Left with a Jaguar XF-shaped hole in my motoring life, it’s time to reflect on what was an enlightening, engaging, sometimes mildly puzzling, yet mostly a rather refined ownership period. But first a confession; my preference has always been for German-flavoured executive motors. While the previous generation XJ was nice, I’m part of the minority that didn’t really ‘get’ the first generation XF. A perfect candidate to test the latest model, then. Fear not, my mind was open regarding the car’s appearance and performance, and it’s plain to see that this XF has matured into a visually more appealing car, while the driving experience has evolved from plush and comfortable to being engaging and more sophisticated.
Carrying passengers and talking to curious neighbours revealed a considerable amount of goodwill for the Jaguar brand and XF in particular. It’s easy to become detached when it’s your job to be objective, yet it was interesting to hear the real-world views of consumers and admirers. My occasional gripes melted away when in the company of friends. For example, everyone delivered a glowing verdict whilst being chauffeured by yours truly. Bottom line: my criticisms of the XF’s sometimes sleepy gearbox and grumbling engine didn’t even register with friends and family. Furthermore, the car’s cabin ñ replete with racy red and black leather ñ was met with universal praise. Okay, I’ll give them that, as I too think it was a bold, but fitting, choice for a car seeking to stand out from the crowd.
All told the XF’s cabin was a good place to be irrespective of a journey’s length. The generously proportioned centre section helped to advance the feeling of intimacy, with the high fascia and wraparound front door trim continuing the cosseting sensation. This culminated in a satisfying ‘thunk’ when the doors closed, although the trade-off was those same substantial doors often needing a hefty push to remain open.
On the driving front, it boiled down to this: four cylinders good, six cylinders probably better. Don’t get me wrong, the XF’s four-pot motor did the business; it was quick when in the right driving mode, reasonably economical when used gently, and eager to please once wound up to a decent pace. It could’ve been more refined and quieter when accelerating, an issue I reckon the smoother six-pot motor would solve. Still, it’s a small price to pay if you’re seeking to balance ownership costs with outright performance.
And there was no shortage of performance once you’d dialled in the right driving modes. Living up to its R-Sport trim level, the XF proved engaging on the right road, took corners flatter than the Norfolk countryside and offered just enough wriggle room for a driver to enjoy the car’s rear-wheel drive layout. I’ll forever maintain that grabbing the paddleshifters was the best way to change gear in a hurry, and was always impressed by the XF’s ability to pound motorways for hours without blinking. In short, it excelled as a rapid Grand Tourer.
Am I a convert? Not quite, but I now have more respect for what Jaguar is trying to achieve with the latest XF. I won’t miss the infotainment system’s many menus and occasional laggy performance, although the new generation navigation function is a vast improvement and audio quality is first rate. I will miss the whole keyless entry and start experience, plus the simple but effective transmission rotary controller ñ Jaguar has nailed this experience and rivals could learn a lot. I’ll certainly miss the XF’s cavernous boot and crisp digital instruments.
And I’ll also miss the positive vibes the XF prompted from all who experienced it and its bold road presence. In a world of conservative me-too executive saloons, that’s quite an achievement these days. Given Jaguar’s recent successes, it’s obviously doing something right. Long may it continue to plough it’s own distinct and stylish furrow.
Date arrived 23rd August 2016
Fuel economy 54.3/74.3/65.7mpg (urban/extra urban/combined) 42.3mpg (on test)
The XF’s crisp, configurable instruments were a standout feature.
I would have liked a more eager gearbox response. Can’t fault the rotary controller though.