Last week, the Americans sold Jaguar to the Indians. After losing billions on the English marque, Ford finally unloaded their perennial loss maker on Tata Motors. Amidst varying reports on the Indian conglomerate’s plans for the brand, the new XF sedan continues to roll down the assembly line. We’ve already driven the base model of the car that is (for now) Tata’s greatest hope for immediate profit. Now we turn to the Supercharged model. Stateside, acquiring the XF Supercharged requires an extra ten grand (and the rest) above than the base car’s base price. Is it worth it?
Externally, all that separates the “entry level” XF from the Supercharged variant are wheel styles and a boot badge. According to Jag’s Senior Design Manager, that’s because “a customer is buying an XF, rather than an XF in a particular trim level.” (Tell that to the F&I guy.) No question: Jag missed a trick here. Losing the front grill mesh differentiations that once identified the faster (whinier?) cats may please the beancounters and stealth wealth fighter jockeys, but there’s money in them ‘thar body kits.
Anyway, I [still] think the XF’s front end is boring, while the profile and rear are really rather smart indeed.
The XF Supercharged’s cabin is, like the base XF, the finest interior in any mass-produced car built today. The materials put the mmm in sumptuous, and the fit and finish are fitter than Jill Wagner and more finished than the Mona Lisa. Jag's boffins packed-in loads of the trendy gadgets as standard, from touch screen iPod integration to non-SYNC voice command. In contrast to their German and Japanese competition, Jag’s taken great pains to hide the gizmology until summoned (“Jenkins? Be a good man and bring me my Twisted Sister CD”).
As with the two other [non-particular] Jaguar XF trims, there are only two options: a heated steering wheel and active cruise control. I wouldn’t buy either, because A) the climate control works B) the XF is still a Jag (why tempt the ghosts of Lord Lucas?) and C) the Jaguar XF Supercharged already has what you (as in I) really need: a supercharger.
Supercharger? What supercharger? Click the XF’s gimmicky (and yet geekily enjoyable) rotating gear knob into drive, gently ease the gas pedal rugwards and the XF’s Supercharged oozes into gear and proceeds at a suitably magisterial pace. The suspension coddles its inhabitants from real life rigors with brand-faithful grace. The moment curiosity gets the better of you, it’s instantly clear the XF Supercharged should be called the “Jaguar F=ma”.
For those unfamiliar with Newtonian physics, that means “Ah Jenkins. It looks as if we’re all about to die.” It must be said: 420hp is a lot of power. It’s enough shove to take the 4200 lbs. XF Supercharged from naught to sixty in five seconds flat. Thanks to 413 ft.-lbs. of twist, there is no effort to speak of; no progressive power build-up or loud exhaust note. The XF Supercharged’s V8 and seamless six-speed simply get on with the business of producing and delivering epic thrust, making a mockery of making a mockery of “lesser” engined sedans.
In fact, the Jaguar F=ma is the automotive equivalent of a young Roger Moore, arched eyebrow and all. Here we have a well-tailored $63k luxury sedan with an apparent predilection for timeless luxury and sedate brandy sniffing (a la Rolls Royce) with an engine that’s always ready, willing and able to get into some sort of no-holds-barred, fight-to-the-death brawl.
There’s no disappointment in handling either. You don’t feel like you’re carrying 2.1 tons of computer-controlled weight into the corners. Like the base XF, the supercharged model is Ali-light on its toes, whisking you around bends with enough neutral attitude and tarmac-clawing grip to satisfy all but the most suicidal driver. Again, the XF Supercharged’s suspension is remarkably un-Germanic in the process, despite 20-inch wheels.
Too many manufacturers think their higher-performance sedans have to imitate track cars, down to rock hard seats, tooth-chipping suspensions, a Cray wedged into the dashboard, carbon fiber and a bad-ass nasty demeanor. The XF Supercharged is another kind of car entirely. It’s a first-tier luxury sedan that just happens to have afterburners in the trunk.
With everything all-in, the Jaguar XF Supercharged undercuts its competitors’ prices. AND it’s better to look at, better to ride in and better to drive. Will it be a hit for Jaguar? Nope. Like the base XF, the Supercharged version lacks that final measure of visual flair and drama the brand’s American adherents demand. Strangely, the automaker’s designers didn’t roll-up their sleeves for this, the most sporting of Jags. Perhaps tastefully aggressive mods are on their way.
Meanwhile, with Jag’s Indian takeover adding fuel to the pyre, the XF Supercharged is destined for depreciation Hell– and used car Heaven.