With the XF, Jaguar has set upon a pair of daunting tasks: first reasserting itself as a leading force in the premium luxury sedan segment, then re-taking market share from a cadre of firmly entrenched German adversaries. After a couple of months with the car, we've got to think one of those tasks should prove to be somewhat more challenging than the other.
As for the first point, Jaguar seems to have locked on its target in terms of pushing high initial quality. The designers, engineers and project managers put a lot of thought and effort into the XF's development. It shows in the details, and our initial impressions have been pretty positive.
The cabin is especially nice. Great pains were taken to provide occupants with a uniquely welcoming ambience. This begins the moment you touch the door handle and the Jag unlocks itself. The XF is a completely keyless car--that is, it requires no physical interaction with a key. This feature is standard on all Jaguar XFs. There isn't even an ignition slot. Leave the key/fob/transmitter unit in your pocket or drop it in a cupholder and the car does everything else.
Sink into the driver's seat and the engine start/stop button begins pulsing with a heartbeat cadence. Push the button to start the car and the unique rotary-style gear selector rises into your palm, while the power-actuated dash vents wheel around into view. It's all dramatic in an oddly subtle sort of way, giving the XF an almost sentient quality by actively responding to its inhabitants.
The cabin's luxurious ambience is most striking at night, when you're bathed in the glow of cool blue light from the center console, dashboard and instruments, and light-accented door panels. Buttons and controls are grouped together and surrounded by what look to be ultra-thin chrome bezels in full sunlight. But at night the bezels illuminate with that cool blue radiance, giving the XF's interior a sort of futuristic, Star Warsy kind of feel. The effect was supposedly inspired by Motorola's Razr cell phone and accomplished by etching a hair-thin line into the chrome finish that's invisible by day but lets the light come through at night.
There are other small touches--literally speaking--that really give this Jag a very progressive, forward-thinking presentation. The overhead lights are fingertip activated; one touch for on, one touch for off. The glove compartment pops open using a small bullseye-motif sensor also activated via fingertip. And virtually the whole of vehicle functions can be accessed by touch through the dash-mounted 7-inch color LCD screen--climate, vehicle information, navigation, entertainment. The XF also features portable audio device connectivity as standard and includes a cable that will interface readily with your iPod--no doofy universal aux-in port required. The portable audio interface, activated by the touchscreen, is probably the most convenient we've used and allows simple navigation through the various menus and sub-menus and easy access to your favorite songs or playlists.
As we mentioned in the introductory article a couple months ago, our XF is equipped with the optional hi-fi Bowers & Wilkins surround sound system that incorporates no fewer than 13 separate speakers and a subwoofer. Playback quality is fantastic and makes the option worthwhile for an audiophile--I hate that word--or for anyone who just likes to crank up the stereo and scream along on the daily commute. It's especially worthwhile considering the rather modest $1,500 entry fee ($1,875 if you include Sirius satellite radio).
On the road, our XF Premium Luxury lives up to its official billing. Smooth and stately, it is an ideal cruising vessel on the streets and freeways of the greater Los Angeles area. The seats are supremely comfortable, and include such amenities as three-stage heating and ventilation (that's standard too). Ours is additionally equipped with the Advanced Vision Pack that includes blind-spot warning indicators, which flash little alerts in either or both of the side mirrors whenever another vehicle enters the area behind your peripheral vision, making navigation on congested So Cal freeways that much easier. The Vision Pack also includes a rearview camera when the car is in reverse, and park-assist bumper sensors to avoid low-speed fender benders while you're maneuvering in the parking lot. All this is hugely advantageous considering the XF's deceptively large footprint and a high shoulder line that tends to hamper rearward lateral visibility.
One thing that's hard to overlook is the XF's thirst for fuel. That's not really a complaint, because it's a given when you're stepping on a big 4.2-liter V8. Just don't expect unrealistically high economy. The EPA estimates returns as high as 25 mpg during highway driving and about 19 mpg with combined city and highway use. Sure enough, our best average registered 19.0 on the nose, with about 18.7 or 18.8 registering more consistently on the real-time economy computer located between the tach and speedo dials. But we figure it's a small enough price to pay for 300 hp and 310 lb-ft of torque consistently on tap. We'll have more on the engine and overall driving dynamics in the next update.
Note: In the Jaguar long-term intro (February '09) we inadvertently left the zero-to-60 and top speed out of the spec table. So here they are. Zero-to-60 mph: 6.1 seconds. Top speed: 121 mph (electronically limited).
At A Glance
Relaxed, luxurious interior ambience, forward-thinking touch-activated controls
That irresistable temptation to always have your foot in the big V8Total mileage: 4,749 Fuel economy: 18.8 mpg