Jaguar XF: Love's Labour Lost

Justin Berkowitz
by Justin Berkowitz

Jaguar's embargo on pictures of their new XF midrange model expired over the weekend. After seeing the snaps, it’s clear the brand is set to follow suit. Whereas the Jaguar C-XF concept car was a stunning shape with brilliant details, the production version is… meh. Of course, the concept-to-production castration has afflicted many a dream car. But the transformation is particularly regrettable for Jag. While Porsche had 14 years to move production Boxsters back toward the spirit of the original concept, Jaguar is out of time.

The past fifteen years have been excruciating for fans of the once-legendary British brand. Although Jag’s reliability and quality were removed from the laughing stocks, the company’s management made a stunning and seemingly endless series of catastrophic miscalculations: retro-styling, anemic engines, diesel engines, station wagons, anemic diesel station wagons and a model so execrable it threatened to banish “X” to the bottom of the cool letter list. And the rest, including misbegotten marketing and Ye Olde Ford lack of continual development.

Fast forward to today and the time has come for Lyon’s legacy to face the final curtain– or at least a transfer of ownership from Ford to someone else. But even as FoMoCo prepares to cut bait and fish, Jaguar needs something, anything, to keep itself alive until someone, somewhere can get into resurrection mode. The XF is so not it. In fact, the sedan may reduce the marque's selling price and hinder any efforts to apply the paddles to the brand’s sunken chest.

The C-XF made the auto show circuit to demonstrate that the old cat had at least one life left. Even before it headed back to the Galactica for federalization, Jag supporters fretted that its claws would be removed. Designer Ian Callum felt compelled to assure onlookers that the concept vehicle would be locked away in the Jaguar "vault" after it made the rounds.

And the concept might still be in that vault, for all we know. Meanwhile the production version of the C-XF is exactly what its admirers feared: yet another bland brand betrayal.

For example, the door handles, hidden in the B and C pillars on the concept, are now sticking out on the sides of the car just like everything else on the road. The concept’s glamorous headlamps have become globular and saggy headlights. The C-XF’s low roofline was lifted to allow taller folks to enter comfortably; a sure sign that God hates proper sports cars.

Jag’s interior defecators took the C-XF’s break-from-tradition cabin– remarkable not just for its shape but for the absence of traditional stuffy Jaguar club-room finishing– and threw it in the rubbish bin. In its stead, the production XF will be adorned with the usual almost BMW-quality leather and wood polished until it looks just like plastic. Oh, a few novel elements from the concept’s interior made it to market.

A gimmicky gear selector knob called JaguarDrive SelectorTM rises from the XF’s center tunnel. Trick yes, but also a bold declaration that Jag’s "true sports saloon” will have neither a manual gearbox nor a dual clutch S-tronic DSG type deal. And although the XF’s six-speed automatic is a welcome advance, it keeps Jaguar in its now traditional spot: one step behind the competition. Lest we forget, Mercedes is packing seven-speed boxes into its cars thee days, and the rest of the luxury pack are paddling pistonheads to performance-related profit.

The XF also features covered air vents that “roll back” when the driver presses the push-button ignition– that pulses like a “beating heart” (or annoying idiot light). It’s a direct steal from the Volkswagen Phaeton, with one critical telling difference: when the Vee Dub reaches the appropriate cabin temperature, the fascia rolls back and continues heating or cooling with indirect ventilation. Not so the XF. So, what’s the point?

The XF’s engine lineup is the real bright spot in this tarted-up Teutonic wannabe– if only because it isn’t a 3.0-liter Duratec V6. Well not for the Yanks anyway. While the Eurozone gets the old six-pot and a diesel option, American XF’s come one way: with a 300-horse V8. Hang on; Jaguar's latest example of cutting-edge engineering needs two extra cylinders to put out what Infiniti, Cadillac, Acura, Lexus, and BMW are doing with six pipes? And while the eventual 420-horse supercharged V8 will be a screamer, it's far from enough to pull this buggy out of the mud.

On the face of it, before a test drive, the XF looks like it's too little too late. Again. If The Blue Oval Boyz hadn't lost $12.6b last year, the XF might be acceptable. If Jaguar's U.S. sales were more like 2002's 60k cars and not 2006's 20k, the XF might be a "solid effort." But Coventry doesn't have that luxury. The XF needed to be a grand-slam home run. It isn’t. Here’s hoping the new management has better luck.

Justin Berkowitz
Justin Berkowitz

Immensely bored law student. I've also got 3 dogs.

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  • Thomas Minzenmay Thomas Minzenmay on Sep 05, 2007

    This car looks like a Korean knock off of a Jaguar. With the only difference that even the Kia Opirus has more style...so sad.

  • OliveOfJamie OliveOfJamie on Jan 12, 2015

    Well its 2015 now and glad to see Jag trying to take some of the lions share from top brands like BMW with its diesel engine. The style and technology of the XF really proves how much has been improved and could become a leading brand within the luxury car market. BigChiefMuffin it would be futile for any car manufacturer not to attempt to challenge big players in the market. Really it is the only way to survive these days. You will also notice in top car sale websites that the percentage of Jag models and cars enter the market have increased dramatically. For example http://www.carsales.com.au/car/jaguar/xf Carsales in previous years only had close to a couple hundred Jags on the market now there are more than a thousand in Australia. I really shows they are competing and hopefully to their betterment going to take a bigger share of the market than the boring BMW.

  • Bob65688581 We bought zillions of German cars, despite knowing about WWII slave labor. Refusing to buy something for ideological reasons is foolish.Both the US and the EU have imposed tariffs, so the playing field is level. I'll buy the best price/quality, regardless of nationality.Another interesting question would be "Would you buy one of the many new European moderate-price EVs?" but of course they aren't sold here.Third interesting question: "Why won't Stellantis sell its best products in America?"
  • Freshblather No. Worried there will be malicious executable code built into the cars motherboard that could disable the Chinese cars in the event of hostilities between the west and China.
  • Bd2 Absolutely not - do not want to support a fascist, totalitarian regime.
  • SCE to AUX The original Capri was beautiful. The abomination from the 90s was no Capri, and neither is this.It looks good, but too similar to a Polestar. And what's with the whacked price?
  • Rover Sig Absolutely not. Ever.
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