PROS Powerful engine, Good ride/handling balance, Tasteful interior
CONS Cramped front and rear seats, Too many gimmicks, Limited rear visibility
Automakers must constantly reinvent themselves to stay competitive in today's fickle car market. Cadillac, for example, launched the Art and Science design theme with the 2003 CTS, dumped storied models like Eldorado and DeVille, and moved from front- to rear-wheel drive just to lure younger buyers into showrooms.
Though the Jaguar family tree has a long and deeply rooted history, there aren't many branches off the trunk. The famous brand has parlayed English panache and conservative style into an art form with models like the XJ sedan and XK coupe and convertible. Failed attempts to translate that traditionalist DNA into less-expensive mainstream vehicles has resulted in two false starts, the S-Type and X-Type. Both underwhelmed the public and underachieved in the showroom.
Now with new ownership from Tata Motors, the largest automobile company in India, Jaguar hopes to start fresh with a new breed of sedan that carries the bloodline of the brand without the baggage. Styled unlike any other Jaguar, the XF is a four-door sedan with coupe-like lines. Perhaps what's most interesting is what's missing, there's no pouncing Jaguar hood ornament.
The XF is a 2009 model and replaces the S-Type as Jaguar's midsize offering. It competes with cars like the Acura RL, Audi A6, BMW 5-Series, Cadillac CTS, Infiniti M, Lexus GS, Mercedes-Benz E-Class, and Volvo S80.
Three models are offered: Luxury, Premium Luxury, and Supercharged. Luxury and Premium Luxury come with a 300-horsepower, 4.2-liter V8. Supercharged models get a 420-horsepower version of that engine with, you guessed it, a supercharger. All models come with rear-wheel drive and a six-speed manual transmission with a sport mode and paddle shifters for manual operation.
2009 Jaguar XF Supercharged
Base Price: $62,200
As-Tested Price: $65,475
Built in England.
Adaptive Cruise Control
Heated Steering Wheel
Engine: Supercharged DOHC 4.2-liter V6
Transmission: 6-speed automatic
Drive Wheels: rear-wheel drive
Standard safety features on all models include antilock four-wheel disc brakes with brake assist, stability control, front-seat active head restraints, tire-pressure monitor, rear-obstacle-detection system, and dual-front, front-side airbags, and curtain-side airbags. Front-obstacle-detection system, rear-view camera, and blind-spot alert is standard on the Supercharged and optional on others.
Luxury models come with dual-zone automatic climate control, power tilt-telescope leather-wrapped steering wheel with radio controls, cruise control, leather upholstery, ten-way power front bucket seats, memory system, center console, split-folding rear seat, wood interior trim, heated power mirrors with automatic day/night rearview mirrors, power windows, power door locks, keyless entry, sunroof, AM/FM/CD player with digital-media player connection, Bluetooth cell-phone link, rain-sensing variable-intermittent wipers, remote engine start, universal garage door opener, automatic day/night rearview mirror, rear defogger, automatic headlights, floormats, theft-deterrent system, and 18-inch alloy wheels. Premium Luxury models add navigation system with voice recognition, heated front seats, upgraded leather upholstery, keyless access and starting.
Supercharged models add heated and cooled front seats, 16-way power driver seat, 12-way power passenger seat, Bowers and Wilkens AM/FM radio with in-dash 6-disc CD changer, satellite radio, power rear sunshade, HID headlights with washers, automatic shock absorber control, and 20-inch alloy wheels. Key options include heated steering wheel, adaptive cruise control, and upgraded wood trim for the interior.
The Luxury model has a list price of $49,200. Premium Luxury models list for $55,200. Supercharged models sell for $62,200. All have a $775 destination charge and are assembled in England.
Get Up and Go Jaguar quotes a 0-60 mph time of 5.1 seconds for the Supercharged. That makes the XF one of the fastest premium midsize sedans. Acceleration from stoplights is extremely satisfying and passing response is dramatic. Big Jaguars have always had exceptional passing power, but the supercharged XF is so quick going from 40-60 mph that is sets a new standard for mainstream luxury cars.
The engine is refreshingly docile in stop-and-go traffic and produces a hearty growl in hard acceleration. There's a slight throb at idle that hints at the prodigious power available. It's not annoying or out of place in a car costing $60,000-plus.
The six-speed automatic transmission operates as it should, though some other luxury brands have seven- and eight-speed automatics. Upshifts are buttery smooth and downshifts, though quick, are cushioned somewhat by the engine's electronic management system.
The pop-up gear selector is more gimmick than innovation. It replaces Jaguar's "J" shift gate. While it saves space on the center console it doesn't bring any additional functionality over a traditional shift lever. Combined with the electronically activated emergency brake switch, the gear selector creates an antiseptic feel for XF drivers.
The EPA gives the Supercharged XF ratings of 15 mpg city and 23 mpg highway. Though underwhelming, those numbers are as good as or better than most other V8-powered midsize luxury sedans. In real-world driving expect to average about 17 mpg, perhaps as high as 20 mpg if your commute includes lots of expressway travel. Jaguar says that premium-grade fuel is required for both engines.
On the Road Jaguar sedans have long been known for offering a supple and controlled ride that's firmer than traditional American-car standards but never harsh. The XF follows suit perfectly. Even on the Supercharged model there is enough impact absorption in the suspension and tires to keep the ride from growing stiff or busy. If you want a smoother ride, go with the Luxury model. It's placid on all but extremely rough roads.
The XF accounts for itself fairly well on twisty roads. Obviously handling limits vary between the Luxury and Supercharged, but all models are athletic and have exemplary grip. The Supercharged model, with its 20-inch tires and active suspension comes alive when put through its paces where the Luxury comes off slightly winded.
Regardless of model, the steering is nicely weighted and imparts good road feel. Highway tracking is dead true. Brakes are strong and the pedal is easy to modulate. No one will ever confuse the confidence of the XF with the lithe moves of a BMW 5-Series, but then again the 5-Series sets the standard in the class for balancing handling with ride comfort.
Interior noise levels are quite acceptable. There's little wind rush at highway speed and tire roar only becomes a problem on coarse concrete pavement. Both engines cruise quietly and emit a refined growl in hard acceleration.
Behind the Wheel Perhaps the most traditional part of the XF is its interior. The cabin is awash in premium fabrics, expensive leather, finished wood, and polished aluminum. Sadly, some of the panel gaps on the center console and center stack were uneven, creating a patchwork appearance.
Where many midsize luxury sedans present interiors that would rival the cockpit of a 747, the XF comes across as uncluttered and understated. This is due to grouping many of the radio, climate, and navigation systems controls into a central touch screen. While the design does eliminate clutter, it makes simple tasks like adjusting the radio or turning on the heated seats distracting. Thankfully, there are simple controls for the windows, locks and mirrors. The pop-open AC vents are another faddish gimmick that could have easily been left on the drawing board.
NHTSA Crash-Test Results, 2009 Jaguar XF
|Front Impact, Driver ||NA|
|Front Impact, Passenger ||NA|
|Side Impact, Driver ||NA|
|Side Impact, Rear Passenger ||NA|
|Rollover Resistance ||NA|
The front seats strike an excellent balance between easy-chair comfort and sports-car support. The cushions are wide, nicely contoured, and long-trip comfortable. Head room and leg room are only adequate for adults more than six-feet tall. This has long been a Jaguar trademark that needs to be adjusted for American standards. Visibility is good to the front and sides, slightly obstructed to the rear by thick roof pillars and tall haunches. The available blind-spot indicators are the best implementation of this technology to date. They are subtle, but work well, rain or shine.
Rear-seat room is disappointing with leg room barely acceptable, and then only when the front seats aren't pushed more than half-way back. Head room is also compromised for taller riders by the sloping roofline. Three kids can sit three across, and there's easy entry/exit through the wide door openings.
The XF has one of the largest trunks in the class. In addition, the trunk lid has expensive hinges that don't eat into cargo room and the rear seat backs fold flat--a rare feature in this class. Interior storage is limited to front-door map pockets, and modestly sized glove box and center console bins.
Bottom Line There's little doubt that Jaguar succeeded in developing a car that will appeal to a new breed of buyers while not offending the loyalist. Unlike the conservative S-Type, the XF isn't afraid to break from Jaguar tradition. Thankfully, Jaguar imbued the XF with Jaguar's excellent sense of on-road refinement and tasteful interior décor.
Most buyers will opt for the Luxury or Premium Luxury. Those models match the BMW 5-Series and Mercedes-Benz E-Class in consumer-oriented metrics like creature comforts and sex appeal. Rear-seat room and interior gimmicks keep the XF from being an all-out winner, forcing away family buyers and those seeking traditional luxury. Otherwise, you'd be silly not to give the XF a test drive when shopping for a midsize luxury sedan. Prices are steep, but most buyers in this segment are looking for substance and character rather than overall value.