2011 Jaguar XF Review

2011 Jaguar XF - One cool cat.

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For me, Jaguar has always been an aspirational brand. So pretty, yet at price points that are so out of my reach. I can't say that the 2011 Jaguar XF is any different with a base price of $56,500.

But boy is it an attractive, fun and fast car.

A couple years out of the stable, the XF isn't the new kid on the block anymore, but it's still a head turner. I had more than one driver do a circle around the car on the toll road from Chicago to Ohio, trying to check it out from all angles. It doesn't look anything like the S-Type it replaced, and it also has more refined touch points, excellent lumbar support and reliability ratings that take a stab at old cliches.

According to JD Power, last year the 2010 XF scored 3 out of 5 in terms of predicted reliability, which is considered average. However, for 2011 the rating is beginning to creep up, and it's now situated 3 1/2 out of 5, edging toward a full-fledged "better than most." Jaguar as a brand is still struggling with "the rest" ratings that hover in the 2 range, but with their solid upward climb, I think it's time to cut out all those old cracks about having a Jag and a spare.

The rear-wheel drive XF is definitely on the large side with an overall length of 195.3 inches. But, this baby can move with the right opportunity. Most of my driving during the test week was a straight shot on the highway across three states, and there wasn't a lot of opportunity for aggressive driving.

So, thank goodness I was running late for my noon flight. And, thank goodness all the cops were on a coffee break. Not that I was speeding (cough, much) or doing anything dangerous. But I did have to get around those slow pokes going 55 mph in the fast lane, and sometimes you just have to wonder who taught the current crop of drivers how to merge. But I digress.

The 5.0-liter V-8 engine in the XF delivers a neat 385 horsepower, and for a car weighing 4,067 pounds, this is a beautiful thing. Whether I was bobbing and weaving in traffic or traveling the straight line, the XF proved both powerful, nimble and comfortable. That extra oomph was always there, and when I wasn't trying to be somewhat fuel efficient, I smiled a lot.

Speaking of fuel efficiency, know that you will not be buying this car for it's high mileage. EPA estimates 16 mpg in the city and 23 mpg on the highway. I averaged 20.4 mpg with a lot of highway driving. Though, I should point out that I was driving between 70 and 80 mph the whole way, and the car had winter tires. I filled up the tank 3 times during my road trip, and even in Ohio where prices were still in the $3.40 range, I spent around $45 to fill up. And that was at a little less than a quarter tank.

Since I spent so much time behind the wheel, I can say without qualm that this is a comfortable cruiser. I'm not one of those people who likes to take a break while driving; I just want to get there. So I spent 4 hours at a pop with my butt planted in the seat. My back was properly supported, and other than the aches associated with sitting still for so long, I had a perfect driving position. I did miss having a gearshift to rest my hand on, but that's about it.

The rest of the interior of the XF was subtly luxurious with attractive walnut burl inserts, plush leather seats and solid touch points that didn't feel like they'd break, crack or pop out. A definite improvement over Jags of yore.

My only complaint is that the central command system that houses HVAC, audio and navigation is a bit outdated. The graphics desperately need an upgrade, and the functionality is something less than intuitive or easy.

I had this car for 500 miles of highway driving. Alone. So, you better believe I pushed every button more than once, and while I understood all the sublevels and folders on the screen, I didn't like it. Take, for example, the iPod connection. The in-car adapter nicely attaches to your iPod and charges while playing, but you have to go through quite a few sub-folders to get to an actual song you want to hear. The scroll mechanism is clunky, and you can only navigate through the folders by using the touch screen. You can song up or down using the steering wheel audio controls, but if you want a new playlist or (heaven forbid) a specific artist, it's back to the touch screen.

I think that's a lot of time spent with your eyes not on the road. Which is confounding since this automaker won't let you adjust the navigation while driving.

A couple of my twitter buddies alluded to voice commands on the XF that would make all this easier, but even after RTFM'ing (cough, reading the manual), I still couldn't figure out how to activate the commands. The little voice button was there on the steering wheel, but all it did was mute the audio.

The exterior of the XF is elegant without being flashy. I loved the deep blue paint on the chrome accents added just the right touch of class. The XF the kind of car that might not stand out in a crowd but will definitely get a second look once someone realizes what it is.

At a base level, the XF comes pretty well equipped with premium features such as keyless entry and start, heated-and-cooled front seats, leather seating surfaces, blind spot monitoring, navigation, Bluetooth connectivity and a 320-watt premium audio system. In fact, the car is so well equipped as is that it had very few options. Upgrades included: heated steering wheel ($325), electric rear window blind ($475) and a heated front windshield ($375). As tested price of the XF with destination was $58,550.

For a sedan of this size, I was slightly surprised by the cargo volume. For my road trip to Ohio, I had an air mattress, bedding and a backpack that nearly filled the entire space. I probably could have fit a roller board -- maybe 2 if I was creative with my trunk packing. So, I was surprised to learn the trunk actually has a cargo capacity of 17.7 cubic-feet. Seemed smaller than that to me.

As a family man's business car that could hold a family of 5 (and some of their stuff), I think the XF is pretty much perfect. Comfortable, attractive and with just enough cache to make other drivers on the road envious. Now if we could just do something about that central command system ...


Jill Ciminillo

Jill has been writing about cars for more than 15 years, representing the female point of view amongst her predominantly male colleagues. And since something like 80 percent of all car-buying decisions are either made by or influenced by women, that's nothing to sneeze at. Formerly the online automotive editor for the Chicago Sun-Times and the print auto editor for Pioneer Press Newspapers, this 5th percentile (aka petite) female tells it like it is from the fun to the functional. Jill recently served as the first female president for the Midwest Automotive Media Association, and currently sits on its Board of Directors as President Emeritus. In her 9-to-5 job, Jill is the automotive editor for Sinclair Broadcast Group.