Despite inhabiting a rather small, isolated island, the Brits are pretty damn sharp. Both their aircraft and automotive industry are punctuated with stunning achievements, from the Supermarine Spitfire and Concorde to the Mini Cooper and McLaren F1. Oh, and don't forget radar. They invented that too.
The idea of parking a Jag in our garage hatched the moment we saw the XF's first renderings. Its bold, ballsy styling assured a singular presence on the road. Secretly, that's what every car-geek wants-to be different.
First impressions of the XF are that of a luxurious and comfortable grand tourer. Surfaces are covered in soft-grain leather and walnut burlwood, and the synthetic materials are gem-like in quality. The keyless starter button pulsates like a heartbeat and initiates a flurry of activity: the vents slowly rotate into view, the shift dial rises, the driver's seat positions itself and the nav-screen menus activate. It's a mesmerizing ballet; passengers just sit there waiting for what's next.
Sitting in the XF for the first time, one can't help but be overwhelmed by the sheer grandeur of the cabin. Most people behave like they're in an art museum, afraid to touch anything. Forget about driving this thing... it's too pretty.
There are three flavors of XF: Luxury, Premium Luxury and XF Supercharged. Our Premium Luxury XF is extremely well equipped with a 300 hp 4.2-liter V8, six-speed Jaguar Sequential Shift transmission (with shift paddles), Dynamic Stability Control, side curtain airbags, seven-inch touchscreen, Bluetooth capability, 19-inch wheels, heated and ventilated front seats, keyless entry/start, and navigation.
We upgraded the radio with a Bowers & Wilkins 440-watt, 13-speaker (with subwoofer) stereo and Sirius satellite radio access ($1,875), the Advanced Vision Pack with a rear parking camera, blind Spot Monitoring System, bi-xenon headlamps and front parking aid ($1,000).
We've had the XF for nearly a month, enough time to put 1,500 miles on its clock and get a pretty good idea of what the XF Premium Luxury is all about. Well, it's a premium luxury car, just like Jaguar said. The XF's first and foremost mission is to pamper the bejesus out of its drivers. While cruising at 80 mph the tach is barely tickling 2200 rpm, and the cabin is so quiet you can hear your passengers breathing. Of course, that can change after firing up the B&W sound system. Though we are far from cultured audiophiles, the Jag's sound system rocks; editor Ben Oh over at sister magazine Car Audio and Electronics agreed. And the Sirius Radio subscription is a huge bonus. We've also just discovered it's got an iPod jack, nicely hidden in the center console. In truth, there's lots of stuff waiting to be discovered in the XF, like the touch sensor for the glove box and the hidden handle and footwell lights with Phosphor Blue Halo Illumination.
As four-passenger cars go, the XF is outstanding-each and every occupant will be comfortable and well cared for. The rear seats are designed for real adults and are well contoured for comfort and support. Long, sinuous highways is where the XF thrives, possessing a ride akin to Luke Skywalker's land speeder. Or dial the transmission to Sport mode and kick down the gears with the shift paddles. The XF has a macho exhaust note, a classic V8 grumble, especially on downshifts when the gearbox matches revs. An aggressive right foot will keep sport-mind drivers entertained, as the V8 has a healthy serving of torque provided it's kept on the boil.
Perhaps the most frustrating (and easily fixable) aspect of the Jaguar XF is its rather lazy suspension. While it's great for most driving conditions, it's not what we'd consider canyon-carving material. Yes, it'll do it, but you get the feeling the XF would rather be elsewhere. Pressed hard into multiple corners, the chassis dances more than we'd like and the steering is a tad underwhelming. It's odd Jaguar did not include some sort of electronic chassis and steering control. Larger cars like the XF really respond well to those things. In any case, we may charm Jaguar engineers out of a sportier Supercharged XF suspension.
Ultimately, the Jaguar XF is a hugely stylish car that's both comfortable and fun to drive. It's not the sportiest car to come from Jag but is one of the most distinctive.
For some, that's worth an admission ticket.
At A Glance
+ Stylish inside and out, amazing stereo
- Somewhat mushy suspension Total
Consumption average: 17.9 mpg
2009 Jaguar XF Premium Luxury
Longitudinal front engine, rear-wheel drive
4.2-liter V8, dohc, 32-valve
Six-speed automatic with Jaguar Sequential Shift
Peak Power: 300 hp @ 6000 rpm
Peak Torque: 310 lb-ft @ 4100 rpm0-60 mph:
Fuel Economy: 16 city/25 hwy
*Base Price: $55,200
*Price as Equipped: $58,850
Bowers & Wilkins stereo with Sirius satellite radio: $1,875;
Advanced Vision Pack: $1,000