Since the Jaguar XF first came onto the scene in 2007, it’s given its German brethren plenty to worry about. Ben Griffin headed to Spain to see if the new XF can still take it to its ever-evolving rivals.
The new Jaguar XF is an exciting proposition if you’re looking for an executive saloon. It promises to be one of the most efficient cars in its class, thanks to its use of Jaguar’s new Ingenium engine, which first debuted in the smaller and cheaper XE. The car also features a number of interior and exterior tweaks, not to mention a lighter body and more interior gadgetry.
It’s easy to see why Jaguar is so confident in the new XF, then, but the executive saloon market is about as fierce as it gets and rivals like the Audi A6, BMW 5 Series and Mercedes E-Class are supremely talented. Is the British-built, British-designed new XF special enough to compete?
A number of key differences separate the new XF from the old one. Inside, the car has 15mm more legroom, 24mm more kneeroom and 27mm more headroom, thanks to the wheelbase being 51mm longer. This is despite the car being 7mm shorter and 3mm lower overall.
Not only is the new XF more spacious, Jaguar has spent time fiddling with the aerodynamics to reduce the drag coefficient from 0.29 to 0.26. In layman’s terms, it cuts through the air better so it’s more efficient.
The XF’s predecessor turned heads and had more flair than its Germanic rivals and the same can be said for the new XF. There are plenty of eye-catching curves and lines that give it presence and appeal in spades, but without trying too hard and being too busy.
By using aluminium for the monocoque that sits beneath the body, the XF is up to 190kg lighter. Elsewhere magnesium and high-strength steel work with the aluminium to improve stiffness by 28 per cent.
The XF’s cockpit looks the part, even with the questionable brown leather option. All buttons and controls ooze quality, while the seats are comfy enough for long journeys, though they could be a little softer. Neat touches like the air vents and transmission selector revealing themselves add to the wow factor.
A boot of 540 litres gives the new XF a 20-litre advantage over the 5 Series, but a 7-litre and 25-litre disadvantage over the Lexus GS and Audi A6, respectively. The boot is easier to load now and can be upgraded to close electronically, if you’re lazy.
The rear seats offers a 40:20:40 split so more awkward items such as skis can be accommodated more easily, adding to its practicality. Inside is a decent glove box, two centrally located cup holders and door bins that can hold a lot of gubbins. There’s also a storage area in the middle.
Tweaks to the head and legroom make the XF more spacious for passengers than the 5 Series, which means less complaining from height-blessed folk who have to sit in the back.
Performance & handling
Four engines are available and all are rear-wheel drive in the UK, making the range much simpler than it was with the last-generation XF. There’s a new Ingenium 2.0-litre diesel, which debuted in the cheaper XE, a 2.0-litre petrol, a 3.0-litre V6 diesel and a 3.0-litre V6 supercharged petrol.
No doubt the volume seller will be the Ingenium diesel, which comes with either 163 or 180PS. We would opt for the latter as it knocks seven-tenths of a second off the 0-62mph time, while only being slightly less efficient.
Either way, the 180PS Ingenium’s 380Nm of torque from 1,750rpm means it pulls well when it has to, although it does feel a little strained and making progress is noisy. On the flip side, the eight-speed ZF automatic does a solid job of keeping the revs down.
Atop the range is V6 petrol, which offers an impressive 380PS in its most powerful form. 0-60mph comes and goes in 5 seconds, so it’s no slouch. Torque, meanwhile, is 480Nm. Progress is swift and the engine noise is addictive at full-tilt.
Then there’s the 3.0-litre V6 diesel. Put your foot down and the noise is unmistakably not that of a petrol, but its throaty grumble and 700Nm of torque makes it very rewarding to drive. In fact, 0-62mph takes a spritely 6.2 seconds, while the top speed is shared with the 155mph V6 petrol.
Of the all the engines, we would pick the big 3.0-litre diesel because it really suits the car. It’s fast enough to get the heart racing, but the XF is more about cruising in comfort and its sizable dollop of low-end torque and effortless nature fits perfectly with what is a big, comfortable saloon.
At lower speeds the XF glides along, soaking up imperfections with relative ease yet it’s taut enough for a sporty feel. Push a little harder and the tyres grip commendably and body roll is minimal, while various electronic systems do their best to undo your cack-handed driving moments. Make no mistake, it’s a competent handler given the size.
Unfortunately these same electronic systems mean you are somewhat detached from what the car is doing when driving on the limit. Out on the track we found it was difficult knowing where the edge of grip was and what the rear tyres were up to, which meant it was having to correct mistakes we probably would’ve never made in the first place. This is partly down to the electronic steering, which replaces the old XF’s hydraulic setup.
But then this is a car for business folk who still use a briefcase. For the purpose of covering miles on the M5 it is remarkably comfortable and smooth.
Road and wind noise were some of our biggest gripes, both of which can be heard all too as you approach motorway speeds.
Then there’s the aforementioned automatic eight-speed gearbox, which is sometimes reluctant to change into the right gear, a point emphasised on the extremely twisty and steep sections of the Spanish countryside. We were unable to test the six-speed manual, unfortunately.
Economy & environment
Eco-friendly or penny-conscious business folk are best served by the Ingenium, which promises an astonishing 70.6mpg while emitting just 104g/km of CO2 emissions in its 163PS guise ─ making it 24 per cent more efficient than the current XF and £20-a-year to tax. More time is needed to make a judgment on its real-world fuel economy, but it certainly sipped fuel at motorway speeds.
This particular engine is the most efficient in its class, second only to much pricier hybrid alternatives. That makes it especially attractive as a company or fleet workhorse, even if you go for the 180PS version that increases CO2 emissions to 114g/km and fuel economy down to 65.7mpg.
The only problem with the Ingenium is that it requires you to push it harder when you want to make progress, and in doing so the fuel economy drops. It also feels a little underpowered in a car as big as the XF, but no more so than small diesels in rival cars.
The 3.0-litre V6 petrol is the weakest of the bunch when it comes to looking after mother nature. A claimed 34mpg is respectable for the power output but it is unlikely to ever achieve that if you drive in the way it encourages you to. Moreover the CO2 emissions of 199g/km are hefty (£265-a-year for road tax), although competitive with the sportier BMW 5 Series engines.
A happy medium, then, is the 3.0-litre V6 diesel. Not only does it rival the BMW 535d for fuel economy, scoring a combined figure of 51.4mpg, it’s CO2 emissions of 144g/km is also competitive. You pay a pretty penny for the potent mix of performance and efficiency, mind you, but the XF is all the better for it.
Equipment & value
With prices starting from £32,300 for the XF 2.0d 163PS Prestige, it’s £115 cheaper than the BMW 518d, which is less efficient. The Audi A6 SE 2.0TDI ultra, which only has a 190PS option, is a few hundred cheaper but combined fuel economy of 65.7mpg and CO2 of 113g/km means it could cost more in the long run.
Those who want the 180PS Ingenium can expect to pay an extra £500, while the brilliant 3.0-litre diesel is a whopping £49,950 – the same as the 3.0-litre V6 petrol. As both of the 3-litres only come with the S trim, it is substantially cheaper to go elsewhere for, say, the £41,775 SE 3.0 TDI A6, which is better on fuel and CO2.
The bottom of the range ‘Luxury’ spec comes with an array of useful standard extras including a forward-facing stereo camera, which allows the XF to monitor the road ahead and help out with safety systems like lane-keep assist and lane departure warning.
Also standard is an eight-inch touchscreen display that displays the InControl Touch infotainment system, a 12.3-inch TFT instrument cluster for displaying your revs, current speed and other usual information, three-stage heated seats and intelligent Stop/Start for saving fuel when idle.
InControl Pro is an option for those who want connectivity with iOS and Android devices, navigation and a Meridian digital surround sound audio system. Its home screen can be customised for quick access to your preferred apps, while the commute mode learns your journey and suggests a new route if traffic congestion is bad.
A 3G data connection means the XF can provide a WiFi hotspot for up to eight different devices on the move. You can also pre-warm the car using the InControl Remote App and check the fuel level without being anywhere near it providing, of course, it has signal.
Pedestrian safety is better, too, thanks to a more vertical front grille and a clever system that lifts the bonnet to ‘cushion’ pedestrians during an impact.
InControl Secure automatically notifies the emergency services and provides a GPS location in the event of the airbags deploying. An emergency call can also be made by pressing a button.
Other additions further improve safety such as an Intelligent Speed Limiter for keeping you within the realms of the law and a laser head-up display that displays navigation and other useful information in the driver’s line of sight so there’s less need to look away from the road.
The previous Jaguar XF scored four stars in its Euro NCAP safety test, so it could be safer. Alterations to the new model could be enough to secure the full five stars.
The new XF is lighter, better looking and more efficient. The handling is top-notch and with either the 3.0-litre petrol or diesel it blasts along with the sort of conviction its impressive styling deserves.
Those who care more about saving money will find the Ingenium engines are a safe bet, providing you are happy with a noisier, thrashier experience. Factor in two five-year service plans that offer peace of mind and the XF becomes an even more attractive prospect.
But with the new 5-Series and E-Class looming, it is unclear if Jaguar has done enough to keep the XF competitive. Plus there’s the fact the cheaper XE is a nicer drive, making it very tempting if you can forgo a bit of interior space. We doubt if you buy it now you would be disappointed, but it may be worth holding fire.