2016 Jaguar XF Review
More Grace, Enough Space, And Plenty Of Pace
EngineSupercharged 3.0L V6
Power340 HP / 332 LB-FT
0-60 Time5.2 sec
Curb Weight3,770 LBS
Seating2 + 3
As Tested Price$74,785
A limited amount of time behind the wheel, and a desire to see how much the slightly less powerful 2016 Jaguar XF 35t R-Sport gives away to its S-badged stablemate, leads us to our tester. In British Racing Green, the new XF is both more handsome than the slightly manic-looking old XF, yet also slightly more anonymous. This is a lithe shape, with crisp lines and few gimmicks, save the fender vents, which are about as tasteful as that element comes. The car's charms are especially evident from up front. Despite a distracting cut line, the hood is tastefully built up in two steps: a sharp rise from the headlight/fender area, and in the middle a tasteful power bulge. The overall effect is one of thoughtful, purposeful design – after all, this is Ian Callum's work – rather than taking a corporate-mandated design language and scaling it up or down to suit the hardpoints.
Inside, this XF is a mixed bag. Let's start with the positives. Despite being shod in a rather boring black hide, the front seats are wonderfully comfortable and supportive without aggressive bolstering. The cabin would really wake up with a more interesting leather, like the brown that Jaguar calls "Brogue," covering the seats and door panels. Whatever you think of the rotary shift selector, the knurling on its diameter and the solidity of its action conveys the sense of craftsmanship you'd expect from a British luxury car. Some other controls, such as the cheap-looking and -feeling control stalks sprouting form the otherwise wonderful steering wheel, do not.
Spend some time around FCA's UConnect system and you'll see where Jaguar needs to improve.
And that takes us to the infotainment system. This XF does away with Jaguar's old, much-maligned user interface, which was blocky and balky in equal measures. The new InControl interface is more modern, and much more responsive, but still not class-leading in terms of design or performance. Spend some time around FCA's UConnect system and you'll see where Jaguar needs to improve. Jaguar's better InControl Pro system, which is supposed to be a bit faster and utilizes a larger touchscreen, is an available option in the XF.
We have no such qualms about what's under the hood. There's a subjective quality to how cars in this class deliver power and convey luxury. The prime directive for BMW is, theoretically, to be the ultimate tool for serious drivers. That leads to a bit of stiffness; the driver has to push through some resistance to deliberately bring out the excitement. For Mercedes-Benz, it's now to punch far above its weight in terms of perceived luxury – the deep well of easy-to-unleash power is a nice bonus, but not really the focus of the non-AMG cars. For Jaguar, it's a variation on an old theme: grace, space, and pace.
Partially, it does this with a good old fashioned British projection of power. If tacking a Roots-type supercharger onto a Bentley was good enough for Woolf Barnato, then it's a perfectly fine way for the 340-hp XF to out-muscle the BMW 535i and the Mercedes-Benz E400 – and just about match the A6, which makes 333 hp courtesy of a Roots-type supercharged V6. This Jaguar V6, and its direct-injection system, are a carryover from the outgoing XF, but it's quite capable of prodigious, instant torque. And since the engine has a balance shaft fitted, it's very smooth.
This Jaguar V6, and its direct-injection system, are a carryover from the outgoing XF, but it's quite capable of prodigious, instant torque.
The supercharger itself is a bit of a statement. It's been largely abandoned by the Germans (except Audi) in favor of turbochargers, which suffer from lag but can produce admirable fuel economy numbers in government testing. The XF's manufacturer quoted 0-60 time of 5.2 seconds isn't all that quick in the grand scheme of things – our friends at Car and Driver managed to jack-rabbit a $30,000 Subaru WRX to 60 miles per hour in just 4.8 seconds by withholding any iota of mechanical sympathy. The blown six, however, is about more than the numbers – the broad, fat torque band provides a greater sensation of speed and acceleration than any fizzy turbo boxer engine.
Our tester, fitted with the optional Adaptive Dynamics package and thus active dampers, provided a remarkably supple ride over Southeast Michigan's pockmarked and ice-scarred roads with a dash of roll but none of the dreaded wallow. For once, these terrible roads were a blessing in disguise. Our first drive of the new XF took place on some glass-like Spanish roads, which didn't show off any of the suspension improvements Jaguar attributed to retuned dampers and a lighter overall curb weight (132 pounds in rear-wheel-drive form – thanks, aluminum).
Without a skidpad or a Belgian block test road, assessing ride quality is admittedly an exercise in subjectivity. After a few days of alternating between cruising and hoofing it, we can say that the XF rides exactly how we'd expect – and hoped – a proper Jaguar would. It's composed, it's competent, and it's never unpleasant, even when being manhandled. And that roll – well, a touch of roll is simply another vector of feedback connecting the driver to the car. There's a reason that Mazda engineers obsessed over baking two heresies into the original Miata: a bit of chassis flex and a dash of body roll. That sensibility is evident here, although adaptive dampers give the XF a range of options unheard of in the thoroughly analog Miata, and that accounts for the remarkable composure over a vast array of surfaces.
It's composed, it's competent, and it's never unpleasant, even when being manhandled.
Let's round out the driving impressions by focusing on the sensations reaching the driver's seat. We knocked the XF S for a lack of pleasing engine noises reaching the cabin, and particularly a muted exhaust note. Perhaps that was the case in the hotter S model, in which owners would probably appreciate a bit of an aural reminder that they had paid a little extra for an additional 40 hp. The XF R-Sport tested here seemed to strike a better balance, allowing the driver a hint of intake growl and a pleasant but muted whine from the blower. Just enough to remind the driver that the supercharged six was doing its job. Exhaust noise was less evident, sadly, so we'll agree with the previous reviewer there. For the base XF, this is probably in line with what the buyer expects. Surely a future XF R will right all auditory wrongs.
The steering can be summarized in the same way: muted but pleasant. Effort in Normal and Eco modes was light but the ratio intuitive. The steering weighted up nicely in Dynamic mode, but the feedback didn't scale up in proportion. Again, this is probably exactly what the buyer expects out of the less-sporty version of a sport-luxury sedan.
Any buyer who can short-circuit a predisposition for the brand cachet of the Germans and give this cat a shot should walk away pleasantly surprised.
At $74,785 as tested, this XF R-Sport rings in at a rather astonishing $21,890 more than a base XF 35t – and all of this extra kit involves interior upgrades like heated rear seats and a premium headliner, as well as some useful driver safety technology like adaptive cruise. The "Adaptive Dynamics" package, which provides those excellent adaptive dampers, is worth every penny of the $1,000 the package retails for.
Is it worth it? Our gut tells us most buyers in the market for an XF want all the interior upgrades and are happy to pay for them. Our gut also tells us that any buyer who can short-circuit a predisposition for the brand cachet of the Germans and give this cat a shot should walk away pleasantly surprised.
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