2009 Jaguar XF Expert Review:Autoblog
Ford Motor Company sent Jaguar packing this year when it sold the storied English automaker, along with Land Rover, to Indian mega corp. Tata. On its way out the door, Jaguar took something special: the XF sedan. Its entire development process having been carried out under the stewardship of Ford, the XF is easily the most tasty fruit born of the cross pollination between the Blue Oval and Leaping Cat since they were first joined back in 1989. Read on to find out how the 2009 Jaguar XF Supercharge fared in the Autoblog Garage.
All photos Copyright ©2008 John Neff / Weblogs, Inc.
The 2009 Jaguar XF is the second manifestation of Design Director Iam Callum's intention for the brand (the first was the 2006 XK) that heralds a completely new look for the automaker's entire lineup. Based on the CX-F concept car that debuted at the 2007 Detroit Auto Show, the new XF is not just unlike any Jaguar you've ever seen, but it's also distinct from any luxury sedan offered by BMW, Mercedes-Benz and Audi.
Nearly all connection with past Jaguars has been deleted save for the fluting that begins above the headlamps and flows into the hood. Next to those, however, are creases, bold lines and even a power bulge in the hood that's visible from the driver's seat. We generally like the new grille, the chrome split lower air intakes, and the hood that swells with testosterone, but miss the sexy cat slit headlights of the concept that would've put this design over the top.
The XF features a coupe-like profile that flows into broad rear fenders with a strong, high shoulder line. Yes, the rear of the XF, particularly the taillights, still looks very Aston Martin in execution, but average buyers will likely just see a shapely rear end. The XF also features chrome in all the right places with brightwork used to draw attention to particularly attractive elements like the aforementioned lower air intakes, the grille and a strip across the rear connecting the taillights that's emblazoned with the word 'Jaguar' in case the uneducated wonder what it is. While the design of the XF may be polarizing, it does have some particularly fetching angles from which it looks like a million bucks.
Just as the exterior breaks from the past, entering the interior is like hopping out of an E-Type into a Star Trek Shuttlecraft. Overall it is an aesthetic gem with just a few functional foibles. The dash is dominated by a strip of silver that extends from door to door, above which our tester sported soft black leather with red stitching. Muted Oak veneer inlays are also set in the center console and on the doors. The large touch navigation screen is located in that strip of silver, which is met from below by a center console that contains large, easy to use controls for the stereo and HVAC systems. We'll refrain from trashing Jaguar's sluggish nav system (it's been done to death), except to say that its slow performance takes away from a well-designed user interface and attractive graphics.
The center console itself features the interior's most striking element: the JaguarDrive gear selector. Traditional shifters are sticks for sentimental reasons only, as many modern day automatics don't require the mechanical motion of pulling a lever from P to D to get underway. Jaguar replaced the stick with a rotary knob that lays flush with the console's surface when the car is off and rises to meet your hand when turned on. It's purely theater and joined onstage by a Start button that pulses red when you get in and flush air vents that flip open. This startup performance isn't really functional nor even impressive after a few showings, but it always elicits remarks from first time passengers.
Other trick features that set the XF interior apart include proximity sensors for the interior lights and glove box release. Instead of pushing buttons, you wave your finger in front of the front dome lights or the small circle embedded in the wood trim above the glove box. Branded JaguarSense, this technology is more functional than backflipping air vents and thus was appreciated more in everyday use.
While the XF's instrument panel is ultra chique modern, Jaguar does a good job warming up the interior with the aforementioned leather and wood, as well as, in the case of our tester, a striking shade of orange called Spice for the leather seating surfaces. The seats were luxury car comfy, though we were surprised that the XF Supercharged didn't have more side bolstering to prevent ejection out the side window during hard cornering. And like with most luxury vehicles, the driver is given so many ways to adjust his seat that finding the right position is a never-ending pursuit.
So far we've learned that the Jaguar XF has a love-it-or-hate-it exterior and an avant-garde interior, but sedans in this class sink or swim based on how dynamic they are to drive. This is where the XF Supercharged shatters your preconceived notion of a Jaguar. The heart of the beast is Jaguar's venerable 4.2L V8 that's supercharged to produce 420 horsepower and 413 ft-lbs of torque. While not sporting the newest tech available, the supercharged 4.2L V8 is an eager to please engine with an abundance of on-demand torque and subdued purr that's ready to roar with a tap of your right foot.
Facilitating forward movement is Jaguar's six-speed Sequential Shift automatic transmission, a shift-by-wire system that can click off gear changes 15% faster than the same tranny in the XK. There are also large paddle shifters that turn with the steering wheel for manual control, and we actually enjoyed using them. The shifts are shockingly fast and accompanied by a throttle blip that smooths the transition so the car stays settled when shifting during a corner.
What really shapes the XF's personality are the transmission's different modes, which include standard, Winter and Dynamic. Being August, we didn't a get a chance to try out how Winter mode affected grip on slippery surfaces, but we did play with Dynamic mode... a lot. Engaged by a button below the rotary gear selector that's marked with a checkered flag, Dynamic mode not only makes the transmission shift faster, but also increases throttle sensitivity and generally quickens the cat's reflexes. Combine Dynamic mode with a defeated stability control system, and the fate of the rear tires is entirely in your hands. In this most extreme set up, the XF Supercharged feels like a completely different animal, one that's much more aggressive and shouldn't be fed by hand.
The XF Supercharged has a sports suspension with a CATS (Computer Active Technology Suspension) system that features two stages of dampening depending on whether you're puttering around town or really pushing the car. Any change in damping levels while we were driving went unnoticed as the suspension felt firm all the time. We blame the combination of 20-inch, five-spoke wheels wearing low profile tires and a rock hard rigid body structure, as the suspension is entirely on its own in isolating passengers from road irregularities. If you can live with it, the sport suspension rewards by hustling this 4,194 lb sedan around like a running back.
While the standard XF sedan gets 12.83-inch rotors at all four corners, the XF Supercharged receives larger front rotors that measure nearly 14 inches in diameter. They're up to the demands of a powerful sports sedan, but felt grabby during around-town driving where you're not trying to arrest all forward momentum in an instant. The variable ratio rack-and-pinion steering also feels artificially light at low speeds, but builds up a nice weighty feel as speeds increase.
The Jaguar XF Supercharged does come impressively loaded for its base price of $62,200, which is admittedly not cheap. Our only options were an adaptive cruise control system for $2,200 and heated steering wheel for $300, bringing the total with a $775 destination charge to $65,475. That's a premium price for a newcomer to the luxury sports sedan segment, especially one wearing the badge of a brand that doesn't have many of its nine lives left.
Jaguar desperately needs a hit, and we think the XF lineup including the standard model, Supercharged and upcoming XF-R can ultimately deliver. In fact, we don't believe Ford would've gotten the billions it did for Jaguar had it not been for this sedan that proves there are still people in Coventry who still care about the Leaping Cat.
All photos Copyright ©2008 John Neff / Weblogs, Inc.
New Car Test Drive
New sedan among the most appealing in its class.
The 2009 Jaguar XF is a new model, replacing the aging S-Type in Jaguar's lineup. This mid-sized, rear-wheel-drive sedan offers a fresh, engaging alternative to luxury imports such as the Audi A6, BMW 5 Series, Mercedes E-Class, and Lexus GS. After a 300-mile test drive, we'd rank the Jaguar XF near the top of its class.
The Jaguar XF delivers everything you'd expect in a contemporary luxury sedan, and then some. The big news with XF is styling, interior design and features, though the hardware underneath is anything but ordinary. A lot of it, including the suspension design, is borrowed from the Jaguar XK.
Factor in a well-engineered body structure, and the XF is exactly what it should be: smooth, quiet and responsive. It feels lighter and more agile than some of its competitors, and it bears up like a sport sedan when driven aggressively.
The XF comes with a choice of two V8 engines. The base engine is Jag's familiar 4.2-liter V8, delivering 300 horsepower and 310 pound-feet of torque. The upgrade is a supercharged version of the 4.2, generating 420 hp and 408 lb-ft and surpassing nearly all competitors in output. Both V8s come with Jaguar's six-speed ZF automatic transmission, which is one of the best automatics money can buy.
The XF will be offered in three trim levels, starting with the normally aspirated Luxury, which is better equipped than most base models in this category. The Premium Luxury adds even more stuff, including double-stitched, soft-grain leather on the dash and door panels. The SC (for supercharged) comes with just about everything Jaguar offers, including CATS automatic suspension control and 20-inch wheels.
Then there's the racy new look. The XF marks a new direction for Jaguar, but it also continues some of the styling themes that have identified Jaguars for decades. The roofline and the shape of the side glass are intended to create the impression of a sporty, two-door coupe more than a four-door sedan, and to a considerable extent it works. The XF presents one of the more interesting designs in a category full of handsome automobiles. If you're intrigued by the photographs, you'll like it better in real life.
The same applies inside. We really like the XF cabin, for both its look and overall function. Slide into this sedan, and an interactive greeting that Jaguar calls the handshake welcomes the driver and reminds him or her that driving is an active process. The wood, wool and leather create the feel and scent of a British club room, yet the design is light, airy and almost Scandinavian. The XF interior is more minimalist than its German competitors, but also more charming and easier to get familiar with.
Of course, the swoopy styling has its drawbacks. By nearly every exterior dimension, the XF is slightly larger than all competitors, but the flow of its roofline and the rake of its rear glass mean rear headroom is tight. In general, the rear seat feels more confining than that in a Mercedes E-Class or Audi A6. On the upside, the XF's trunk is larger than any competitor's, and a folding rear seat further expands capacity. The importance of these packaging issues will depend on the buyer's priorities.
In our estimation, the XF debuts as one of the most appealing cars in its class. Before the XF, well-heeled buyers seeking an option to the dense-pack switches, multi-layered interfaces and alphabet-soup of electronics in most imported luxo/sport sedans probably had to think about a brand with less cachet or dynamic capability. No more. With steady improvement in Jaguar's resale values and customer-satisfaction ratings the last several years, the new XF offers an excellent alternative.
The 2009 XF replaces the 2008 S-Type in Jaguar's line-up, though the two cars will sell concurrently during calendar year 2008.
The 2009 Jaguar XF is available in three trim levels with a choice of two V8 engines. All feature a six-speed automatic transmission with a paddle-operated manual mode.
The XF 4.2 Luxury ($49,200) is powered by a 4.2-liter V8 delivering 300 hp and 310 lb-ft of torque. The Luxury is one of the best equipped base models in this class, with features like rear park assist, passive keyless entry and start and a power glass sunroof included in the price. The standard seating is bond-grain leather, with satin-finish walnut and aluminum trim, a 320-watt, eight-speaker stereo and 18-inch alloy wheels.
The XF 4.2 Premium Luxury ($55,200) has the same normally aspirated V8 as the standard model, with even more luxury features. Its standard equipment list adds a GPS navigation system, soft-grain leather on the seats, dash and door panels, three-stage heated front seats and 19-inch wheels, among other things.
Options for Luxury and Premium Luxury: The Advanced Vision Package ($1,800) adds a rearview camera, front park assist, a radar-operated Blind Spot Monitor and self-leveling Bi-Xenon headlights. Larger wheels, an electric rear-glass sunblind ($450), Sirius Satellite Radio hardware ($375) are among the standalone options. A premium audio package ($1,500) features a 440-watt Bowers & Wilkins unit with surround processing, 13 speakers, an in-dash six-CD changer and Sirius Satellite Radio.
The XF 4.2 SC ($62,200), or Supercharged, comes standard with just about everything Jaguar offers, including 20-inch wheels. Most significantly, it features a supercharged version of the V8 and CATS, the Computer Active Technology Suspension. SC options are limited to a heated steering wheel ($300) and radar-guided Adaptive Cruise Control ($2,200).
Safety features that come standard include dual-stage front airbags, front-seat side-impact airbags, head-protecting curtain airbags for all outboard seats, and a tire pressure monitor. As noted, rear park assist is standard on all models, with a graphic display on the dash. The rearview camera, front park assist and blind-spot monitor are standard on the SC and optional on other models. Active safety features include Dynamic Stability Control, with an understeer (or push skid) managing feature, and the latest-generation antilock brakes (ABS). The ABS features brake assist for full force in panic stops and electronic brake-force distribution (EBD), which includes a component called Cornering Brake Control that proportions brake force from side to side to keep the car balanced while braking through a curve.
From its basic shape to its aerodynamic characteristics to its underlying structure, the 2009 Jaguar XF sedan is a thoroughly modern automobile. It's also a Jaguar, and while its styling is intended to create a template for Jaguars to come, the XF almost requires certain traits that the world associates with one of Britain's best-known brands.
This essential Jaguar character is defined by the XF's face, and centered on a prominent grille that launches nearly all of the lines flowing rearward across the car. The grille itself is quintessentially British woven mesh, trimmed with chrome and reminiscent of the racing Jaguars that have performed so well in the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Wing-shaped headlight clusters wrap around the XF's corners onto its fenders.
In profile, the XF is defined by a single, uninterrupted line that flows from the front bumper to the rear edge of the trunk lid. The beltline, that character-building crease below the side windows, rises up into the roof more than the roof drops down toward the beltline. The effect is a forward-biased wedge shape that creates an impression of speed, even when the XF is sitting still. The rear deck is higher than that on any Jaguar sedan before, but this less-formal look pays dividends in excellent aerodynamics and an expansive trunk.
The overall shape of the XF does not shout Jaguar, but the familiar design cues are everywhere. Within each new-age headlight cluster sit two round, sealed beams that maintain the brand's quad-lamp signature, complete with the traditional fluting above the lights. The chrome trim above the side windows comes straight off the historic Mk. II sedan, while the prominent hood bulge recalls the E-type, which is arguably the most famous Jaguar of all. We're not enamored with all the jewelry, however. The bright metal strip on the trunk lid looks ordinary, and the leaping Jaguar in back is overkill.
The XF's basic shape does more than create a high-impact presence. Aerodynamically, it's the most efficient Jaguar sedan ever, with an impressive 0.29 drag coefficient and a front-to-rear lift balance of zero. That means that neither end of the car is more inclined than the other to lift in the airflow as speeds increase. The excellent aerodynamics help keep the XF stable at high speeds, reduce wind noise inside and reduce fuel consumption at a given speed, compared to a car with more drag.
The XF is slightly larger in just about every exterior dimension than the Audi A6, which was previously the largest car in this class. Its underlying structural design is driven by safety considerations, and particularly by the goal of protecting against side impacts and the tendency of tall, sport-utility type vehicles to slide upward in collisions with sedans. Jaguar has applied a host of high-tech metals, including high-carbon steels, dual-phase steel, hot-formed boron and bake-hardened steels, to create a vertical safety ring around the XF's occupant cell. The company claims that the XF will deliver the best crash protection in the class with a body/frame package that is lighter than that of its competitors.
There's a second benefit to this careful structural engineering. While the XF's body is larger, Jaguar also claims that it is the most torsionally rigid car in the class, meaning that it flexes less from end to end under pressure. This overall stiffness and rigidity is one of the factors that separate luxury sedans from less expensive, higher-volume models. It's the foundation for minimizing noise and vibration inside an automobile, and the well from which dynamic capabilities such as handling, ride quality and overall responsiveness flow.
Inside, the Jaguar XF has everything we want in a sporting luxury sedan, without a lot of things we don't want. We want style, comfort, features, useful technology and great ambience. We don't want the distraction or annoyance that some contemporary luxury sedans demand in return for what we do want.
Is the XF cabin high-tech? We'd say so. The overhead lights, for example, work simply with a touch. Not a switch or even a click of the light lens itself, but just a soft touch. The same with the glovebox latch, which isn't really a latch at all. It's a spot on the wood trim where you lay a finger. In general, the XF's features and controls empower the driver without overpowering. They're there when you need them and not a distraction when you don't (or when you do). That's in contrast to so many luxury cars that seem to want to shove all their goodies in your face, and then make them hard to operate.
Like its exterior, the XF's interior will seem familiar to previous Jaguar owners, only different. The great leather and a choice of lacquered wood are familiar. The difference is primarily the design or layout. It's less conventional than previous Jaguar sedans, and perhaps less formal.
The materials are bit different, too. There's a lot more aluminum trim to go with the wood (though there is still a lot of wood). And while Jaguar has always delivered the requisite leather, wood and wool carpet, it has sometimes hidden behind these big-impact materials without paying much attention to lesser stuff. In the XF, even the plastic pieces inside have a rich, latex-like feel. Overall, the package is first rate. It's as inviting in design and ambience as any car in this class, and more so than many. The only potential gripe in materials and craftsmanship is the headliner. It's a woven material Jaguar calls Morzine, and it's tailored snugly to the contour of the roof. It's just that the duck-like textile seems a bit ordinary in light of the great stuff everywhere else.
All seats are leather, with perforated inserts between the bolsters. The base Luxury package gets what Jaguar calls bond-grain, and it's thick and sturdy. The Premium Luxury and SC models get soft-grain leather. It's ultra-soft to the touch, but still sturdy and substantial, and in these models it's applied on the dashboard and door panels as well, with genuine double stitching. The front seats are heavily sculpted, and they support and cushion as well as the standard seats in any car in this class, with adjustment for just about everything. Yet these seats are less massive than those in some competitors, perhaps thinner, so they seem to fill less space inside the car.
When the driver slides into the XF with the proximity key in purse or pocket, the start button glows, ready to be pushed. The steering wheel is identical to that in the XK sport coupe: grippy, with heavy spokes and the growling mug of a jaguar in the center. The gear selector is a big, aluminum dial knob that rises from the center console when the XF fires up. It's cooler than the drive-by-wire shifters other luxury manufactures have developed, and as functional as any. Jaguar claims this electronic gear selector will keep working even if it's drenched with a half-gallon of coffee.
The XF's primary gauges are slightly smaller than those in some luxury sedans, but the script is large and easy to read. They're clustered under a compact hood binnacle in the now-familiar luxo-car format: speedometer on the right, tach left, flanking an LCD message center with a bar-graph gas gauge, gear indicator, time, odometer and other trip information. The backlighting is ultra-crisp phosphorus blue, and perhaps the best going.
Jaguar is bragging about the XF's soft blue LED ambient lighting, too. Unfortunately, our test driving came primarily during daylight, so we're not sure what to think. We can say that e.
The new Jaguar XF measures up to the best cars in its class in just about every respect, and its over-the-road performance is excellent.
From the driver's seat, the XF delivers everything we like about medium-sized sport-luxury sedans. The supercharged model in particular leans toward the sporty end of the spectrum, with the BMW 5 Series and sport-tuned versions of the Audi A6, rather than the softer, cushier end. The XF is smooth, fast, and responsive, but also quiet and comfortable. Its six-speed automatic transmission might be the best in any luxury car anywhere, and contributes considerably to the enjoyable driving experience. Perhaps best of all, the XF has lots of those subtle little characteristics that some reviewers might call soul.
All XFs have proximity keys, so the doors can unlock themselves. When the driver sits down the start button on the center console pulses red. Press it and, as the V8 draws its first breathes of air, cutouts in the aluminum dash panel rotate to expose four vents. At the same time, a milled aluminum shift dial rises out of the console, ready to rotate three clicks for Drive or four if the driver prefers to shift manually with paddles on the steering column. This introduction is engaging, and perhaps a bit showy, but it's a great way to begin the job at hand. This handshake, as Jaguar calls it, reminds occupants that, while they might be ensconced in a quiet, comfortable cocoon, driving remains an interactive and sometimes demanding process. After the handshake, the soft purr of the engine at idle will leave you anticipating what lies ahead.
The 4.2 liter V8 comes naturally aspirated or supercharged. Both engines are updated versions of those used in Jaguar's S-Type sedan (which the XF replaces), with reinforced engine blocks to reduce vibration and the latest control technology. The normally aspirated V8 is no slouch in output, delivering 300 horsepower and 310 pound-feet of torque. With its belt-driven, rotor-type blower, the supercharged 4.2, or SC, generates 420 hp and 408 lb-ft. It's easily the most powerful engine in this class, save those in limited-volume hotrod cars from BMW's M division, Mercedes AMG and the like, expensive cars with expensive engines.
Floor the gas pedal in the SC and you might be struck by what's missing. The supercharger whine is so subdued, compared to previous Jaguars, that it takes a couple of full bursts before the thrust convinces the driver that this is the upgrade. And thrust there is, in long, effusive swells that make you wish every road ran uninterrupted to the horizon. The supercharged V8 keeps pumping acceleration-producing torque from 2000 revs to its 6200-rpm redline, with no climax that suggests a peak. We'd estimate that the XF 4.2 SC will hit 60 mph from a stop in five seconds, or maybe a tenth more. It will go from 60 to 100 mph much faster than it takes a semi to enter two-lane in front of you. Top speed is electronically controlled at 155 mph.
Put another way, we'd guess that the XF SC is the quickest car in a group populated by some very quick sedans, except for the previously mentioned ultra-performance cars like the BMW M5 and Mercedes E63 AMG. The SC has, after all, the same mechanical package as the former S-Type R, which was Jaguar's version of the M or AMG cars. Yet nothing in XF suggests a hot-rod quality. Rather, it shoots ahead in a smooth, unruffled fashion befitting a $60,000 luxury sedan. The fuel mileage isn't bad, either, despite the power and acceleration advantage on the competition. Jaguar anticipates EPA fuel economy ratings 17 City, 23 Highway of the XF SC, which is better than any current V8-powered car in the class, and better than some six-cylinders.
The six-speed automatic contributes to the XF's sporting character, using adaptive gear-change strategies based on the type of road and the driver's application of the gas pedal. This transmission anticipates.
The all-new 2009 Jaguar XF, which replaces the S-Type sedan, has all the earmarks of a hit. It's great looking, smooth and comfortable, with the features buyers expect in this class, and then some. Perhaps best of all, it accelerates quicker and handles as well or better than some of the best cars in its class, including the BMW 5 Series, Audi A6, and Lexus GS. The XF's interior is both gorgeous and charming, and less confusing or annoying than some of its competitors. The 2009 XF offers a choice of powerful V8 engines, and both get excellent mileage for cars with this performance. The least expensive V8 model is priced the same or less than some comparably equipped, six-cylinder competitors.
J.P. Vettraino filed this report after his test drive of all the Jaguar XF models in the Phoenix area.
Jaguar XF 4.2 Luxury ($49,200); 4.2 Premium Luxury ($55,200); 4.2 SC ($62,200).
Birmingham, United Kingdom.
Options As Tested
radar-guided Adaptive Cruise Control ($2,200); heated steering wheel ($300).
Jaguar XF 4.2 SC ($62,200).
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