– Aggressive front-end styling
– Cabin space and features
– Power and handling
– Conservative beyond front-end
– Some cabin trim choices
– Steering a bit light
The XF was the first “modern” Jaguar sedan, introducing a new design language that replaced the retro-classy styling of the S-Type before it. Perfected after a mid-life facelift, it set the stage for every Jaguar sedan that came after. That look carries over to the new-for-2016 Jaguar XF, but it’s not just a minor update. It’s a completely new car, with a chassis that is now comprised of 75% aluminium, making it 28% stiffer and 11% lighter than the old model’s steel structure.
The XF is still a handsome sedan with an aggressive streak, although it’s become slightly more conservative beyond the angry front-end. The new car is clearly longer, with glass in the C-pillar to expand the rear cabin volume. It now comes in various trim levels, although visual differences are few and it may be hard to discern the hierarchy. Our red test car is the 340 hp XF 35t R-Sport, a cool-sounding name for sure, but apparently the simpler-named XF S is the 380 hp top dog.
Inside, the test car came with all the things we love about Jaguar, namely the clean interior design, made even simpler than before. The pop-up gear selector is retained, while the flipping a/c vents are only on the corners now. The touchscreen is flanked by slabs of aluminium trim and topped off with a stitched-leather dash that matches the two-tone leather upholstery in the rest of the interior. There’s more hard plastics in the bottom half of the cabin than we’d like for car in this class, but it is unlikely actual owners will notice. The ambience is great at night, with mood lighting all over, but a couple of the buttons for certain functions aren’t back-lit clearly, making them harder to find.
The new XF benefits from vastly better cabin space, with comfortable moderately-bolstered front seats as well as very good headroom and legroom in the back, better than the likes of the BMW 5-Series. Only the rear middle seat is tight as the rear a/c unit protrudes into the footwell. The boot is big as well, with split-folding rear seats. And there are enough covered cup-holders and door pockets, but there is an odd lack of storage cubbies, as even the firmly-padded centre-armrest cubby is too shallow.
Tech features finally up-to-date in the XF, highlighted by a good-sized capacitive touchscreen with a colourful interface and big buttons. Other features in our R-Sport include a strong stereo, navigation, rear camera, blindspot monitoring, ventilated power-adjustable front seats and steering column, a great four-zone automatic a/c with rear vents and controls, a half-length panoramic moonroof, smart key with starter button, electric parking brake, auto start/stop fuel-saving system, HIDs with LED running lamps, basic cruise control, a full set of airbags and more. Higher trim levels above the R-Sport come with further features such as a 12.3-inch screen replacing the gauge cluster, adaptive cruise, 5-camera parking system, heads-up display and remote start using your smartphone.
The R-Sport comes with Jaguar’s supercharged 3.0-litre V6, with peak power of 340 hp at 6500 rpm and 450 Nm of torque at 3500 rpm. Mated to an 8-speed automatic and rear-wheel-drive, it’s a rocking engine that’s never short on power and offers a good kick from the get-go. We managed a 0-100 kph time of 5.7 seconds with a conservative launch in cool February weather. But while the XF shares this motor with the F-Type, it sounds subdued at most speeds, so don’t expect sports-car growls to be echoing on tunnel walls or anything like that.
The transmission is a smooth shifter and is good at selecting the right gears as needed, but it can take time downshifting multiple gears when you boot the throttle. It’s more responsive in sport mode of course, and the paddle-shiftable manual mode is pretty quick as well, for a traditional torque-converter gearbox. Those extra gears also aided in us achieving a fuel economy figure of 12.3 litres/100 km, which is a lot lower than V8s with similar power.
The new XF R-Sport handles perfectly well enough to be termed as a sports sedan, with stiffer suspension that the base model. There’s no obvious body roll on moderate-speed corners, with good body control on direction transitions and great grip from the 245/40 tyres on 19-inch alloys. The steering has a bit of weight to it, but still on the light side and limited in feedback, with the “sport” mode not changing that by much. The brakes are great, with moderate pedal weight and good stopping power.
The ride is smooth for the most part, with a tinge of firmness, and no floatiness over large undulations. The cabin is decently quiet, although not quite as silent as some of the others in its class. The mirrors are small, so the blindspot monitors are a welcome feature.
The Jaguar XF has always been the offbeat choice in a segment where the choices are generally uninspiring. The new XF now conforms a bit more, with its extra cabin space and updated gadgetry, while still remaining unmistakably Jaguar, both in looks and in drive.
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