We headed to Johannesburg to sample the latest generation of Jaguar’s executive sedan. The previous XF sold reasonably well and, like its predecessor, the newcomer faces stiff competition from German rivals. How does it fare?
Jaguar’s XF has always been a distinctly left-field choice in a market dominated by products such as the BMW 5-Series, Mercedes-Benz E-Class and Audi A6. Each of the German sedans has an appeal of its own, in the case of the BMW it is dynamism, E-Class refinement and Audi build quality, and Jaguar is hoping to combine dynamism and refinement in equal measures with the new XF.
Although some may regard the XF as merely a larger version of the compact XE sedan, the newcomer certainly looks the part. The frontal styling is not too different to that of its predecessor, but the rear features reshaped tail lights similar to those of the XE and F-Type sportscar. Not a radical restyle, then.
Most of the new bits are under the sheet metal. There’s extensive use of aluminium in the chassis and bodywork and thanks to a complete redesign of the platform, the new Jaguar XF is shorter and lower than the previous generation. However, through a wheelbase extension and clever packaging, there’s actually more space in the cabin, particularly in the rear. At the launch, we tried out the rear cabin and the 1.9m tall author can attest there’s ample space.
There are three engines to choose from. The range begins with the most economical model, a 2.0-litre turbodiesel (claimed to consume 4,3 L/100 km), the first petrol engine is a 2.0-litre turbo that produces 177 kW and for those who want a splash of sparkling performance from their XF, there's a brawny 3.0-litre supercharged V6 available in two states of tune: 250 kW or 280 kW.
In the cabin you’ll find the improved infotainment system sourced from the Land Rover Discovery Sport and Jaguar XE. While it’s not perfect, it’s much better and more intuitive than the previous setup. It looks and responds in a manner not too dissimilar to that of a tablet, which will please tech-savvy users.
What's it like to drive?
The first model we drove was the 2.0-litre diesel in XF R-Sport trim. For more info about the different trims and to see specifications, click here. This Ingenium diesel engine is by far the finest oil-burning motor that the Jaguar/Land Rover group has produced and while it’s not as refined as we'd hoped, it delivers reasonable outputs and economy. With figures of 132 kW and a mighty 430 Nm available from only 1 750 rpm, there’s plenty of effortless urge.
However, to get the best performance from the car, you’ll need to be in manual transmission mode and utilise the shift paddles. The ZF-sourced gearbox has eight speeds and for a car that has a narrow power band (as is the case with most turbodiesel-engined vehicle), it tends to kick down too many ratios too often when in full automatic mode. As long as you’re not in too much of a hurry and are only using light throttle applications, the vehicle is an effortless and capable cruiser that’ll reward you with superb economy. Despite brisk driving on the launch, we averaged in the high 5s which is excellent in this segment.
The second model we drove was the 3.0 supercharged R-Sport. While it wasn’t the full 280 kW S, it still offers capable outputs of 250 kW and 450 Nm. Jaguar claims a 5.4 sec zero to 100kph sprint time and thanks to that supercharger working its magic right from the get go, the 3.0 feels as urgent as its outputs and manufacturer's claims suggest. It too has the 8-speed transmission with paddles behind the wheel and these work well, particularly when in Dynamic mode. The only downside from this engine/gearbox combination is the noise, or lack of it. The Jaguar F-Type uses this combination and sounds lovely. Why no active exhaust button, Jaguar? The 3.0 V6 supercharged engine is claimed to consume just 8.3L/100km, but seems a bit optimistic.
Both cars we drove displayed very good driving manners. Road noise is kept to a minimum and the refinement is right up there with the best. The chassis and handling feels luxurious, but responds well when you decide to get playful with it. The adaptive damping is a real treat and you can feel the car sharpen and firm up in dynamic mode. Go for the supercharged V6 model and tick that box marked Configurable Dynamics which will let you personalise your settings for damping, engine responsiveness and how briskly the gearbox shifts cogs.
Jaguar does claim that the new XF is 190 kg lighter than the outgoing model and when pressing on, you can feel that it is quite agile and nimble. How many owners willing to throw their XFs around a corner remains to be seen.
How’s the tech?
Jaguar is well aware that the competition offers a multitude of high-technology features and has specified the XF to suit. As mentioned earlier, the infotainment system received that much-needed upgrade and the new one is significantly better.
Other technology featured in the range include full LED headlights, a head-up display, adaptive cruise control, lane keep assist and the car is able to park itself both in a parallel scenario and an alley-docking situation. For added convenience, it can automatically exit the parallel parking bay too.
The Jaguar XF is a refined product and we think it's worth your attention if you’re shopping in the premium sedan segment. It demonstrates superb weight-reduction techniques and the engine selection for our market is good. It’s pleasant to drive and happens to look like a proper Jaguar too. Surprisingly, the pricing isn’t as steep as we expected (thanks to the Rand's weak exchange rate) either. However, both the BMW 5-Series and the Mercedes-Benz E-Class, arguably the segment leaders, are due to have international debuts in 2016. We’ve already seen what the new E-Class will offer (check it out here) and the BMW is likely to demonstrate serious technological developments, several of which debuted in the new 7-Series.
The Jaguar XF will have its work really cut out for it then, but for now, it’ll enjoy some successes in our market in 2016 before these two giants arrive.
Jaguar XF Price in South Africa (February 2016)
|2.0D Prestige||R714 800|
|2.0D R-Sport||R782 700|
|2.0 Prestige||R749 100|
|2.0 Portfolio||R850 200|
|3.0 S/C R-Sport||R1 037 500|
|3.0 S/C S||R1 178 800|