7.10.2016Jaguar XF 2.0d review
Jaguar's stylish XF is the British company's entrant in the executive saloon game, taking on the likes of BMW's 5 Series, the Audi A6, and Mercedes E Class. Those are some seriously talented rivals but the Jaguar has plenty about it on paper to compete against the best in its class. NGC see's how it performs in the real world.
Review by Chris Lilly
Looking at the XF, you would think that the Jaguar sits at the sportier end of the executive saloon market, especially in R-Sport trim - and it does with higher performance models. The model tested though featured the range's greenest engine, Jaguar Land Rover's 2.0 litre Ingenium diesel with 163hp. It might be the lowest powered of the engines available, but it's hardly under powered, and combined with the unit's 280 lb ft of torque, the XF packs quite a punch by most drivers' standards. The raw facts say that the F will get from 0-62mp in 8.2 seconds and reach a top speed of 132mpg, so no slouch then. The diesel's natural torque makes it feel a little quicker if anything, since there is plenty of pulling power in almost any gear, meaning you don't need to pause to drop a cog before picking up a little pace. Of course, should you really want to get flying, shifting down the slick manual gearbox will help your cause, and the six-speed set-up has a very long top gear to help maximise efficiency when cruising at motorway speeds. Move the stick about the grate though and the engine responds very nicely - or nicely for a diesel engine tuned towards frugality. Power is plentiful for most situations, and if you really need extra pace, there are more powerful options available. To be honest, the vast majority of drivers don't need any more, and the low running costs make the 2.0 litre diesel the best pick.
Jaguar built a significant part of its reputation on making saloons that were both sporty and comfortable. It's an ethos that might seem impossible to achieve, but Jaguars of old - and more recent ones - managed to combine a comfortable ride, with suspension that was responsive and engaging in the corners. The XF is one of those cars, proving that Jaguar's suspension engineers are at the top of their game at the moment. When approaching the sporty side of its character, the XF can be flung down a twisting B-road with a grin spreading across the driver's face. However, for the vast majority of the time when this scenario isn't available, the XF not only deals with but excels at the more mundane aspects of day-to-day driving. Whether that's settling down at high speeds and ironing out motorway imperfections, or soaking up bumps and pot-holes in town, the XF is well suited to any driving scenario both in terms of dynamism and comfort. Yes there are more comfortable or sportier cars around for similar money, but I can think of none that blend the two elements so well. It's the best handling car in its class currently, has beautiful balance, and - most importantly - feels like a Jaguar.
Sleek and stylish, the XF has been accused of looking too like it's smaller stablemate, the XE. While this is a fair comment, both models are extremely stylish, and on second glance, the XF is more elegant, compared to the more aggressive XE. It's a trend that's prevalent across the executive ranges so it would be unfair to penalise Jaguar too greatly for the 'Russian-doll' approach to styling, especially when the design is so good. What that design translates to for owners is a spacious car that is more than a match for its rivals. Boot space is good and will swallow a large amount of luggage when needed. The boot opening is not the largest, but it's not terribly restrictive for the most part (I didn't have the chance to try and fit a wardrobe or similar in), and once past the lip, there is plenty of room. Those inside the cabin will be very happy with the levels of leg, head, and shoulder space on offer, with four adults easily able to cope with long distance trips with no complaint. A fifth adult technically fits, though there is a large transmission tunnel to negotiate in the rear which takes up almost all of the leg room. From a driver's perspective, the stylish design impacts on visibility a bit, with large pillars front and rear cutting off sight lines. As with many saloons, the rear windscreen doesn't get a wiper either, which can make visibility in wet conditions a bit blurry.
COMFORT & CONTROLS
As touched on in the handling section, the Jaguar is a very comfortable to be at the helm of, or transported by. The seats are extremely good - not a match for Volvo's class-leading pews but not far off. Those behind the wheel have a stylish cabin to play with, which offers a large touchscreen with shortcut buttons surrounding it, and a tidy console design that perhaps sees too many buttons on the steering wheel, but on the whole is a nice place to sit. There is a definite lean towards a modern take on the traditional gentleman's club though, with cossetting leather chairs, and I've only seen dark materials used inside, giving a dark air to the interior. It wouldn't normally be worth commenting on other than the fact that German rivals such as the E-Class and A6 and either more airy, or more technologically advanced, with the former looking more like a sitting room, and the latter a study in Bauhaus-inspired living space. All the buttons, switches, controls, and handles, feel nicely put together and made from nice materials - though you would expect that from a car in this class. Refinement is excellent in terms of sound insulation, with wind and road noise well damped, and the engine only intruding into the interior when driven hard from cold.
MPG & RUNNING COSTS
The Jaguar performs very well in terms of fuel economy and running costs, comfortably one of the best in class and only beaten by the new Mercedes E Class when looking at non-hybrid models. The XF in 20.d R-Sport 163hp manual specification tested is the best performing of the range, with official economy figures of 71 MPG and 104 g/km CO2. This means the Jaguar is one of the cheapest executive saloons in its class for both fuel and tax costs, an important consideration for private buyers, but perhaps even more so for company car users - a crucial audience for the market. In real-world driving conditions, I managed to average 55 MPG when driving frugally, and hovered either side of the 50 MPG mark when employing more normal driving styles. It's shy of the official figure, but on a par with rivals in its class easily. A VED rating in Band B means it will cost Â£20 per year to tax, while company car users see it scrape into a 20% BIK rate for 2016/17.
Jaguar places great store on the use of aluminium to help reduce weight and improve efficiency, with the material used extensively in both the chassis and engine. The XF is built on Jaguar's iQ platform which is up to 190kg lighter than the previous model, and the version tested is 80kg lighter than its nearest rivals - despite being stiffer. Jaguar recycles as much of its aluminium as possible too, reducing both costs and its environmental impact. The all-aluminium Ingenium diesel engine is almost 20% more efficient than its predecessor, and makes use of technologies such as low-friction materials, rapid warm-up system, variable valve timing, exhaust gas re-circulation, and selective catalytic reduction. An eco driving mode is also available, which lengthens throttle response for example, while engine stop/start cuts the engine at idle. According to our calculations, the tested has a Next Green Car Rating of 38.
The XF being an executive saloon, you would expect the Jaguar to be well stocked with equipment, and you won't be disappointed. All trim levels feature items including leather trim, sat-nav, and dual-zone climate control. R-Sport models as tested get the R-Sport bodykit to sharpen the looks up, sports suspension, Jaguar Drive Control, 8-inch touchscreen infotainment system with Bluetooth, DAB, and USB, keyless entry and start, heated front seats, and rear parking sensors. Safety kit is similarly comprehensive with lane departure warning, emergency brake assist, adaptive cruise control, traffic sign recognition, and airbags all-round. Strangely, split folding rear seats are an option at Â£430, while other options fitted to the test car included a power convenience pack - electric seats, mirrors etc - InControl Touch Pro upgraded infotainment system with superb Meridian sound system, sliding panoramic sunroof, and heated front windscreen.
Stylish, spacious, and seriously capable, the Jaguar XF is more than a viable alternative to the German executive saloons. It drives better than any of the competition, is well equipped and practical, and has some of the lowest running costs in its class, making it an attractive proposition to anyone in the market for an executive car. It's fun to drive when the situation allows, but comfortable and easy to drive on the more common occasions when driving is more of a chore than a pleasure.
Model tested: Jaguar XF R-Sport 2.0 i4 163hp RWD
Body-style: Four-door saloon
Engine / CO2: 2.0 litre Ingenium diesel / 104 g/km
Trim grades: Prestige, R-Sport, Portfolio, S
On-road price: From £34,200. Price as tested £40,320
Warranty: Three years / unlimited mileage
In the showroom: Now
Review rating: 4.5 Stars