Jaguar’s re-emergence as a luxury car-maker has ridden much on the shoulders of the XF saloon. From being a company which was regarded as a has-been to being the only brand globally to rub shoulders with the German Big Three of Mercedes-Benz, BMW and Audi, Jaguar today is poised for greater things. Developed under Ford’s watch, the XF as we know it is now over 5 years old. It has received a face-lift in 2012, and now it has a new 2.2-litre oil burner under the hood as well. It is this variant, arguably the most significant in car in Jaguar’s XF range today, that we put to the test.
Design & Engineering
It would take a truly jaded individual not to like the styling of the Jaguar XF. The proportions of this car are very elegant, and the sloping roofline with the swoopy C-pillar make the rear three-quarters of the XF its most appealing angle, to my eyes. Of course, the XF MY2012 has restyled headlamps, which are sleeker than those of the original, and draw a closer family look to the bigger XJ. The leaping cat mascot is no longer standard on Jaguars, although you can get an official accessory fitted at a Jaguar dealer. Instead, what is standard is the Jaguar ‘head’ logo on the front grille. You get the same logo on the steering wheel boss too.
It’s important to note here that the Jaguar XF does not boast of the company’s acclaimed aluminium construction. Instead, this Jag is all high-tensile steel, manufactured in a more conventional manner, and does not benefit from the riveting and tabbing construction as seen on aluminium Jags. That means it’s heavier, and the XF with the 2.2-litre diesel engine tips the scales at a not insignificant 1,760 kilos, almost as much as the bigger all-aluminium XJ. This weight figure is a little on the higher side when compared to the competition, namely the Mercedes-Benz E-Class and the BMW 5 Series.
Interiors & Comfort
The Jaguar XF displays a real sense of occasion when you step inside. When you press the ‘Start’ button on the centre console, the rotary drive controller rises up, while the air vents cycle open. The latter feature is actually quite useful, particularly in a dusty country like India. The satin rosewood veneer and knurled metal accents are tastefully done, and the creamy beige leather upholstery feels lovely. There’s an un-cluttered look to the XF’s cabin that I particularly like, with its neat touches like the little chrome button which serves as the glovebox release. There isn’t a surfeit of buttons on the centre console either, unlike an Audi A6 for example, where you need to spend the first few minutes just familiarising yourself with the interface.
The touchscreen infotainment system in the Jaguar XF takes pride of place on the dashboard. This unit, which is obviously from the JLR parts bin, feels a little low-rent in this car, as it does in the rest of the brand family. We’ve come to expect higher resolution screens and better readability in bright sunlight. If cheap smartphone displays can achieve the desired performance, then I do not see why a luxury car display should not.
I tried the navigation system too, but it was slow to respond. It struggles to achieve an accurate fix as well, and on Mumbai streets, 50 feet can easily make the difference between the correct lane or not. As you accelerate, the sat-nav struggles to keep pace, further compounding the problem. It really does require an update. I’ve driven the XF in the UK as well, on roads which I do not know, and had absolutely no problem getting to my destination. Of course, the blame would largely lie with the vendor, but is something which I hope Jaguar India rectifies soon.
The rear seat in the XF is similarly plush, with a fair amount of legroom, and well contoured seats. Headroom though is a challenge, and that would be the case given the sloping roofline. This is a critical factor for a luxury car, particularly in India, and we believe one of the key challenges for Jaguar to convert more sales. Of course, there’s not much to be done till a replacement comes along, and the slightly cramped rear quarters (compared to the afore-mentioned competition), is something that Jaguar’s salespeople will just have to contend with.
The booth though is quite spacious at 500 litres, and the absolutely flat surface makes it easy to load and unload. The aperture is slightly narrower compared to a 5 Series for example, but I’ll grant it this concession to style, especially since I just love this Jaguar’s bum.
Performance & Handling
‘Grace, Space and Pace’ was a famous tag line for Jaguars back in the day, and we’ve run you through the XF’s Grace and Space. So how’s the Pace? Not bad, in typical understated British fashion, to be honest. This 2,179-cc, four-cylinder diesel engine puts out 190 PS and 450 Nm of torque, healthy figures indeed. This is among the more potent four-cylinder diesel engines in the luxury car market, beating both Audi and BMW, but bested by Mercedes with its E250 CDI, which has 205 PS and 500 Nm. Mated to a new 8-speed automatic transmission, this engine drives the rear wheels.
These figures are enough to propel the Jaguar XF in an adequate manner, without overwhelming the chassis in any way. This new ZF gearbox works much better than the earlier 6-speed unit in the XF I’d driven back in 2009 (albeit with the naturally-aspirated 5.0-litre V8 engine). Gearshifts are quick and unobtrusive, and power flows to the rear wheels in a seamless fashion. I have but one grouse with the gearbox though, and that is a slight lurching you feel when setting off from a standstill, especially when you are moving away from a traffic light.
There’s a certain fluidity to the way this big Jag drives, and you can’t but help get involved in the entire experience from behind the wheel. The strong surge of torque from the engine compliments this car’s character nicely, with the gearbox keeping the car in the meat of the powerband even when in regular drive mode. The “S” mode makes things livelier in the sense that the electronics encourage the gearbox to hold a gear longer, but it is really not needed, unless you’re driving in the hills. Steering feel is supreme in the XF, the car turning into corners with confidence. Don’t for once think that this is a sports car, but it drives supremely well for such a big and heavy sedan. The smaller 16-inch wheels on higher profile tyres improve ride quality on our rubbish roads, but you can feel the XF rolling slightly on its rubber in bends, as is evinced from the photograph.
Of course, no matter how rich you are, you want to be getting you money’s worth between the pumps. In this regard, the Jaguar XF 2.2 D does not disappoint. Over the course of our test, the diesel Jag returned a commendable 10.8 km/l, which is an excellent figure given the kind of traffic we were stuck in. A long highway round trip of nearly 400 kilometres helped, no doubt, but even then 10.8 km/l in the real world is a figure to be happy about!
Luxury cars are usually crammed full with safety features, and the Jaguar XF is no different. For your money, you’ll get ABS, airbags, traction control, ESP etc, which are par for the course. Of course, the big sedan with its vault-like build does contribute to the feeling of safety in its own right.
Like I said at the start, this Indian-built diesel variant is probably the most important car for Jaguar in the Indian market today. Sales have definitely been on an upward trend, and the brand definitely resonates with the discerning well-heeled clientele. Jaguar (thankfully) hasn’t resorted to sundry celebrities to flog its cars (yet), and this I think does go some way in burnishing the brand’s image. Jaguars have always been classy, save for a few frumpy-dumpy cars which thankfully weren’t officially on sale in India.
Now of course, with the backing of Indian capital, a fast developing product pipeline, strategic investments in R&D and manufacturing have all contributed to the leaping cat’s resurgence. Not that I’m feeling particularly proprietary about the Jaguar XF, but it is a beautifully built and wonderful to drive automobile. There’s the right blend of performance and handling, and I’d stick my neck out to say that it would rival a 5 Series around bends and give an E-Class a run for its money in the ride quality department. That it manages to do both, without borrowing either the edgy ride (5 Series) or lead-footed balance (E-Class) is its greatest achievement. That it looks as special as it does just further adds to the aura.
Of course, it isn’t perfect, and it lacks the nth degree of refinement you would expect. I detected an ever so slight vibration through the steering wheel when idling in traffic, for example. I don’t want to sound like I’m nit-picking, but Jaguar has dared to compete with the mighty Germans in a class which they’ve dominated for the last couple of decades, not just in India but around the world. In such exalted company, the XF will be expected to be more than merely good enough.
The question truly is, as good as the current XF is, can you imagine just how special the next one will be? For now though, the XF 2.2 D is as good as it gets, all things considered. For a shade over Rs 50 lakh, you’d be hard-pressed to make more of a statement than in this car. Who says money can’t buy class?
Photographs: Butter Paper Photography