competitors. The Mercedes E-Class has proved to be comfortable, economical but expensive, particularly suspension consumables. The Audi A6 is a superb car with great build quality and good reliability and low cost, except for the 2.0 TDi which on two occasions needed engine replacement. The BMW 520 and 530 are very popular as drivers cars but less so in terms of reliability. Not as bad as the 3 Series but surprisingly poor and costly to repair.

    The Lexus and the XF have proved to be far superior in terms of reliability. With huge mileage neither have given any trouble. All our XFs have proved to be very well made. They have a thirst for brake pads and discs but other than that nothing has proved a problem. We have a 2.2 Saloon with 237,000 kms and it presents and drives like a new car. We also have a 3.0 Estate and with 210,000 kms needs to be driven. I know as I have been driving it for the last 6 months. The last car I have had that proved this good was a lovely 1995 BMW 530 Tourer. BMW please look at your product from the late 80s early 90s, they really were beautifully built and while your product today might look and drive sharply, I would like them to be better built.

    People have said that Jaguar have got some trim details wrong and they are right. I know its a small issue but the XF is a really nice place to be but the door handles are awful. Fix this and I think the car would be perfect.

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