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Jaguar XF review

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What is it?
Second generation of Jaguar’s executive saloon.

Key features:
Bolder look, new powertrains, more technology

Our view:
The new Jaguar XF is a car that the German giants should be looking at with a great deal of concern.

It is a busy year for Jaguar and with the all-new XE arriving on the market to rival BMW’s 3 Series, and the unveiling of the F-Pace at the Frankfurt Auto Show in September marking the brand’s entry into the crossover market, it is easy to overlook the launch of the second-generation XF.

This car, however, is very important to Jaguar – when the first generation launched in 2007 it changed the entire outlook of the brand. The XF’s coupe-like exterior and quality interior turned the heads like never before of those who had traditionally bought BMW’s 5 Series or the Audi A6. The Jaguar XF firmly signposted the steep growth that the company was to experience under its then new owners Tata.

Fast forward to 2015 and Jaguar is soaring, and the XF, the car that started it all, needs to keep up. So we have an all-new version, which according to design director Ian Callum – the man who masterminded the first Jaguar XF – is improved in all areas but also fulfils three basic aims.

The car is evolved rather than completely changed – because the first XF was so revolutionary. It maintains the Jaguar DNA of a sporty visual appearance, and crucially it has more interior space particularly in the back, an area that attracted criticism in the first car.

Jaguar’s first standalone modular architecture, also used on the smaller XE, results in an XF that is not only significantly lighter but 7mm shorter and sits 3mm lower to the ground than its predecessor. Yet the wheelbase is extended by 51mm and the overhangs cut – that at the front by 66mm.

As a result while clearly a relation to the original XF, the new version looks a distinctly larger car, helped by such visual detailing as the shoulder line which is lower on the flanks and combined with slightly deeper glassware.

On slipping inside it is clear that the desire for more space has been met, particularly in the rear seats where those of average height and above will no longer feel they need to unfold themselves to exit the car – it all feels rather more roomy.

It’s also pretty luxurious. In recent years Jaguar has become renowned for the quality of its interiors and the XF maintains the breed. The new car gains the now brand-signature ‘Riva hoop’ first seen in the XJ, sweeping from the door around the base of the windscreen to the opposite door, and helping to make everything appear suitably contained.

The dash layout combines simplicity with quality, the centre console dominated by the touchscreen display. Matters become even more impressive if one dips into the options package, choosing the 12.3-inch TFT instrument panel, and the 10.2-inch widescreen centre console. In short, it all fits and one immediately feels at home in something that is clearly above the norm.

Not surprisingly the XF powertrain options are dominated by diesels – there are three of them, the high-output V6 with its 295bhp and 516lbft of torque sitting alongside two members of the new Ingenium family. These are both 2-litre turbos, with either 160 or 177 horses and the less powerful one squeezing CO2 emissions (in manual-gearbox form), down to 104g/km. Not so long ago such figures in a large luxury car would have been unthinkable.

In some markets the XF will continue to be offered with the 2-litre petrol unit carried over from the previous model but UK buyers preferring gas to oil will be pointed at a new 3-litre V6 unit, supercharged with 374bhp. This is clearly aimed at those for whom potency is a major requirement.

On the global first drive event, held on the challenging roads of northern Spain, The Car Expert was able to drive with the larger Ingenium diesel, and the 3.0-litre, as well as the range-topping supercharged petrol unit.

It is clear of course that the vast majority of Jaguar XF sales will come from the Ingenium engines. They are by far the most efficient, highly refined while not lacking in pace – a 62mph sprint time of under 10 seconds in our 177bhp unit is plenty fast enough for most, especially when you consider the large, plush machine it is accelerating. We have no doubt that more Ingenium units will arrive in the XF before long.

Those who like their performance, however, should look closely at the 3.0-litre V6. It effectively adds an extra 100lbft of torque to the engine it replaces, and it pulls very strongly from very low revs. It may be almost a second slower to the 62mph marker than the supercharged petrol unit, but 6.2 seconds is still impressive, and you won’t need to interupt your fun with almost twice as many visits to the filling station…

One area where the original XF lacked not at all was in its road behaviour, and the new version simply improves the dynamism still further. The recipe is promising – the aluminium-intensive shell construction cuts up to 190kg in weight compared to the old XF, while the suspension, double-wishbone front, intergral link rear, has also been improved. Combine that with a significantly more slippery shell, rear-wheel drive and a perfect 50:50 weight distribution and satisfaction should follow.

Which it does – cruising the autoroute, the XF rides in supreme comfort. Come off the m-way into a series of twisting, hairpin-strewn mountain roads and the car reacts with confidence, pulling strongly, turning sharply with the new electric power steering giving all the feedback one needs.

There’s perhaps no better evidence of this than the fact that the launch programme included driving the 374bhp supercharged petrol XF around the Navarra race circuit, which is certified for Formula One testing. It seems initially incongrous to put such a luxury car into such an environment, but the XF reacted very positively, and laps of the challenging track were involving and exhilarating.

Space in this report does not allow much comment on the XF’s enhanced technology, infotainment, and the cost of ownership figures that the car’s makers believe will knock the opposition for six. Such matters will have to wait for a drive on UK roads.

Suffice to say, that whereas the first Jaguar XF was a highly competent car that took Jaguar on a new path, the new car ups the stakes considerably. This is a car that the German giants should be looking at with a great deal of concern. It could well become the benchmark in its executive-dominated segment, and indeed its most significant challenger could come from rather close to home – its smaller sister, the XE.

Jaguar XF – key specifications

Models tested: Jaguar XF 180hp R-Sport Auto, Jaguar XF 380hp AWD S/RWD S, Jaguar XF 300hp TDV6 Portfolio.
On Sale: August 2015
Range price: £32,300-£49,945
Insurance group: From 25E
Engines: Diesel 2.0 x2, 3.0; Petrol 3.0
Power (bhp): 160/177, 295. 374.
Torque (lb/ft): 280/317, 516. 310.
0-62mph (sec): 8.7/8.0*, 6.2. 5.3.
Top speed (mph): 132/136, 155. 155.
Fuel economy (combined, mpg): 70.6*/65.7, 51.4. 34.0.
CO2 emissions (g/km): 104*/114, 144. 198.
Key rivals: BMW 5 Series, Audi A6, Mercedes E-Class
Test Date: August 2015
*= with manual transmission

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Andrew Charman
Andrew Charman
Andrew is a road test editor for The Car Expert. He is a member of the Guild of Motoring Writers, and has been testing and writing about new cars for more than 20 years. Today he is well known to senior personnel at the major car manufacturers and attends many new model launches each year.