Having swum in the usual ocean of purple prose expended over any new Jaguar or Land Rover product by the British motoring press, I had expected the new Jaguar XF to be a whole lot better than it initially seemed to be.
I was quite a fan of the old XF and spent an enjoyable year in one, but was in no way blind to its limitations. Behind those class-leading looks lay the same platform as the old S-type, which itself was a Ford-derived structure launched last century. So I was hoping for a seven-league improvement from the new XF. And at first I couldn’t see where it might come from.
Visually it is to me less successful than Jaguar’s other recent designs and, while inside I was delighted to see the back of the grotty old infotainment system that was allowed partly to spoil far too many Jags and Landies for far too long, the new system is more good than great. In the meantime, Jaguar appears to have given up trying to make its cabins look modern. It’s an attractive, high quality environment, but there’s no doubting a BMW presents its information more clearly, while Audi provides a greater sense of luxury. And from the look of the new Mercedes E-class cabin, the XF is going to struggle to match that, too.
And then there’s the engine. The new 2-litre ‘Ingenium’ has all the numbers – the lower powered manual version claimed to better 70mpg and have the lowest CO2 emissions (and therefore least exposure to company car tax) of any vehicle in its class, and that is all very commendable. But you still have to walk out to the thing on a cold winter’s morning, hit the gently pulsating, glowing start button and be replied to by an all-too-familiar rattle. It improves once it’s warm but never gets close to the standards similar Audi powertrains now reach, although it’s probably no worse than an equivalent Mercedes.
But just when you are starting to wonder if Jaguar’s advance towards its German opponents had been at least temporarily checked, you find a reasonable road and discover that among its kin the XF chassis is in a class of its own. Its ride is not like that of a limousine because if it were it could never provide such poise, feel and accuracy. Instead it is quite firm but so spectacularly well damped it never feels in the least uncomfortable. And even in filthy weather on normal tyres, the car has such stupendous balance and traction it can be driven in complete safety at a level of commitment you’d probably not consider in any rival.
So the XF is a good enough executive machine to do battle with the Germans for everyday usability, but if all you’re going to do is commute or sit on the motorway, an Audi A6 is better.
Then again, if you need such a car but actually want something engaging and responsive to drive, its chassis alone now makes the XF a clear choice.
Engine 2.0 litres, 4 cylinders, turbodiesel
Power [email protected] rpm
Torque 317lb [email protected] rpm
Transmission six-speed manual, rear-wheel drive
Power to Weight 112bhp per tonne
0-62mph 8.0 sec
Top speed 136mph