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New car review

Jaguar XF S review

Performance version of second-generation XF saloon

Summary

The Jaguar XF S is a worthy competitor in a very tough market. It's not perfect, but it is a fine car.
Design
7.0
Performance
9.0
Handling
10
Economy
6.0
Value
6.0

Summary

The Jaguar XF S is a worthy competitor in a very tough market. It's not perfect, but it is a fine car.

What is it: The Jaguar XF S is the performance model of the second-generation XF family, although not the most extreme version available.
Key features: Supercharged V6 engine, lightweight construction, superb ride/handling balance
Our view: The Jaguar XF S is a worthy competitor in a very tough market. It’s not perfect, but it is a fine car.
Review type: Full road test

Introduction

The current Jaguar XF range has been on sale for a couple of years now, although it’s possible you may not have noticed since it looks rather similar to both the previous model and the smaller Jaguar XE saloon.

Despite the same-again styling, it is a much more advanced machine. Extensive use of aluminium and lightweight materials has kept weight down – despite a more spacious cabin and ever-increasing levels of kit weighing it down.

On test is the XF S performance model, which is powered by a supercharged 3.0-litre petrol V6 engine generating some 380hp. Plenty quick enough, then. It also gets some slight styling tweaks, bigger wheels and brakes, and suspension upgrades. Lower-spec models get the Ingenium diesel and (from summer 2017) petrol engines, replacing previous units sourced from the Ford empire.

Over a week of varied driving, the XF S proved highly competent is what is an incredibly tough market segment. The middleweight Jaguar range has to compete against the Audi A6, BMW 5 Series, Infiniti Q70, Lexus GS, Maserati Ghibli and Mercedes-Benz E-Class. If you don’t want the performance S model, then the Volvo S90 is also a formidable competitor.

Jaguar XF S letter box image

Exterior design

Jaguar has managed to produce a bodyshell that provides significantly more room than the previous model, despite being fractionally shorter (only by 7mm, so don’t start making plans for that extra garage space).

In XF S specification, and with our car’s optional 20-inch alloy wheels, it is a handsome albeit slightly generic look. When the previous XF and then the current Jaguar XJ were launched nearly a decade ago, it was a rather shocking break with decades of retro-tastic Jaguar designs. A toned-down version of the XJ’s style has been applied to the small XE and mid-size XF saloons, and it is a modern yet fairly anonymous look.

Even for car enthusiasts, telling the difference between an XE and XF on the street can be tricky. Having decided on a new design language, Jaguar seems determined to apply it rigorously to every model in the range.

Better than: Audi A6, Infiniti Q70
Not as good as: BMW 5 Series, Lexus GS, Maserati Ghibli, Mercedes-Benz E-Class, Volvo S90

Interior design

Jaguar’s design and engineering teams have managed to significantly improve the room for rear-seat passengers, who now have a decent amount of room for such a large car. The boot is not only larger but also better shaped, and it was able to swallow two large and two small suitcases with ease.

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The dashboard layout is similar to XE and has some genuinely nice design features, like a sweeping line which ran all around the dash from door to door, but gimmicks like a pop-up gear selector and automatically-swivelling air vents lose their appeal after the second time you start the car. Another negative is the touchscreen infotainment system, which looked dated and was annoying to use on the move (more of that shortly). Likewise the digital dash display, which lags behind Audi’s best-in-class version.

Emphasising its ‘sportiness’, our test vehicle had carbon-fibre trim and somewhat gaudy red and black leather. Maybe some buyers like it, but the combination seemed rather tacky for what was nearly a £60,000 car with all the options it was carrying.

Better than: Infiniti Q70, Lexus GS, Maserati Ghibli
Not as good as: Audi A6, BMW 5 Series, Mercedes-Benz E-Class, Volvo S90

Powertrain

The supercharged 3.0-litre V6 petrol engine in the Jaguar XF S may be getting a bit long in the tooth these days, but it is still a lovely thing to drive. Partnered with a refined eight-speed automatic transmission, its 380hp gives more than enough performance for any given situation. Unlike many ‘sporting’ saloons (and unlike Jaguar’s own F-Type sports car), the XF S does not have a booming exhaust note to drive you batty over a long journey. Instead, the fast Jaguar is a pleasingly hushed model of discretion.

The performance does come at a price, however. Over a week of mainly gentle driving and motorway cruising, we rarely saw fuel economy reach 30mpg. If we’d been really pushing it, the numbers would probably have been down in the teens.

Better than: Audi A6, Infiniti Q70, Maserati Ghibli, Mercedes E-Class, Volvo S90
Not as good as: BMW 5 Series

Jaguar XF S supercharged V6 engine

On the road

If you enjoy driving your large luxury saloon along winding B-roads at speed, then the Jaguar XF S fits the bill very well. The steering encourages you to play and the handling is excellent for such a large car. Switch the car into Dynamic mode and it’s a sharp performer.

Finding a balance for the other 99% of the time is usually a difficult trick. Big wheels and stiff suspension are usually the enemies of comfortable ride, and most manufacturers will sacrifice one in favour of the other. Jaguar, however, has managed to balance the opposing requirements of ride and handling pretty well.

Even on our car’s optional 20-inch wheels (19-inch is standard), the XF S was a comfortable commuter and motorway cruiser. Switching over to Eco mode dulls the throttle response significantly, which is actually very useful in commuter traffic compared to the very sensitive response of Normal and Dynamic modes.

Better than*: Audi A6, Infiniti Q70, Lexus GS, Maserati Ghibli, Volvo S90
Not as good as*: BMW 5 Series, Mercedes-Benz E-Class

*Where we have not driven competitor vehicles to rate against the tested vehicle, we have aggregated reports from across the UK motoring media.

Equipment

Equipment levels for the Jaguar XF S are largely in line with what you’d expect for this segment and price. Electrically-adjustable heated leather seats, auto high-beam headlights, auto wipers, reversing camera, parking sensors, satnav and bluetooth streaming are all present.

The test car featured an optional head-up display, which worked brilliantly and is highly recommended. It was also equipped with an upgraded infotainment system, which did not garner any great praise. The system felt slow and clunky compared to its German rivals, and the touchscreen was difficult to use on the move (the Germans still refuse to go down the touchscreen path, and I completely agree with them). Bluetooth pairing was also inconsistent.

Safety-wise, the Jaguar XF range was awarded a five-star rating from Euro NCAP when it was launched in 2015. Autonomous emergency braking is standard, but additional active safety features like lane-keeping assist, blind-spot assist and active cruise control are all optional extras.

Better than: Infiniti Q70, Lexus GS, Maserati Ghibli
Not as good as: Audi A6, BMW 5 Series, Mercedes-Benz E-Class, Volvo S90

Summary

The large executive car segment is a very tough marketplace, but the Jaguar XF S is competitive in pretty much every way you would need.

It is a comfortable, quiet and smooth saloon, with plenty of performance on tap whenever you feel the need. It rewards spirited driving far more than most of its rivals, and is a genuinely lovely place to cover miles – whether it’s a daily commute, a motorway trip or a Sunday blast.

The visible digital technology – satnav, stereo, bluetooth, and instrument panel – lags considerably behind the best in class, and certainly the fuel economy on the XF S isn’t too clever. Some of the optional extras are pretty pricey, and a few should really be standard equipment on a car like this.

If you can live with the negative points and enjoy driving, there’s no reason why you wouldn’t enjoy a Jaguar XF S.

Similar cars

Audi A6 | BMW 5 Series | Infiniti Q70 | Lexus GS | Maserati Ghibli | Mercedes-Benz E-Class | Volvo S90

Jaguar XF S – key specifications

Test Date: May 2017   
Price: from £51,100
Engine: Petrol, 3.0-litre supercharged V6

Power: 380hp @ 6,500rpm   
Torque: 450Nm @ 4,500rpm.
0-62mph:
 5.1 seconds   
Top speed: 155 mph

Insurance group: 38
Fuel economy: 34.0 mpg (combined cycle) CO2 emissions: 198. g/km

Jaguar XF S static
Stuart Masson
Stuart Massonhttps://www.thecarexpert.co.uk/
Stuart is the Editorial Director of our suite of sites: The Car Expert, The Van Expert and The Truck Expert. Originally from Australia, Stuart has had a passion for cars and the automotive industry for over thirty years. He spent a decade in automotive retail, and now works tirelessly to help car buyers by providing independent and impartial advice.
Jaguar XF S reviewThe Jaguar XF S is a worthy competitor in a very tough market. It's not perfect, but it is a fine car.