I have distinct memories of our Four Seasons 2009 Jaguar XF Supercharged, from the good, to the bad, to the ugly. The leader in the good camp was no doubt the class leading steering and chassis. The XF had a magnificent (and rare) balance of body control, ride quality, and driver involvement. The steering was light but direct and featured a warm, buttery on-center feel that few modern cars pull off. The bad camp consisted of ergonomic quirks and—unfortunately for Jaguar—reliability that matched the stereotype of the company. The touchscreen was slow and frustrating, the touch sensitive glove box release inconsistently triggered the opening of the lid, and the rear differential as well as the power steering both failed (only a partial list of the unfortunate problems we experienced). In regards to the ugly, few actually labeled the XF styling as unpleasant when the production car was launched but there was quite a bit of disappointment when many of the lovely details on the C-XF concept car didn’t transfer to the XF road car. The headlights grew in both size and shape and the overall profile of the Jaguar had a bit too much Lexus GS about it. Overall, we loved driving the XF but the bad and the ugly forced some of us to step back and say that if we were to spend our own money in this segment, it would likely be on the competition.
Fast-forward to 2012 and the face lifted XF. Exterior updates include new front and rear details with much more attractive headlight that could have almost been lifted straight off the C-XF concept. The interior features a redesigned touchscreen interface with additional hard buttons for access to various features and, wait for it, a conventional button to release the glove box. I recently spent 10-days in England behind the wheel of the newest XF 3.0L Diesel S with an overall goal to see if the improvements help add some logic to the passion I have for the Jaguar XF.
Obviously, this exact model isn’t available in the USA but it’s always enjoyable to try the various diesel offerings in Europe. The twin-turbo 3.0-liter diesel V6 is available in two outputs, 240 hp with 369 lb-ft of torque or 275 hp with 443 lb-ft of torque. This Diesel S model features the more powerful version and, like all the diesel XF models, is hitched to an eight-speed automatic. Jaguar also offers a 2.2-liter four-cylinder diesel with 190 hp and 332 lb-ft of torque. The company quotes a 0-60 mph time for the Diesel S model at 5.9 seconds (compared to 5.5 seconds for the 385 hp gasoline 5.0-liter V8 that is sold in the USA). Over around 400 miles of quite hard driving, the XF Diesel S returned an indicated average of 27 U.S. mpg. This compares favorably with the 28 mpg indicated average that a BMW 530d estate returned when I drove it in England earlier this year. The Jaguar was able return over 40 mpg on easy motorway cruises. It was never wanting for more power as long as you got used to riding the torque of the engine and not relying on high rpm horsepower.
The ride quality and handling was as brilliant as I remembered in the old Four Seasons XF. The twenty-inch wheels on our test car gave the XF a bit of a lumpy low-speed ride on England’s less-that-smooth roads but the motorway ride and the ability to quickly and comfortable take on a rough B road (narrow, country roads) was no doubt class-leading. Luckily, those who find the ride on the twenty-inch wheels brittle can choose nineteen or eighteen-inch wheels on the XF. The steering was also perfect on the twisty roads of England. When it comes to the overall chassis dynamics, the XF is no doubt superior to the 530d wagon I tested in the UK earlier this year.
In regards to the updated interior and infotainment system, this is one area where Jaguar still has some catching up to do. The overall design is very good and the updates help. The mix of modern and traditional Jaguar design details fit in perfectly with modern day England. The issue is how the interior design works together. Like many of our issues with Ford and their MyFord Touch, there are certain features that need hard buttons. Far too many times I found myself taking my eyes off the road for far too long as I adjusted radio presets or heated seat settings. Additionally, when you fire up the XF on a cold morning you need to wait far too long for the systems to boot up before the screen will allow you to turn on the heated seats and heated steering wheel. Why can’t there be dedicated radio preset buttons, two hard buttons for the heated seats, and a heated steering wheel button on the side of the steering column? I also still find the rotating HVAC vents and the pulsing starter button a bit too contrived. Overall, the updated interior is better than the setup when the XF was launched there still seems to be a bit too much design leading functionality.
As far as reliability, that can’t really be answered after a week behind the wheel of a car. Perceived quality is pretty good although I still don’t find the overall quality of the switchgear up to the standards of the Germans. We’ll need to see how the newest XF holds up long-term before coming to a conclusion in this area.
Overall, I still love the XF. The facelift is exactly what the car needed and the Jaguar is no doubt the class-leader when it comes to driving dynamics and steering feel. BMW always ran the Jaguar close in regards to chassis dynamics but the newest 5-series has gone a bit too far towards a 7-series and has lost a bit of the 3-series nimbleness with the change. Despite my love for driving the XF, there is still the question on if I’d spend my own money on the Jag over the competition. While the fabulous diesel options help the XF in Europe (especially the impressive new 2.2-liter diesel for the company car buyer), the lack of powertrain options in the USA is a big negative. BMW, Mercedes, and Audi all offer V6 engines with around 300 hp that each return around 20 mpg in the city and at or near 30 mpg on the highway. The base XF is rated at 16 mpg city and 23 mpg highway. I know that the XF may compete more with BMW 550i and Mercedes E550 due to their V8 engines and that many Jaguar buyers aren’t likely overly concerned with fuel mileage. The truth is that the newest 6-cylinder engines are so good that the V8 buyer should really consider the smaller engine offerings before they just write the check for the car with the bigger badge and bigger price. The greater issue for many buyers is that Jaguar only offers rear-wheel drive. I know that Jaguar is working on all-wheel drive but the U.S. market in particular wants it (and Jaguar needs it) now. I personally love rear-wheel drive and I believe winter tires and rear-wheel drive are an excellent setup but that’s not what the average buyer feels (or what I would buy for my wife). Add in Jaguar’s unproven reliability and ergonomic quirks and the XF remains a car that I love to drive and have great passion for but I can’t quite convince myself that the brilliant chassis and styling updates outweigh the negatives when it comes to signing on the dotted line.