November 19, 2009 by Brian Alexander, Road Test Editor
2009 Jaguar XF
Last year, Jaguar’s XF
rewrote the book on what most of us traditionally thought a Jaguar should be. It wasn’t a stately coupe to be used mostly for trips to and from the country club like the XK
, nor was it a too-old-for-this-world full-size luxury sedan like the XJ
. What it represented was a new way of thinking. Except last time Jaguar tried something new they targeted entry-level volume sales with the X-type, a BMW 3-Series rival that missed the mark by a generous margin. That had us a bit worried about the XF. Luckily the British carmaker decided to go closer to its luxury roots, producing a twenty-first century mid-size luxury car with plenty of standard luxuries and subtly modern styling. The supercharged, 420 horsepower version was lauded heavily last year, but really, how much power does one need? Realistically, less than that, and the 4.2-liters worth of naturally aspirated V-8 in the standard model should prove ample for most. Plus, there’s the added bonus of a lower buy-in price for the less rampant standard engine. If it’s the plush, high-end sedan treatment you’re looking for, the XF is happy to oblige.
What's to LikeThe rising gear selector and rotating air vents may seem a touch superfluous, but they consistently impress. Interior is immensely comfortable and quiet at all speeds, with fit and finish that’s at the top of the class. Ride control is plush when you want it to be, but push harder and you’ll find an engaging chassis and precise steering.
What's Not to LikeA lot of the XF’s functions, including much of the climate control system, are activated through the multimedia screen, which can make finding the exact option you’re looking for complicated. iPod controls and displays are a bit wonky and it won’t let you go back a song when in shuffle mode.
The Drive: DriverSide Driving Impressions
The moment you depress the Start/Stop button the XF, strange things start to happen. As the engine catches with a subdued yet distinctly V-8 growl, a cylindrical gear selector rises from its flush position in the center console and the air vents perform a “look at me” act of their own, flipping around from their flat position in the dash. It sounds dramatic, but in reality fits the high-tech approach of the XF well. Once out on the road, the XF is keen to make quiet, rapid progress. Steering is luxury car light yet accurate and predictable. So long as you rev the engine above 4,000 rpm there’s plenty of power, and the automatic gearbox is eager to keep you in the powerband. Paddle shifting adds to the evocative drive, though their plastic construction is at odds with the rest of the XF’s interior components.
Engine and Drivetrain The XF Premium gets its power from a 4.2-liter V-8 engine that puts out 300 horsepower and 310 lb-ft of torque. Power is driven to the rear wheels via a six-speed automatic transmission with an excellent sport mode and paddle shifters for manual gear selection.
Interesting Vehicle Features and Options The XF feels almost purpose built for long freeway rides, and as such opting for active cruise control is very much advised. The system works by using radar to detect the distance between you and the traffic in front, and adjusts the XF’s speed accordingly, braking in traffic and downshifting and accelerating to your preset speed once it’s safe to do so.
Key Technology Evaluation Auto leveling bi-xenon headlamps are available with the lighting package, which also includes front parking aid, a rearview camera and a blind spot monitor. The blind spot monitor system is able to warn drivers of potential hazards by using cameras to monitor the vehicle’s flanks. It illuminates a small icon in the rearview mirror when another car is detected in the blind spot. A 440-watt B&W sound system is also on offer.
Green Evaluation/Gas Mileage Knowing the car has a V-8 engine, it’s likely you have already braced yourself for impact. Wise decision. While the Jag isn’t a pure glutton, it’s definitely a good-news-bad-news situation. The bad news? 16 mpg city. The good(ish) news? 25 mpg highway and a ULEV emissions rating.
A Closer Look: Vehicle Details Interior
While the XF might be a new design, the interior is traditional, lavish Jaguar. Space is ample despite the somewhat truncated roofline and the seats won’t create any aches or cramps on even the longest of highway stints. Five combinations of wood, leather and fascia tones are available.
Exterior 19-inch wheels are standard. From a dead-on side profile view, the XF appears to be little more than a typical modern, streamlined luxury sedan on large wheels. From the front, however, the isolated metal grille and squinty headlights along with the subtly bulging hood give the XF a truly unique look, as does the clean-cut rear end.
Market Segment and Pricing With an MSRP of $55,975, the XF Premium Luxury feels like a fair deal given the massive amount of equipment equipped with this spec. Competitors include the BMW 535i ($51,100), Mercedes-Benz E350($53,200), Infiniti M45 ($52,150), Audi A6 3.0T ($50,100) and Lexus GS 460 ($53,470). If you fancy something a little less expensive, try the $49,975 XF Luxury.
What We ThinkWhen the XF premiered last year, Jaguar was in desperate need of a savior. Well, it has found one. The XF has consistently been Jag’s bestseller since its release, and has managed to outsell the entire Jaguar brand combined (!) on a monthly basis on several occasions. If that’s not a testament to its abilities, we’re not sure what is.
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