2009 XF New Car Test Drive
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.