Jaguars look better than most other luxury cars, and that matters in a world and a time when all luxury cars offer similar features and performance.
The Jaguar tradition is one of lean looks and mighty power, plus excellent handling. This new XF sedan fits that bill and pumps new blood into the Jaguar lineage. There’s the muscular nose and curved haunches that still resemble, albeit less obviously, a pouncing cat.
Power is generous too, a supercharged 3.0-liter V6 pumping out 340 horses and 332 lb.-ft. of torque. The spirited V6 pushes this rear-drive R-Sport edition to highway speeds quickly via a silky 8-speed automatic that you can let do its thing and not give shifts a thought, or you can flick the paddle shifters behind the steering wheel.
Such flicking will make the XF seem more spirited, but the automatic is so good you’ll likely let it do the job most of the time.
Even old muscle cars had plenty of power (although mostly horrible transmissions), so if handling is pedestrian the XF R-Sport would be just another sport luxury sedan. Ah, but handling is fine too, a fairly heavy feeling wheel, but one that is responsive and helps put some sport into the R-Sport. You can clip off a corner’s apex and accelerate hard out the other side and the Jaguar is purr-fectly (sorry) happy and stable.
The XF also features four dynamic driving modes, Sport, Normal, Eco and Winter. That last one will get a workout here most winters, especially with this being rear-wheel-drive. And Eco may save you a tiny bit of gas along with the annoying stop-start feature, that is easily turned off via a console button.
Normal is fine for most driving, especially in town. There’s good power and a moderately heavy wheel, while Sport tightens up the steering further and gives the sedan sportier shifting. That enhances power and take-off oomph.
In any case, the car feels a tad racy even in Normal mode and I got 21.3 miles per gallon, mostly using that mode. If you’re heavier on highway driving you might get closer to the EPA rating of 30 mpg, but the 20 mpg city rating seems more likely as my driving was about 60% city. Premium petrol is preferred.
Braking naturally is spot-on high-performance and stability control standard. The R-Sport rides on 19-inch tires compared to 18-inchers in the two lower trim levels, Premium and Prestige. That, plus a sports-minded suspension tightens up the ride, which was fine on smooth blacktop. However, once driving on cracking cement city streets the ride became stiff and less than luxurious.
Hard seats aggravate the ride. The Jaguar’s front seats bottoms are fairly flat and hard while the backs are more contoured, but equally hard. A rear seat rider said the seats were hard too, but not bothersome on a highway stint.
Naturally the interior is well-appointed and attractive. It’s also quiet, so quiet in fact that you rarely hear much from that powerful V6. In the olden days, a little growl from the engine let you know you were in a Jaguar, not a Mercedes-Benz, or nowadays, a Lexus. I’d like to hear a little growl as the car accelerates.
But I like its look and all its accouterments. The pearl white ($550 extra) test car featured a gunmetal gray leather dash with dark ash burl veneer dash and door trim ($300 extra) and a deliciously racy textured aluminum dash facing that extended slightly into the doors. Seats? Oh, those were bright red leather that lit up the interior, which also included a suede headliner, part of a $2,700 interior upgrade.
That package also included a power rear sunblind, manual rear side blinds, a 4-zone climate control system, illuminated door sills and 10 color choices for ambient lighting.
Standard though are a power tilt/telescoping steering wheel, sunroof, heated front seats and steering wheel, plus a large touchscreen with Jaguar’s new InControl infotainment system with navigation. This works better than past Jaguar systems and looks good too. Touchscreen buttons are large enough to access while driving, however it is sometimes slow to react. I often found myself punching the touchscreen a couple times before it took the appropriate action. However, there IS a fancy 380-watt Meridian stereo system that sounds delightful.
Standard too are blind-spot and lane-departure warning systems. The later can be turned off, which I recommend when driving in town. This one doesn’t beep, but corrects your steering if you get too close to a lane line on either side of the car, always trying to center the car in the lane. That can be annoying as you try to dodge the city potholes.
There also is a camera button on the dash that allows you to activate the rear-view camera at any time, sort of a fun toy, but not needed. Additionally, the rotary shift dial rises out of the console each time the car is started and the air ducts on either end of the dash rotate closed when the car is turned off. That’s gimmicky.
Another add-on was a $2,000 package that includes cooled front seats and heated rear seats, plus power trunk release and closing mechanism along with soft door close. That means you push the door most of the way closed and it slowly and quietly closes the rest of the way and latches.
The adaptive dynamics for driving cost $1,000 extra and a head-up display was $990, but quite nice.
All this starts at $60,650 and with the $995 delivery and options the Jaguar ended up at $69,185. Pricey for us commoners, but for a loaded luxury sedan it’s actually on the lower end. Compare this to a BMW 5 Series, Cadillac’s CTS or an Audi A6.
Naturally you can scrimp a bit and go lower, a base Premium rear-drive model starts at $52,895 and moving to all-wheel-drive nudges that to $55,895. Prestige is next up the model line, then R Sport and finally the S, with a 380-horse version of this V6. More on that horsier model as it comes into the test fleet within a month or so.
Hard not to like a Jaguar that performs this well and looks this good, but with the XF you’ve got to desire sporty luxury more than a soothing luxury sedan ride.
FAST STATS: 2016 Jaguar XF 35t R-Sport RWD
Hits: Power, handling and looks, plus proper amenities. Sunroof, power rear sunshade, sharp interior, heated/cooled front seats, heated rear seats, heated steering wheel, aluminum and wood dash trim, blind-spot and lane departure warnings, plus four dynamic driving settings.
Misses: Seats are hard, ride is fairly stiff, touchscreen seems slow to react.
Made in: Castle Bromwich, U.K.
Engine: 3.0-liter, supercharged V6, 340 hp
Transmission: 8-speed automatic w/shift paddles
Weight: 3,770 lbs.
Length: 195.0 in.
Wheelbase: 116.5 in.
MPG: 20/30 (EPA)
MPG: 21.3 (tested)
Base Price: $60,650
Invoice: $58,006 (includes delivery)
Glacier white, metallic paint, $550
Ash burl veneer, $300
Comfort/convenience package (cooled front seats, heated rear seats, soft door close, power trunk close), $2,000
Luxury interior upgrade (power rear sunblind, manual side rear blinds, 4-zone climate control, suede headliner, 10 colors ambient lighting, illuminated door sills), $2,700
Head-up display, $990
Adaptive dynamics, $1,000
Test vehicle: $69,185
Sources: Jaguar, www.kbb.com
Photos: Mark Savage