OK cheesy title but Jaguar’s mid-size executive saloon, the XF, really has something special that seems to have given the brand a new lease of life. I have already touched on the marque’s line-up in my post about the XK, but for those not in the know essentially Jaguar models basically consisted of a large grand tourer/coupe (XJ-S/XK) and a big luxury saloon (XJ) for pretty much as long as buyers could remember. In 1989 the company had been bought by Ford yet apart from some investment in engines and interior tech, not fruit appeared to have been born from the venture (though the XK did breath fresh life into the company). This all changed in 1998 with the unveiling of the S Type, a competitor for the BMW 5 Series et al which was based on the upcoming Lincoln LS. Completely different to what Jaguar had offered before, the car initially won praise for its retro styling and handling which was more sprightly than recent Jags had been. Inside too the car featured modern options like sat-nav in addition to the normal leather and wood that buyers expected, and under the bonnet a diesel engine could be had from 2004.
Yet as time went on the market soured abit against the S Type, especially in the face of modern competitors such as the 2003 BMW 5 Series and 2004 Audi A6. The styling dated quite badly despite lots of minor facelifts, and the interior was soon criticised for being too American and sharing too many parts from parent company Ford. The car’s baby brother the X Type (introduced in 2001) got similar negative remarks and by mid-2007 the company itself had been put up for sale by Ford alongside Land Rover, from this point the 2 companies were fused together and JLR became a focus for bidding from buyers across the world. Eventually the Indian firm Tata bought them and quickly set about continuing the product development cycles which were already in process.
As the oldest car in the brand’s line up, the S Type had already been earmarked for replacement and early in 2007 the C-XF concept had been launched to rave reviews. By the time the deal with Tata had been completed, the production XF had just been released to the public-many of whom lapped up the thoroughly modern design that designer Ian Callum had given the car. Almost as sleek as the CLS four-door coupe launched by Mercedes a few years earlier, the XF was as futuristic as the S Type had been retro; the small glass area and blade-like rear lights gave the car a stealthy look, and the mesh grille at the front of the car was a modern take on the grilles of classic Jaguars.
Inside the XF built upon the much-praised XK’s cabin; light and airy the designers made much use of aluminium to cover the dash alongside the traditional wood. A large touchscreen was standard and although it isn’t as slick as the system in German rivals, it remains easy to use-especially in newer models which have been given software updates. The XF also gained praise for its party-trick starting up process; as opposed to merely turning a key drivers press a button next to the flush centre console, then the rotary gear selector (think a twisty dial about as big as a few digestives) rises up in all its metal glory and finally the air vents rotate round from their hidden position. This theatrical element may lose its appeal after a few weeks, but for buyers taking their first test drive it is definately a moment to savour. All XF’s are well equipped but as expected a premium sound system and other nicities can be added to the car, and out back the Jaguar is able to compete against rivals with a spacious rear cabin and sizeable boot…though taller passengers may feel restricted by the low roofline.
Once on the road the XF tends to recieve near perfect feedback from UK-based reviewers, and indeed international sources still give good feedback in terms of ride, refinement and to an extent handling. The problem is that the XF is based on the same old platform which originated with the S-Type so is now 15 years old! Yes there have been lots of updates made to suspension and steering but neither the S-Type nor Lincoln LS was ever described as particularly sporty. Maybe I am being unfair though, especially as I have not driven the car; the updated range of engines and sport mode in the gearbox are sure to make a difference at least…the S-Type’s 2.7 TDV6 was the only engine carried over for the UK market and was originally joined by a 4.2 supercharged V8. In other markets a naturally aspirated V8 was available and in 2009 all engines were replaced; the diesel was upped to 3 litres and the 2 V8’s to 5 litres. The line up has also gained a 2.2 litre diesel for European markets, whilst a 2 litre petrol and 3 litre supercharged V6 have just been launched (the latter replacing the regular 5L V8).
The XF recieved a facelift in 2011 and basically consisted of the introduction of the smaller diesel, a new 8 speed gearbox and sleeker headlights based on the original concept. Last year the estate ‘Sportbrake’ version launched and offers buyers significantly more space for not much more money; the saloon starts at just under £30k and the estate £32k. There are not really many negatives at all when it comes to the XF and to be honest I would not hesistate recommending it to anyone looking for a mid-size executive saloon/estate. The problem is that none of the cars in this sector are bad ones and can offer some more economical/powerful engines, sharper handling and more futuristic tech, but personally I think the XF’s look looks and stunning cabin would be enough to swing the balance in favour of the big Jaaag.