There was a time when the continued survival of Jaguar seemed doubtful. The relevance of the brand, retro design and the image of a company stuck in a time warp did nothing to help Jaguar a decade ago.
Then came the XF, an upper-medium executive car to take on the BMW 5 Series, the Mercedes E-Class and the Audi A6. Compared to the other Jaguar models then on the market it was like a refreshing bucket of cold water in the face; a sleek, coupe-like saloon that retained just enough big cat DNA to retain that vital Jaguar link. A cool, British sports saloon with a touch of class.
The motoring media industry lined up to throw awards at the XF and designer Ian Callum, and overnight Jaguar seemed reborn. The XF is the catalyst for that rebirth, and Jaguar is keeping the exec at the head of the pack with new engines and specifications for 2010.
Out goes the 2.7-litre diesel and in comes a 3.0-litre V6 twin-turbo diesel engine that outputs up to 270bhp of power and a staggering 600Nm of torque – 440lb-ft in old money. The engine comes in two power guises, but the higher rated S version we took out for a spin can accelerate to 62mph in under six seconds, while returning over 40mpg combined. Economy and performance in one engine. It’s paired to a six-speed automatic transmission that can also be controlled by paddle shifters behind the steering wheel.
The other 3.0-litre diesel has 237bhp, and there’s also a 5.0-litre petrol V8. Prices range from £29,900 for the 3.0 V6 Luxury 4dr Auto to £62,055 for the 5.0 V8 Supercharged XFR 4dr Auto. We drove the XF 3.0 V6 S Premium Luxury, which weighs in at around £40K but features all the gadgetry and driving aids you could ask for.
A Dynamic Pack lends a further sporty element to the car, offering an S mode that works with traction control to change engine response, braking and gear changes. A Winter mode is also available to improve traction in difficult conditions. If that’s not enough for you, you can switch off the traction control. “I wouldn’t do that,” we were told before taking off to the open road.
It’s not just the power, it’s the way the autobox transmits it that really impresses. There’s nothing twitchy or manic about the way the XF puts the power down, and there’s a smooth and steady transfer of power from very low down to as far as is legally permissible. It feels like the power would just keep coming. You might think that the car’s strong road holding means a firmer ride. Not a bit of it, thanks to Jaguar’s electronically-controlled dampers that react to the road and driving conditions the XF is supremely comfortable, untroubled by most the UK’s pitted roads or challenging driving can throw up.
Jaguar has scored a massive winner with the XF’s interior, which has real wow factor when the engine turns over. The rotating vents and rising rotational shifter are simply wonderful. The Jag XF also features one of the more intuitive multimedia control systems, alongside the likes of keyless entry, parking cameras, Bluetooth phone connectivity and touchscreen control, so it doesn’t shirk on gadgetry either. Touch-sensitive interior lights, the way the interior is put together, the reassuringly chunky rotating shifter and the luxurious materials all combined to form an image of something rather special.
There’s ample room for five adults and there’s 540 litres of space in the boot, which should cater for the all-important ‘how many bags of golf clubs can it fit in?’ equation. As befits a car that drives so smoothly, the XF’s seats are similarly cosseting and welcoming.
Some subtle styling changes on the S model means the Jaguar XF looks as fresh as ever; and in profile, particularly, it’s a stunner – its saloon-meets-coupe duality more obvious. The leaper and growler badges are a pleasant reminder that this is a marque with some serious history behind it.
The XF is where luxury and sports cars meet in the middle. As a cruiser or even around town the XF is refined, quiet and immensely comfortable. Yet at the flick of a switch it’s a seriously fast coupe that transmits its hefty power so smoothly it’s a joy to experience.
The Jaguar XF – the car that reinvigorated the big cat – is two cars in one. A languid executive car on one hand and a nimble, powerful sports saloon on the other. Both are superb.