New York 2011: Jaguar makes the XF we always wanted and tweaks the XK for 2012

The 2012 Jaguar XF - Click above to view high-res image gallery

The Jaguar XF only arrived in 2008, but in just three years, it has reset the course for a brand that was hobbled by the transgression of the X-Type and a beloved but aging XJ. In 2010, it received a new set of engines that delivered performance on par with the promise of the concept car, and now, for 2012, we have a car that delivers on the looks of that showstopper. Jaguar has revealed a refreshed XF at the New York Auto Show, and the renew isn't ostentatious, but it is thorough, and rewarding.

Continue reading New York 2011: Jaguar makes the XF we always wanted and tweaks the XK for 2012...

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Live photos copyright ©2011 Drew Phillips / AOL

The 2012 Jaguar XF Goes Back to the Future

Perhaps the most welcome thing that Wayne Burgess, chief designer of the XF, said about the 2012 car is that "it's more like the C-XF now that the technology has caught up." The concept car that prowled the stage in 2007 was designed after the production car had been signed off upon, done because then-parent Ford wanted some sizzle to show before the steak.

People fell so in love with the show car, however, that when the production car arrived – along with its much less slick grille and headlight treatment – everyone howled about the bait-and-switch. And Ian Callum, Jaguar's designer head, said he'd be never involved in that kind of ruse again. (Which means that no, there's no production-ready C-X75 getting tooled up as you read this. Sadly.)

2012 Jaguar XF 2009 Jaguar XF 2007 Jaguar C-XF Concept
Clockwise from top - 2012 Jaguar XF, 2009 Jaguar XF, Jaguar C-XF concept

So finally, after the powertrain overhaul in 2010, for 2012 the XF turns true to its conceptual roots – and that means a thorough revision of the sedan's details inside and out.

It starts with the XF's face, where the grille is larger, recessed an inch deeper and is now more upright. Along with satisfying pedestrian-impact standards, this brings the nose more in line with the XJ – a theme that came up a lot during our preview of the car, as well as an aligning of the brand's design in general.

Framing that grille, next to some sections of sheetmetal bearing subtle, sculpted twists, are the kinds of headlights we've been waiting for. Probably the one feature that made the entire look of the concept XF work so well, production technology finally allows the units on the 2012 to mimic them. Gone, then, is the sudden bump over the outboard light, with the entire fixture now starting at a crisp point in the fender and then purposefully, smoothly arcing into the grille.

The lamp units house much darker detailing, said later by Callum to represent the fact that "the era of chrome and bling is over." He also spoke of them having a "Tie Fighter" look, with round centers flanked by curved foils.

The elimination of the current car's Poe-esque vulture eye headlights means that the hood can shed the scone-like bulges behind them. That leaves the eye to fully take in the broader, taller power bulge on the hood, which is now aluminum and flicks up at its trailing edge to reduce wind noise over the wiper blades and cabin. On that subject, while the side mirrors are the same, the mirrors' feet have been redesigned to reduce wind noise and are longer, placing the housing further from the car to reduce vortices running down the car's sides.

At the base of the front bumper, the lower intakes are set off by sculpted chrome blades – again, like the concept car – and a more notably peaked edge turns into the new front fenders. The quarter panels are set off by a triangular vent, another tidbit reminiscent of the C-XF, capped by an ingot inscribed with the word "Jaguar."

In the rear, redesigned taillights with "light blade technology" for both driving and braking now claw their way into the decklid. There's an additional lamp unit above the signature blade of the current car, but it only houses the reversing light, no other standard light unit. The 2012 XF has taillamp fixtures above and below the blade that illuminate during regular driving.

Yet take note, it's no longer a signature blade, it is merely a blade. The brand name has been removed in order to lend prominence to the leaper on the rear valance, which Jaguar wants to begin to sear into people's minds as the icon of the brand. And while the new blade looks thinner, it isn't – the plinth houses items such as the trunk lock mechanism and reversing camera, so slimming it down wasn't an option. Instead, a gloss-black insert makes it appear to narrow across its center section.

Below, the lower rear valance has oval pipes, shedding the inverted trapezoids of the current car. Burgess said that there is more leeway with oval finishers, which don't look so badly out of place if they get slightly misaligned during use. Those finishers are tied more firmly to the body, however, to help prevent such mishaps.

Step into the more pecunious waters of the XF-R and you'll find the obvious tweaks are few, but noticeable. Down in front the new bumper has lower intakes that remind us of a certain Swedish brand. Although on the current car they both feed air to two intercoolers, the 2012 XF-R will only have one air intake, on the left as you face the car, with the right side blocked off.

The chrome filets of the naturally-aspirated car are here replaced by gloss-black inserts, and the grille is high-gloss black mesh. The deeper aspect up front has also necessitated an adjustment of the spoiler on the trunk, for balance. Underneath is a new rear valance with vertical vanes.

Above that, the hood louvers have been moved back over the headers for better breathing and for creating that haze of heat vapor that drivers in a crimson fog love to see at stop lights.

Inside, on all trims, the only part of the steering wheel to carry over is the center airbag cover. Otherwise, the spokes are new, the buttons are new, and the rim is trimmed differently. Behind it, a new instrument pack with a full-color TFT screen features in the dash. Beside it, the switches on the instrument panel have been rendered in black with white writing, because the silver buttons were difficult to make out depending in the position of the sun. As well, there are new hard keys in the center console for the navigation, phone and main menu, and the halo lighting has been added to the chrome 'racetracks' around the center console buttons and the shifter.

Driving comfort is meant to be improved by the new seat frames and more aggressive bolsters. On the upper trims of the base and Supercharged, there will be contrasting hoops inset on the seatbacks and bolsters. The XF-R will have ivory contrast stitching on a black interior, and carbon fiber where wood appears in the other cars.

The list of tech revisions is extensive, adding premium luxury cachet to the least dear Jaguar with items such as the new touchscreen software with faster responses, a new audio module and 30GB of storage, a standard 400-watt system and optional 600-watt and 1,200-watt systems (the latter a 17-speaker affair from Bowers & Wilkins that has a subwoofer the same size as a Ford Fiesta fuel tank), Automatic High Beam Assist and Emergency Brake Assist.

The 2012 XK Refines its Refinement

The 2012 XF was the star of the new-model-year show, but the 2012 XK doesn't stand pat, doing its part in both finer detailing and brand alignment.

2012 Jaguar XKR

The grille is 30 millimeters wider, ten millimeters taller, and recessed an inch to make room for the chrome strip that now represents the Jaguar face – on the XK-R the chrome strip will be black. The headlamps are about 30 millimeters slimmer and feature the "twin Tie-Fighter graphic" meant to imbue a "sense of intrigue," and LED daytime running lamps. Below the lights, sculpted corners cascade into the lower grille, beside which are enlarged vents with chrome accents.

Alongside, new front fenders wear horizontal side vents – having been turned from the vertical. Callum suggested that the previous versions were designed not to step on Aston's toes, but with the family split, such concerns "aren't an issue now."

2012 Jaguar XKR

In back the XK gets the new slimline trunk finisher with integral rearview camera, bereft of the brand name, topped only by the leaper. Inside, the coupe gets the new steering wheel and switchgear, an updated instrument cluster, blue ambient lighting, piano black detailing with a knurled rotary selector, and three new veneer choices: Satin Rosewood, Satin Elm and Bright Knurled Aluminium.

Livelier additions to the range include sport performance seats with butterfly wings, new 20-inch wheels, six new interior colors including tan and red combinations, and five new exterior colors: Italian Racing Red, Rhodium Silver, Black Amethyst, British Racing Green, and French Racing Blue for XKR-S.

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