If I were to personify the XF, I’d be inclined to think of a rather famous fictional secret serviceman in his last two incarnations. Before he was good looking, charming, but slightly flabby and not up to Bourne or Hunt for sophisticated moves. Today we’re used to him as a tall, well built, chiselled and efficient fighting machine.
Slightly homoerotic action hero analogies aside, where the old XF was really showing its age was underneath, where the unstoppable tide of technological progress should bring it up to par nicely. What isn’t as easy, is succeeding one of the most iconic saloon car designs of the last 25 years.
The original XF was another fine example of Jag doing a lot with a little, which is the kind of tenacity that will have impressed it’s now parent company Tata enough for them to bestow some real fun and games money on JLRs R&D department. The new XF along with XE and forthcoming F-Pace are the fruits of that substantial investment with all three being underpinned by Jags all new modular aluminium intensive architecture.
It goes some ways toward new XF dropping 190kg (12%) compared to it’s predecessor. Well and truly gone are the ghosts of Ford past. The already highly commended 2.0 ingenium diesels come in 163 and 180ps forms: both sitting well below the 130 g/km corporate depreciation rebate threshold for C02 and comfortably beating out competitors.
Something tells me a great many Audi A6 fleets are going to be chopped in in the coming months. On every avenue, Jaguar claims XF to now be legitimately competitive with stronger residuals, cheaper servicing and lower insurance at entry “fleet” level.
Not much needs to be said about the aesthetics of XF, really. It just looks right in a way that would render a 5 series or E Class invisible in a shared car park. After the chiselled heartthrob facia, sloping coupe lines and long slender edges, the backside is a tad Germanic and as such underwhelming with a touch of Audi A5 in the lights.
It’s dimensionally pleasing, and by no means ugly, but the nose writes an aesthetic cheque that the bottom can’t quite cash. Keep in mind our test cars wore some expensive hues, too. If you’re that way inclined it wears R Sport and Black packs well and larger wheels go nicer still with comfort going to my observations largely unaffected. Test drive and spec as appropriate.
On the inside it’s much as it is on the outside: a positive evolution rather than revolution, but could have been a tad bolder. It’s stylish in much the same way that it’s predecessor is and as such is a lovely place to be.
The driving position and visibility are good and the “in control touch” infotainment is intuitive and responsive with large clear icons on the home screen for maps, media, phone and climate. One of a couple of quality hiccups include the shift paddles, which are comprised of two bonded sides of plastic. The material itself is tinny and once you’ve easily got your nail in the crack, pinging it quickly becomes habit.
I was later informed the paddles were to be addressed, but for such an important control surface it’s a peculiar oversight. The twist/push button for volume had a similar underwhelming weight and material feel. An otherwise solid and stylish execution served to make those foibles stick out like sore blisters.
In terms of its dimensions the car is 8 millimetres shorter than its predecessor whilst allegedly sporting much needed tangible gains in leg and headroom. The last XF I rode in the back of felt like a compromised four door coupe. No signs of a cricked neck or smashed kneecaps here: XF gen’ 2 is as spacious as you could want from a reasonably sizeable executive car.
As for the quality of drive, there is a uniformity of competence throughout the range. The new platform is so well resolved and the damping and steering so nicely tuned that on the right road its manner captivates you initially, rather than its raw power endowment.
The way this large and still reasonably hefty car conducts itself across a country stretch is fascinating, with a quality feeling of weight management, resolute body control and resounding comfort. Yet it’s not brutal in it’s conduct like an all wheel drive Audi where a fast drive is merely one that will end sooner, rather every yard in XF is worth the fuel it cost to traverse it.
Whilst the clean and smooth 180 “ingenium” 2.0 diesel four cylinder is all things to anyone practically speaking (reference Jaguars fleet aspirations), it stops short of setting your heart alight in a way the cars looks would have you hope, and in a way the handling characteristics certainly do.
For that, the 380 horsepower supercharged V6 “S”, comes confidently into play. Over double the power and an infinitely freer revving petrol engine invigorates every fibre of this cars innate jovial dynamic character.
The 8 Speed ZF transmission relishes the extra grunt, leaping between the synchros (albeit without the veracity of a DSG or SMG) and the chassis attitude of the lesser models turns to anger in “Dynamic” mode with a tighter damping and lenient traction systems.
That extra puff really livens up XFs central pivot point with tighter sections and a heavy right foot leaving you grinning, whilst a tantalising neutral suggestion is adopted at speed over long turns on a trailing throttle. This is a real sub scorching saloon that will light up any B road you launch it at.
There will be lit rear tyres, considerable amounts of lit fuel and subsequent costs. The 380 S therefore appeals to the heart rather than the head and as such is the enthusiasts pick. At over £60,000, our reasonably well specced test car was enthusiasts money, too. I would venture to suggest some such folk could afford to wait for the inevitable XF R, which credit given, the 380 S is a promising prologue to.
I shall address the 300 horsepower diesel S separately as it is the model in the lineup that I think has both the most to prove and the most to give.
Whilst the 380 S can enjoy it’s pedestal as the halo “sporty” model (for now), and the ingenium diesels are the head over heart no brainer earners that Jag fully intended them to be, the 300 Diesel sits rather conspicuously in the range with a less obvious purpose. However, after a good drive, all became clear.
This is the clever personal buy for the enthusiast and the wealthier commuter alike. On the performance front, a whopping 700 newton metres of torque plays the Supercharged S’ rather meagre (by comparison) 450 nm. That combined with the torque loving ZF ‘box and game chassis and the 300ps diesel will dispatch a B Road with a balance of devastating force and familiar delectable poise.
The heavier diesel lump up front and a rear axle saturated with torque make for a car that requires more delicacy in inputs to summon it’s most impressive pace. A necessitated nuance on turn in is enjoyable, whilst deploying grip shattering low down grunt on exit adds a level of effortless giggles not accessible in the Supercharged S unless certifiably rogering it.
Such is the indubitable capability of the gen’ 2 XF footprint that 450nm does little in many circumstances to unsettle it (unless you’re being a proper yob). Yet after all that silliness XF 300 S will achieve between 30 and 50 indicated mpg on a quiet, comfortable and refined 70 mph motorway cruise. In the 380 S I saw 38 at 60, once..
I could drop the requisite £50,000+ on the 300 S guilt free, knowing that whilst occupying a lower tax bracket and getting better milage most of the time, I could also let a 700nm low down rip out of my oil burning cats backside, molesting motorway fast lanes and most back roads conversely.
So the new XF seems to retain it’s unquantifiable desirability and stimulating dynamics with a much needed injection of financial and practical sensibility. The range covers all basis without over saturation and savviness with the options list will get you a well equipped car for a reasonable price. As for which model is down to requirement.
Unless you have a real hankering for a supercharged petroleum howl, I personally see no way around the 300 S diesel. It is a total jack of all trades and a veritable master of most.
Whilst it won’t appeal to the fleet market, being 15 g/km over the corporate depreciation rebate limit, it’s appeal as an object you both want and can justify as a personal buy helps it transcend everything else in the range. The juxtaposition of refinement and anger in the powertrain perfectly suits its handsome bouncer facia.
And not to mention that it was as tested, over £1500 less (£59,180) than our 380 S (£60,800). The grunty diesel thats sat below the desirable yet impractical top spec petrol is no longer a commiseration purchase.
As for the rest of the range?
They’re all wonderfully talented on a level their predecessors could not have hoped to achieve as well as competitively priced. Our 180 was specced up to £47,000 (£36,000 starting), but i’m sure much of the frippery can be omitted and the 163 starts lower still.
Jag were quick and enthusiastic in celebrating their new cars appeal to mass corporate markets, besting rivals in a number of key financial ownership projections. There will be fruits for their labours, and I don’t see myself getting bored of seeing that shape blasting up the outside lane any time soon. With the charms of Pierce and the arms of Daniel, it is by and large a home run for Jag, and I suspect they wouldn’t have settled for anything less.