THE XTRA FACTORJaguar has refined its XF model still further for the latest model year with a more frugality and extra features. Jonathan Crouch reports.
Ten Second ReviewThe Jaguar XF was a great executive car when it was first launched in 2008 and an even better one when in Spring 2011, it was facelifted and at last included a four cylinder 2.2-litre diesel in the line-up. A sleek Sportbrake estate bodystyle followed, along with a more efficient 3.0-litre supercharged petrol option, yet still Jaguar continues to improve it, adding a cleaner, more fugal ECO2 version of the popular 2.2-litre 163PS diesel engine for the latest model year.
BackgroundEven when bankrolled by the financial might of Ford, it took Jaguar a few bites at the cherry before it hit on the XF. There was the original, rather disappointing S-TYPE, which then developed into an excellent car; a fact that was missed on many potential buyers who instead ignored it in favour of the usual BMW, Audi and Mercedes models. The XF though, saw Ford's dollars finally come good, a car that, when launched in 2008, stuck it firmly to the opposition.
Even then though, the original version wasn't quite right. It lacked a four cylinder diesel, a visual link with the larger XJ saloon and an estate bodystyle. The first two issues were put right with a smart facelift in the Spring of 2011, but it took another eighteen months for the last piece to be slotted into the XF jigsaw, that of the sleek Sportbrake estate derivative. It joined the range just as the 2.2-litre diesel most buyers chose was uprated to 200PS and a supercharged 340PS 3.0-litre petrol unit joined the range. More recent changes though have centred on the bottom of the line-up where a 163PS ECO2 2.2-litre diesel engine can now return nearly 60mpg and under 130g/km of CO2.
Driving ExperienceWhen it was first launched, the Jaguar XF set new class standards in ride and handling. Since then, its rivals have closed the gap slightly but the tactility of the Jaguar still has the capacity to surprise and delight. What was lacking was a tempting selection of diesel engines. Since its introduction, we've seen a cleaner 3.0-litre diesel in 240 and 275PS flavours, then a four-cylinder 2.2-litre, good for either 163 or 200PS, depending on which state of tune you choose. It's the 163PS unit that has come in for the most recent eco-friendly changes.
Though the focus is strongly on diesel power, the British brand has also in recent times introduced a supercharged 340PS 3.0-litre S/C petrol unit capable of rest to sixty in just 5.7s on the way to 155mph, this enabling the company to finally pension off the thirsty 5.0-litre petrol V8. A the top of the range, the 510PS supercharged V8 in the XFR super saloon continues, a car that can now be ordered in 550PS XFR-S guise form, in which from top speed is raised to a heady 186mph.
For most, however, there's more relevance in the performance of that 2.2-litre diesel. The entry-level 163PS XF will stop the watch at 9.8 seconds. But the 200PS version, which is actually just as clean and economical, manages it in a far more sprightly 8.5s, on the way to a 142mph maximum. With 450Nm of torque available from only 2,000rpm, there's no shortage of muscle with this engine, and the XF eight-speed auto transmission means you're always plugged into the meat of it. Across the XF range, advances have been made in refinement with active engine mounts (diesels) and sound deadening material featuring on the car as well as redesigned wing mirrors to reduce wind noise.
Design and BuildSince the Spring 2011 facelift, the XF has had a much sleeker look, something that's also a feature of the newest derivative in the range, the Sportbrake estate. It's got a 1675-litre total loading capacity and there are nearly 100 different ways to configure the interior.
Inside, not much being wrong, there wasn't a great deal to fix. The auto gear selector still rises into the palm of your hand on start up as the dashboard airvents acrobatically turn into position to greet you as you fire the ignition. If your only experience of XF motoring is of the original version, then in this model, you'll appreciate the more supportive seats, the smarter satin-feel switches and the classier graphics on the central 7-inch touch screen that looks after most of the main dashboard functions.
Relax inside an XF and from the stitched leather dashboard and door cappings to the aluminium and wood furnishings, it really does feel special. The craftsmanship, materials and attention to detail all impress. Jaguar's designers have sought to find more interesting ways to say 'luxury', and largely, their efforts have worked. The lines are clean and pure, the materials are familiar, but with a very modern flavour - from soft-grained leathers to real wood veneers with a bold, contemporary spin. Even the phosphor blue interior lighting has its own mood.
Market and ModelAs ever, the XF is priced mainly in the £30,000 to £50,000 bracket common to the Executive car sector. There's a £2,000 model-for-model premium to move from the saloon to the Sportbrake estate. Most will want the 2.2-litre diesel, at its best in 200PS form but unfortunately not, in this guise, offered with an affordable trim level.
Of this Jaguar's rivals, the Audi A6 offers probably the most aggressive value proposition and when the entry-level diesel are compared, it's the Audi that's packing a smaller, less powerful engine and charging you a couple of thousand pounds more for the privilege. Small wonder that Jaguar seems so confident about this car's chances.
The XF offers five trim levels: SE, Luxury, Premium Luxury and Portfolio and range-topping R derivative. The mid-level Premium Luxury version has proven popular and is fitted as standard with soft grain leather seats, a 600w stereo, Bluetooth, cruise control with speed limiter, hard disk satellite navigation, a heated front window, heated, electrically adjustable front seats and 18-inch alloy wheels for the diesel cars and 20-inch rims for the 3.0-litre S/C. Go for the entry-level SE version and you'll still find a 400W stereo, leather and Suedecloth seats, keyless entry and the excellent ride comfort afforded by 17-inch wheels.
Cost of OwnershipNo apologies here for concentrating on that 2.2-litre diesel engine again because it's set to continue to grab the lion's share of XF sales. In 163PS form, it's available in the latest ECO2 spec which, amongst other things, uses an engine stop/start system to deliver a 57.7mpg combined cycle fuel figure along with 129g/km of CO2.
The 200PS 2.2-litre diesel variant manages 139g/km of CO2 on 17-inch wheels and a combined consumption of 55.4mpg. Not quite up there with the best of the German opposition maybe, but it needs to be set against the 47mpg of the 3.0-litre diesel XF models. The 3.0-litre S/C petrol V6 manages 30.0mpg.
Residual figures have stood up well due to a strong reliability record and Jaguar's sensible decisions concerning supply and discounting. Insurance isn't cheap, though, with a 3.0 D Luxury being rated at Group 43.
SummaryThe Jaguar XF was a revelation in 2008 but in the intervening years, its rivals have come back with ever stronger offerings. Hence the importance of the most recent changes - the addition of the Sportbrake estate, the 3.0 S/C petrol engine and, perhaps most importantly, the frugal ECO2 2.2-litre 163PS diesel. All of these build on a proposition that's very difficult to ignore in this segment. Ride and handling are brilliant, the steering superb, and this car's sense of occasion is second to none. Other rivals offer more space and, if reducing carbon dioxide emissions is an overwhelming priority, the XF still comes up a little short.
Otherwise it remains a formidable contender. Having two versions of the 2.2-litre diesel is a smart and pragmatic move too, though from a pure driving point of view, we'd take the more powerful option. TATA Motors are clearly guiding Jaguar in a sympathetic and sensitive manner yet which isn't shying away from the bigger challenges. That can only be good news.