2016 Jaguar XF 35t R-Sport
3.0-liter DOHC V6, supercharged (340 horsepower @ 6,500 rpm; 332 pounds-feet @ 3,500-5,000 rpm)
Eight-speed ZF automatic, all-wheel dirve
20 city / 28 highway / 23 combined (EPA Rating, MPG)
19.9 (Observed, MPG)
Base Price: $52,895*
As Tested: $75,225*
* Prices include $995 destination charge.
Luxury car companies are practiced at the art of completely redesigning a car, yet styling those new models so much like their predecessors that you’d need an illustrated guide to tell them apart. Jaguar was the king of this design exercise in the ’90s and 2000s. My personal 2005 Jaguar Super V8 may look like Jags of yore inside and out, but under the wood and leather is a thoroughly modern aluminum luxury chassis that — with updates — underpins the modern XJ.
On the other side of the equation we have the XF. The 2008 model signaled a major shift for Jaguar’s styling, but under the sleek and modern exterior sat a reworked Jaguar S-Type chassis. The first generation XF won praise for the M5-chasing XFR and a design that came to define the modern Jaguar.
For the second generation of the XF, Jaguar played it safe with an image retaining the bulk of the styling from the previous generation. Under the familiar styling is Jaguar’s all new, aluminum-intensive iQ platform that’ll be the basis for the XF, XE, F-Pace and two other mysterious Jaguar Land Rover products in the next few years.
Nobody does “understated” styling like luxury car companies. The Cadillac CTS is as avant-garde as this segment gets, while BMW, Audi and Jaguar seem to be in a three-way fight to design a sedan that flies as far under the radar as possible. Like BMW and Audi’s redesigns, you need to park the redesigns side-by-side with their earlier counterparts to tell what’s changed. The front end has become a touch angrier thanks to a sleeker headlamp design and a grille that borrows a bit from the larger XJ sedan. Out back, the taillamps gain some chrome and a hint of style from the F-Type. Bucking the “one sausage, different lengths” trend, only the XF and the smaller XE share styling in the Jaguar line, so you’ll be disappointed if you were hoping for a “mini XJ.”
The old XF was one of the longest options in this segment, but the space utilization wasn’t as efficient as it could be and its rear seats always felt a little small despite the advertised legroom number. To address this, Jaguar stretched the wheelbase by two inches while actually shrinking the overall length a hair. The change not only pushes the wheels to the corners for improved aesthetics, it helps yield the biggest trunk in the segment at 19.1 cubic feet and gives the XF 5-inches more combined legroom than a 535i.
To be honest, the S-Type’s interior was more my cup of tea than what we have in the XF. Without question, the “space” portion of Jaguar’s “grace, space and pace” motto is satisfied, but grace is in the eye of the beholder. Parts quality has improved markedly over the 2015 model with new switchgear that feels premium, a new steering wheel and stitched upholstery on the dashboard. The style of the interior is what failed to resonate with me. The XF is still a stark departure from the Jaguar of the last decade and distinctly modern when compared to the German competition.
On a functional level, the new seat designs are more comfortable than before but still lack the range of adjustability you see available in upper trims of the BMW and Mercedes. In an effort to cut the dashboard button count, some controls have been integrated into the touchscreen infotainment system and made adjusting seat heating or ventilation a convoluted affair in the process.
Speaking of touchscreens, the new InControl system is a solid step forward for Jaguar, but BMW, Audi and Mercedes haven’t been standing still. The result is a navigation and vehicle control system that is still a step behind. While I’d take InControl over the Lexus joystick any day, techies will likely gravitate towards iDrive, MMI or the 2017 E-Class with it’s enormous COMAND display.
The key improvements in this generation system, aside from a faster processor, are the addition of voice commands for your USB attached media library, an all-around camera system, and smartphone integration. The smartphone integration is a good example of an area where this system lags the competition. Instead of integrating CarPlay or Android Auto like Audi and Mercedes have done, Jaguar cooked up an app that behaves somewhat similarly but gives a standardized look on both Android and iOS devices. On the downside, this integration lacks the visual polish of the Apple and Google creations. The optional heads-up display is similarly a step behind the system we see in the A6 and 5 Series, with graphics that are comparable to what we see in Cadillac and Lexus HUD systems.
Compensating in large measure for the disappointing infotainment system is a standard 11-speaker Meridian sound system. The 380-watt system is the best standard audio system in this segment by far with a well-balanced sound. The optional 825-watt Meridian system is a nice upgrade, but the base system performs so well I don’t see much reason to upgrade.
You should also know that Jaguar’s InControl Pro system was not available for us to review. The up-level package swaps the 8-inch LCD for a 10.2-inch tablet-like display in the dashboard that appears to offer a superior experience with a faster processor, split-screen displays (a la iDrive), more intuitive navigation and a 12.3-inch LCD instrument cluster that rivals Audi’s Virtual Cockpit. If you like the XF and have a tech addiction, wait for this system.
For the moment Jaguar’s AJ126 engine is the only one available in American-bound XFs. The 3.0-liter 90-degree V6 is shared with the F-Type and is essentially a Jaguar AJ-V8 with an altered stroke and bore that’s had two cylinders cut off. This engine shouldn’t be confused with the 3.0-liter AJ-V6 found in the old XF, which was an altered Ford Duratec 30.
The new V6 is available in two different power levels: Premium, Prestige and R-Sport get a tune that makes 340 horsepower and 332 pounds-feet of torque, while the S trim gets a mild bump to 380 horsepower and 339 lbs-ft. Like Audi’s current A6, Jaguar gets to those lofty power figures with supercharging instead of turbocharging. The Roots-type twin-vortex supercharger located in the vee of the engine cranks up 25.4 psi in the 340 horse version and 27.6 psi in the 380 pony version.
Jaguar continues to use ZF’s excellent eight-speed transmission, which can be coupled with a tweaked AWD system for $3,000. The new AWD system is lighter than before and has been programmed to favor a strong, rear-wheel power bias under most conditions.
The styling of the XF may be a little ho-hum, but the way this kitty drives will put a smile on your face. The last generation XF was no slouch. The XFR was a solid M5 alternative and mid-level trims hold their own against the 535i on the track. Dynamically, this new XF is not a radical departure from the old XF. Think of it more as a refinement.
The old XF was already on the lighter side of the segment, undercutting a comparable 535i by around 180 pounds, but the aluminum diet grows that delta to 360. The lighter curb weight pays dividends when it comes to acceleration and braking. Our 340 horsepower AWD tester scooted to 60 in 5.3 seconds, a hair faster than the A6 3.0T and a few faster than a 535xi. Perhaps more impressive was the 108 foot 60-0 braking distance, which was nearly 10 feet shorter than a 535xi and about the same as an Alfa Romeo 4C. Jaguar’s choice of a supercharged engine eliminates the small amount of lag we see in everything from the BMW 535i to the the new 400 horsepower Infiniti Q50.
On the down side, Jag’s Roots blower is the likely cause of the XF’s middling fuel economy numbers. Admittedly, my 19-20 mile-per-gallon average likely had something to do with how much fun the XF is to drive, but I did average a few mpg higher in the BMW and Lexus despite the EPA published numbers being nearly identical.
As you’d expect, electric power steering has sucked most of the feedback out of the XF’s steering rack, but what little remains is comparable to what we find in the Lexus GS and Cadillac CTS. Like the CTS and GS, the XF has a well-balanced feel when pushed in the corners. That’s a notable contrast to the Audi A6 that’s prone to plow due to its heavy front end. BMW and Mercedes have weight balanced similar to the Lexus, Caddy and Jaguar, but they choose to tune their suspensions towards more predictable understeer. Jaguar, on the other hand, not only gives you a more neutral chassis tune, but also an AWD system programmed for a strong rear wheel bias. In keeping with this sporting mission, the XF has a fairly firm ride, although it is well composed over broken pavement.
The XF combines the handling feel of the Cadillac with the urgency we see only in the Jag and the Audi A6 3.0T, at a price that should make Lexus stand up and take notice. At $52,895, the XF may seem like a spendy option in this segment — until you realize that there is no 2.0-liter turbo XF at this time. Comparing apples to apples, the Jaguar is both one of the faster V6 entries and one of the least expensive V6 entries. Only the $50,950 Lexus GS 350 and the $50,755 Infiniti Q70 3.7 undercut the XF in sticker price, and either of those options will take a second longer to get you to 60 mph.
Jaguar’s pricing advantage is significant when stacked up against the Germans. A BMW may be more polished than the XF, but it’ll also set you back $4,500-6,000 more. Audi’s A6 is even dearer and lacks the handling ability we see in the Brit. Mercedes has yet to announce pricing on the 2017 E-Clas,s but you can bet that it’s not going to be less expensive than the BMW. Even Cadillac’s CTS, which has excellent driving dynamics, is going to be slower and more expensive than a comparable XF.
Although it appears that the XF has lower lease residuals than the other Europeans, Jaguar’s aggressive MSRP allows the current lease deals to undercut the Germans as well. At the moment, the 2016 XF will be $25 a month more than a GS 350 but, more importantly, the same monthly rate as a considerably slower BMW 528i and $70 less than a front-wheel-drive A6. Since we all know this segment is driven by low lease rates, this bodes well for the XF on the sales charts.
As much as I like the XF, I found myself constantly drawing comparisons to my own Jaguar and the BMW 5 Series. As I’ve said before, BMW is the new Mercedes. BMW has left the title of “ultimate driving machine” to be fought over by Cadillac and Jaguar and has instead focused their attention on becoming the “ultimate luxury machine.” Oddly enough, it’s the very fact that the 535i is softer and fatter than ever before that I like it more than ever before. It’s not as fast as the XF, it doesn’t handle as well as a comparable XF, but it’s more polished and gadget rich than any Jaguar at the moment. If my money was on the line, it would be a close call, but the BMW would be sitting in my driveway.
Jaguar provided the vehicle, insurance and one tank of gas for this review.
Specifications as tested
0-30: 2.1 Seconds
0-60: 5.3 Seconds
1/4 mile: 13.8 Seconds @ 103 MPH