Jaguar XF

FIRSTDRIVES

Second-gen XF looks set to bolster Jaguar’s ‘driver’s car’ reputation

THERE’S a time for revolution. That time for Jaguar was 2007, when Ian Callum’s boldly styled XF set the tone for a rebellious, resurgent brand. Now, the second-generation @wheelsaustralia 35 XF sets out to prove it can beat ‘difficult second-album syndrome’.

The success of that first XF enabled Jaguar to build the smaller XE. Ironically, that has given the XF a new and clearer identity. It’s no longer the entry-level Jaguar chasing buyers across segments; the XE now stalks BMW 3 Series buyers, leaving the XF to hone in on the 5 Series and Mercedes-Benz E-Class.

The exterior may look like Callum has been lazy, but XF version 2.0 reflects the company’s progress since ’07. “We needed to jump 40 years with the original XF,” Callum says. “This car is more evolution, not revolution … we need people to see the car and know it’s a Jaguar.”

The XF looks bigger, but it will actually fit in a smaller parking space. The wheelbase is 51mm longer, but at 4954mm the new car is 7mm shorter. Overhangs have been reduced, while a more upright nose and lower ride height deliver strong presence.

The wheelbase growth translates into greater cabin space, immediately apparent the instant you slide into the XF. In the back, there’s more knee, leg and headroom, and it’s far easier to climb in and out of, feeling more like a shrunken XJ than a long XE. There’s also a 540-litre boot to match the best in class.

The XF scores Jaguar’s latest infotainment system, with an optional 10.2-inch touchscreen (called ‘In Control Touch Pro’) complete with crisp digital instrumentation that enables navigation to cover the entire cluster. It offers customisation, finger-swiping and even the ability to unlock the XF via smartphone. The bad news?

You’ll have to wait until mid-next year for it, as it won’t be in cars built before December.

Meanwhile, the XF’s signature rising gear selector remains, as do the folding air-vents. Sadly, the standard 8.0-inch centre screen has pushed the air-vents higher, so the middle ones don’t fold – only the outer vents do, and they look cheap and last-minute, at odds with the rest of the interior’s premium feel.

Our test car is an R-Sport, which sits above the entry-level Prestige but below the Portfolio and flagship S. Australian specs and pricing are yet to be confirmed.

Of the five drivetrains offered, we’re testing the new 132kW/430Nm ‘Ingenium’ 2.0-litre four-cylinder common-rail turbodiesel – the only new powerplant, as the rest of the range uses carryover engines for now – linked to an eight-speed automatic.

The Ingenium leaves the 2.2-litre it replaces for dead.

It’s well-mannered and doesn’t sound at all like a diesel. While there’s some lag, it pulls strongly and smoothly from 1750rpm, producing a gruff, but far from unpleasant note.

With this more efficient engine and a body that is 190kg lighter – it’s 75 percent aluminium and 28 percent stiffer – fuel consumption drops from 5.2 to 4.3L/100km while cutting the claimed 0-100km/h sprint by four-tenths to 8.1sec.

Engine refinement is complemented by a wellinsulated cabin and a transmission that’s smooth but can’t quite keep up with your fingers when you’re flicking the wheel-mounted paddleshifters, even in the Dynamic driving mode.

Our R-Sport test car runs firmer passive dampers on the same double-wishbone front suspension and integral-link rear as the brilliant XE. The result is just as convincing. On 20-inch alloys, the XF soaks up bumps and stays as composed as a Beefeater regardless of the surface below, helped by the rear axle’s standard torque vectoring.

The XF is supremely balanced, and its electric steering (also taken from XE) delivers ample feedback and accuracy, despite being quite heavily weighted.

A rare weakness in our test car was the brakes. After a strong push on a downhill run, the pedal became long, and they’re not the strongest-biting of anchors. Still, they’re progressive enough for smooth, clean driving.

The other area that will test the Jag’s real-world competitiveness is the safety battle. The XF will come with auto emergency braking standard, and optional kit will include lane departure warning and lane assist, as well as adaptive cruise with ‘Queue Assist’; essentially a semiautonomous mode. While it’s up to date, it will face a tough battle against the 2016 E-Class, set to be Mercedes’ techno tour de force.

Without confirmed prices, it’s difficult to say how hard the XF will punch when it lands in December. Regardless, like a brilliant follow-up album, this car cements Jaguar’s talent.

DAMION SMY

PLUS & MINUS

Delay for the premium infotainment; pricing still to be confirmed Sublime chassis balance; excellent new diesel; high-tech infotainment Model Engine Max power Max torque Transmission Weight 0-100km/h Economy Price On sale Jaguar XF R-Sport 1999cc 4cyl, dohc, 16v, TD 132kW @ 4000rpm 430Nm @ 1750-2500rpm 8-speed automatic 1555kg 8.1sec (claimed) 4.3L/100km (EU) $89,000 (estimated) December

01 ART OF GLASS

The ‘sixth window’ (behind the rear doors) is a design element that was used by Holden on the VK Commodore back in 1984 to make it appear larger. It has the same effect on the newgeneration XF, while letting extra light into the cabin to make it feel more spacious.

02 WEIGHT WATCHER

The XF’s body is shorter, lower and more aerodynamic (Cd of 0.26 compared to the previous 0.29). It’s 75 percent aluminium and also features magnesium and boron steel. A full side panel weighs a mere 6kg, the entire body structure 282kg.

03 MODERN RETRO

LED headlights are an option, enabling a thinner design, while the tail-lights feature the hoops of the F-Type (itself inspired by the E-Type). Ian Callum loves the off-centre twin exhaust pipes, a nod to the 1960s Jaguar MkII.

OR TRY THESE...

BMW 520d $82,900

SVELTE Beemer delivers 140kW/400Nm; on par with the XF. But its cabin isn’t as ornate, there’s no digital instrumentation and it doesn’t ride as well.

Mercedes E250 CDI $99,400

COMES with a 2.1-litre twin-turbo diesel good for 150kW/500Nm and 7.5sec to 100km/h. Optional air suspension provides a class-leading ride.

What’s new, pussycat?

TAKE a moment to consider just how important this car is for Jaguar. The 2007 XF was a style leader and visual stunner, but it relied heavily on components from the slow-selling S-Type (below), itself based on Ford’s DEW98 platform that underpinned the Lincoln LS and the forgotten 2000-05 Ford Thunderbird.

The S-Type hit showrooms in 1999, which makes this car the first genuinely new Jag into the segment this century. In fact, Jaguar says 83 percent is unique, and that includes when put up against the smaller XE that uses a shorter version of the same platform, as well as suspension and steering components.