Starting with the 2013 model year, Jaguar is introducing a series of changes to its model lineup meant to make them appeal to a broader market. For the mid-size XF, that means dropping the naturally aspirated V8 and adding a 3.0-liter supercharged six-cylinder in its place.
|1. AWD is exclusive to the 3.0-liter supercharged six-cylinder engine2. New engine options include a turbocharged 2.0-liter four and a supercharged 3.0-liter six cylinder.
3. The supercharged six-cylinder engine makes 340 hp and 332 lb-ft of torque.
4. Pricing starts at $53,000 and climbs to $76,825 fully loaded.
5. EPA estimates suggest 16 mpg in the city, 25 on the highway or a 19 mpg combined.
Has Jaguar finally lost it, or can the hefty XF deliver the same experience as the independently breathing 5.0-liter V8 did?
WINTER READY, DISAPPOINTINGLY THIRSTY
People who live in cold climates like all-wheel drive luxury cars. Given the success its Range Rover brand cousins enjoy, it’s hard to wonder what took so long for Jaguar to figure that out.
Regardless, the all-wheel drive XF can only come with one engine: the 3.0-liter supercharged six good for 340 hp and 332 lb-ft of torque, which carries the car to 60 mph in 6.1 seconds. Jaguar claims the car should manage 16 mpg in the city, 25 on the highway or an average 19. Those numbers are helped in large part by a new eight-speed automatic transmission, but the car still fell short of its EPA mileage estimates. Even with long highway stints, the computer reported an average 16 mpg.
You give up Jaguar’s throaty V8 in favor of a more subdued-sounding engine, but the company swears this is a genuine V8 replacement. Perhaps so, but peak torque doesn’t kick in until 3,500 rpm, and the car’s automatic transmission frequently feels hesitant to deliver the low-down lurch associated with a blower.
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That is, unless you press the checkered flag button beside the drive mode selection knob. Doing that puts the XF into “Dynamic” mode, which grants access to the car’s full capability.
The suspension, steering and throttle all take on a new demeanor more prone to pushing limits. Corners feel stiff, the wheel grows heavy and most of the throttle lag disappears.
Power delivery still feels delayed at times, but the wait is never long and any doubts about the car’s ability to build speed disappear. Squeeze the throttle and the engine launches you forward with purpose.
Still, the six-cylinder feels out of breath as the tach nears its peak, and it’s hard not to look wistfully at last year’s base V8. It boasted 45 extra hp and 38 lb-ft of torque.
What stings more is that the all-wheel drive six-cylinder actually weighs 67 lbs more than the old rear-drive V8 model. The weight difference is further underscored by this year’s weaker engine.
Then again, the drawbacks are outweighed by the fact that up to 50 percent of the power can redirect to the front wheels, which will make all the difference in slippery conditions.
REGAL BODY STYLE AN ATTENTION CATCHER
Jaguar refreshed the XF last year, and nothing aside from badging to denote the different engines has changed since then. The all-wheel drive six-cylinder model comes with standard 19-inch wheels while its more powerful siblings are all sold with 20-inch units.
Maybe it’s because fewer people choose a Jag over the Germans, but the XF carries a certain distinction that a BMW, Audi or Mercedes doesn’t. It’s clean lines and muscular hood are unassuming, while the “bright mesh” grille is just ornamental enough to draw pedestrian glances without seeming garish.
SUMPTUOUS CABIN STANDARD
Hopefully this goes without saying, but Jaguar knows luxury interiors like Churchill knew cigars. Carbon fiber inlays are available, but the elemental weave seems nothing short of vulgar in the XF’s cabin.
Satin rosewood and aluminum are the base car’s standard cabin appointments. Leather upholstery is also standard, although it lacks the rich texture you would hope for on a car that climbs close to $77,000 with the most expensive options chosen. The car doesn’t need to be that expensive, with a starting price of $53,000. Then again, some of the options are pretty appealing if you can afford them.
For example, the cold weather package costs $700 and adds a heated steering wheel and windshield. For $8,575, you’ll get the “sport portfolio pack,” which is the most expensive box to check. It adds 20-inch wheels, a new grille and front bumper and trunk spoiler.
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Jaguar knows its buyers are likely willing to pay extra premiums for luxury features, which means you can expect to pay more for keyless entry, blind spot monitoring and automatically dimming exterior mirrors, all of which fall under the $2,500 “convenience pack.”
Even as the base model, the XF boasts a luxury-rich cabin thanks to the use of wood and aluminum, but there’s one option this car isn’t the same without: the suede cloth headliner. It soaks up light and transforms the car from so-so to so sweet.
At least that’s true if you’re on the shorter side of the stature spectrum. With 37.1 inches of headroom, the XF offers a full two inches of cranial clearance than the BMW 5 Series. That goes up by half an inch in the rear, but is still bested by its Bimmer competitor. Legroom is another story. In front, the car offers 41.5 inches, which is on part with others in the segment, and 36.6 in the rear to beat BMW.
TECH SYSTEM JUST OK
Jaguar seems to be in something of a transitional phase with technology. LCD screens are making their way into the gauge cluster, but the brand hasn’t mastered making it look good, which is frustrating.
As you switch between drive modes, the panel between the speedometer and tachometer will shift displays in kind. Those transitions are fragmented and the graphics look pixilated, which makes it hard not to ask how a company that builds such pleasant interiors can approve such an ugly electronic display.
But it isn’t all bad news on the technology front. Jaguar-Land Rover’s touch screen telematics system is simple and easy to use. A straightforward display asks you to touch whichever feature you would like to manipulate and more in-depth controls will appear.
Jaguar took its mid-size sedan in a mainstream direction this year. All-wheel drive, the new engine and transmission options are all meant to make the car more marketable.
Unfortunately, the supercharged six cylinder lacks the visceral appeal of its 5.0-liter V8 predecessor. While the downgraded output might leave you wanting more, there’s no arguing with how smooth the blown six feels.
The company’s products frequently fall to the bottom of major reliability ratings, which is also something to consider before buying.
Lease it (as many luxury buyers do), and you’ll break free from the German executive car routine without worrying about whether or not you’ve bought a big British money pit. With those worries alleviated, you’ll be pleasantly thrilled by how this alternative to German luxury feels.