I’m Feeling Good

By Andrew Clarke
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It is a Jaguar in the purest sense of the brand image—well-built, well-designed and right at the top of the pile when it comes to capability

One of the keys to a prestige car is to relay the sense of luxury felt from within, to those standing on the streets wanting to be inside with you. The Jaguar XF does all this and more, because not only does it look the part, it also drives as it looks. It is lithe and sporty, the aluminium chassis and body turn that look into a reality, and the weight reduction is felt when driving.

It is also clearly part of a family, line them up from XE to XJ and then the E-Pace and F-Pace, and there is enough similarity in design that stretches beyond the grille to tell you they are related. Even the two-door F-Type carries the genes, and this is a good thing, since Jaguar has done it all without relying on gimmicks and trickery, just heart and soul.

The Package

If you don’t think the XF S 30d is a beautiful car, you probably think Hugh Jackman and Scarlett Johansson are plain. Its lines are stunning, right from the aggressive looking nose with a design that is reminiscent of a racing car, down the sleek panels to the perfectly shaped rear. It is long and slender, kind of athletic looking.

Our car was finished in Yulong White, which is the white you have when you are not having white. It is metallic finish white, and it sparkled its way through the Melbourne summer highlighting and accentuating every part of its body.

To me, any car that looks good in white is a bloody good looking car. So, tick one for Jaguar.

The interior is nice, really nice, but it doesn’t strike awe like last month’s Range Rover Velar… but then not many can. It has all the rights bits and a little wow, the air vents spin open and the gear selection dial rises out of the centre console when you hit the pulsing stop-start button. Of course with keyless entry the key is either in your pocket or still in the handbag.

The diesel sounds like it means business but it never intrudes… it is after all a Jaguar. Oh sorry, did we mention the 30d was in fact a diesel? We’ll get to what that means later.

Seating is comfortable for everyone, with enough rear seat leg room for the growing kids and three across the back row easy to accommodate. The multi-adjusting front seats ensure a comfortable driving position, and both of them have memory settings and heaters.

The infotainment system takes a bit of work with a clunky interface, but no more so than its rivals. The stereo sends out pretty good sound with great bass and ample volume. There are options here too, which can up the ante.

The standard car here is $116,960 and our test car had more than $20,000 in options. Some of the options I really expect at this price point, like some of the features in the Active Safety Pack such as the blind spot monitor and maybe even reverse traffic detection. Other features like the trick front seats and 20 inch wheels I accept as options, although the cost on the specs sheet for each was making me dizzy.

How about $3790 for the suede roof lining? Personally, I’d rather a sliding panoramic sunroof, but that’s just me.

Pricewise it is line ball with the equivalent Audi and BMW, and cheaper than a Merc. It is better looking than the others—and yes, that is always a subjective view—and certainly stacks up on every other measurable… including build quality. Forget the old 70s and 80s jokes about needing to own to Jaguars, this thing won’t be letting you down.

Importantly, think of a gadget or a feature, and if it really makes sense, it will be there. Or at least be there as an option.

Driving

The diesel engine is the heart of this car, a masculine 3.0 litre diesel engine that drinks very little for its output. Power is ‘only’ 221kW, but there is 700Nm of torque. It is nominally in front of its German rivals on the engine front, it has comfortably power and torque than the BMW 530d and the Mercedes-Benz 350d and although it is beaten for power by the Audi A6 3.0 TDi it still has more torque. Add in its weight advantage over all but the BMW, and you have a very rapid sports saloon.

The eight-speed gearbox has paddles for selecting gears behind the steering wheel. In D mode it will still do some thinking for you, but in S mode with the dynamic chassis setting it is a true manual. For a diesel it revs easily, so the heads-up display and the dashboard have change indicators when in Dynamic mode—which is pretty handing considering the relative quietness of the engine. Dynamic is part of the chassis tuning, stiffening up the suspension and playing around with the gear change. Other modes soften the ride and even reduce wheelspin for wet weather driving.

An aluminium chassis means there is not too much weight to throw around, although 1,720kg can be rated as a bit boofy. Removing all the excess weight is just not possible, the safety gear and luxury adds kilograms, so keeping the chassis stiff and light is the key to what Jaguar has been able to do. After all, what are you going to give up?

Regardless, the handling is sublime. Hunkered down low, the sleek cat likes nothing more than to run. Using the massive torque you can exit corners quickly bit without drama. On damp roads the traction control can kick in abruptly, but it is there to keep you safe when the wide tyres let go. Point into a series of bends and it grips more than you think possible at the time, you keep going harder and it keeps hanging on in a remarkable manner. All the way it is talking to you, the ride is supple enough to take the bumps out of play, but not without letting you know they are there.

It doesn’t leap off the line as such, but when the turbo kicks in and the torque is unleashed it is relentless and very driveable in all sorts of places… a quick drive through the Dandenongs is handled with as much ease the Monash Freeway and its slow cruise.

You may not place diesel at the top of your list when thinking sporting sedans, but remember diesels have dominate Le Mans for years and the progress has been staggering in terms of outputs. I know have diesel in the sporting car frame.

The XF is a paradox, it is quicker than you think. It will put most hot hatches to shame in the twisty bits, and do it with the ride comfort to match anything on the road and frugality at the pumps that will bring a smile to your face.

The Future

Jaguar along with sister brand Land Rover (both owned by Tata but still built and operated out of the UK) are on a future push. Within a year or two, every car in the stable will have electric variations. This is why Jaguar is racing in Formula E, it is doing what it has always done, test on the track. It is how Jaguar proofed the disc brake theory, and it is how we will see it be part of the biggest evolution in automotive history.

Hybrid and fully electric power trains are coming, and this is good for us all. Jaguar will harness its cleanliness and give us fun too, because a Jaguar without power and performance just isn’t a Jaguar. We’ll try to get hold of an I-Pace electric car as soon as we can since that will give us pointers, and we think that will be pretty special too.

For the traditionalists though, the evolution of the XF will be interesting to watch. This car is already good, so any improvements will be significant.

Conclusion

Jaguar has set a high bar here. This is a big car that challenges itself and perceptions. It helps to change the way we view Jaguar, now we can have that beautiful car with supple ride and be proud and confident. We can drive it hard and enjoy the grip and stunning engine, we can wipe speed off with massive brakes and work with the chassis that forgives errors. It is pretty special.

The Jaguar Range

XE—very competent small to mid-size sedan. ($62k-$105k)

XF—The one we tested—large sporting sedan now with the addition of the Sportbrake wagon for practicality ($82k-$130k

XJ—The big luxury car, due for replacement soon and design sketches hint at something stunning. ($210k-$307k)

F-Type—Stunning 2-door coupe and convertible. ($138k-$306k)

F-Pace—Large SUV running on same chassis as Range Rover Velar. More sport focussed than Velar, equally as gorgeous. ($75-$120k)

E-Pace—New mid-size SUV that we don’t much about yet. ($48k-$78)

*Prices are approximate only and even the top of the range may still have optional equipment

 

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