You’ve heard the hype, seen the pictures and maybe even stroked the car in your dreams, but is the new big cat really as amazing as they all say? Monaco, glitz, glamour, plus some snow covered hairpins to contend with – who better to send from our pack than Lisa Curtiss to find out
In a car world of Germanic and Japanese domination and some would say soulless impersonal automation, gosh am I glad there is still a valid place for a company of modern day craftsmen, alchemists, people of passion and vision. One that I believe will stay as quintessentially ‘British’ as rain on a weekend, caravanning and perennial colds and flu, regardless of where its owners may hail. It may have its share of those who simply fail to see the magic, but Jaguar is undoubtedly a national treasure. There’s something about this hallowed marque which stirs the soul and evokes sentimental wanderings back to a time when all summers were balmy, afternoon tea was served from a pot, and the ‘Sunday Drive’ required a Hermès headscarf and, was, if you were lucky enough, in something rather more special than most of today’s formulaic motors. Delicious, curvaceously flanked beauties gleamed in days of derring-do, silks and racing stripes. Mk 2, ‘D’ and ‘E types were absolute icons of generations. Timeless and quite rightly cherished. And if you’ve ever ‘vintaged up’ and visited the wonderful Goodwood Revival, it is still hugely appealing.
Times move on, yes, mistakes get made, absolutely, and technology and budgets facilitate and restrict, but it shouldn’t mean cars cannot be things of beauty and power, enticing and, well, alive. With the XF, Jaguar proves it still has alchemists, and can outshine, outperform and create a worldwide class beater, with all the features modern day innovation enables, yet still be a hugely desirable driver’s dream. A real working luxurious yet practical car, truly worth spending your weekdays driving and Sundays lovingly polishing. And I for one couldn’t wait to drive it.
I headed off to that mecca of all things tastefully done but over the top, Monaco, where the fleet of diesel and petrol models were already basking in appreciative interest from the spoilt and usually terribly unimpressed locals. Keeping comfortable company and stealing attention from super-yachts worth a king’s ransom proved easy, much to the chagrin of disgruntled captain-capped Hugh Hefner look-alike owners.
As a sports saloon, the XF really needs to be seen in the metal to appreciate it most. The photos just don’t do it justice. If you usually consider saloons as uninspiring rep mobiles, think again. This is hardly average. The typical Jaguar sharky front has been replaced with something altogether more appealing, giving it a fresh, bang-up-to-date appearance that beautifully combines grace and purpose in its lines. Built from steel, the car is heavyweight, but ever so gracefully poised. It looks as though it means business and isn’t bluffing, it stands out from the crowd and remains dignified.
I have to be honest and say, loving the company as I do, and despite retaining many great features, I was at first a tad disappointed that the production car isn’t a closer replica of the truly gobsmackingly gorgeous C-XF concept that was unveiled in London last year. But, nevertheless, this is a looker, and a keeper too. If the stunning concept is an indication of a fraction of what miracles Jaguar’s designer Ian Callum can work (and I’m absolutely sure there are wonders to still emerge), then Jaguar is on a serious roll, turning heads and emptying wallets, including mine.
Slip inside and mmmm. This could only be a Jaguar. Unlike its Germanic rivals, whereby you think ‘great, I can afford that..oh, err… hang on, I need to pay an extra £1000 for this and £500 for that. With the Jaguar, the XF’s two trim levels are exceptionally well equipped as standard. So, unless you want something truly odd or bespoke, you’ll reassuringly just need to pay the list price. I’ve not seen leather and wood this tastefully done for a long time, and only then in something three times the price. Traditional materials yes, but old fashioned, no. Blended seamlessly with ultra modern twists, such as ice blue mood lighting and aluminium accents, the interior is a haven for the style conscious. I have to confess to a smile at the start up sequence – instructions: press button which rather suggestively pulses and, then the gear …sorry, I have to use the word, knob – err shifter…rises in to your hand. People have been arrested for less in a car!
There are plenty of toys including a cracking Bowers & Wilkins sound system. I insisted on using it on the launch, despite heated co-driver complaints about my dodgy choice of sounds. She should just thank her lucky stars I didn’t get my ‘Blue Greatest Hits’ CD out. I found the touch screen Sat Nav easy to use, and the best looking one around. iPod, iPhone, USB, Auxiliary input, Bluetooth and so on are all included. Space and internal stowage wise, it’s well thought out and plentiful. There’s copious leg and seat room in the rear and the boot is more than adequate at 500 litres. Although it’s a large car, I found I could achieve a perfect driving position, despite being a relative titch at five foot four.
Last but not least, on to what Jaguar cars are all about: how they drive. Deliciously. I’m an out and out lover of the glorious, alas, petrolonly XKR; the way it’s balanced, powers away effortlessly, has all the thrust and grunt you could desire, without making you sweat. The XF is similarly good. Towns, twists and open road, nothing ruffles this car or its driver. It’s sharp as a razor, a performer yet deceivingly velvety. Unlike the fast and punchy BMW 5 series, which roars into action with a 12 bore kick-back, the XF simply glides – unless you fancy a play with the paddles and have some serious fun. I also drove the supercharged XF 4.2 SV8 on one of the days, and can honestly say, cracking model as it is, you’re not losing out unduly with the diesel, which does what you ask with bells on. The ride has a just right firmness, and for a car of its size, as hairpins on iced mountain roads proved, it’s incredibly supple and agile. It was almost as though the whole body of the car itself curved round to reassuringly hug the corners with me. Wonderful. A delight, and the two days just weren’t enough. I wanted to play more! Normally, I’m a hot hatch aficionado, and rarely happier unless I’m shaken and stirred in the latest loopy, over-powered pocket rocket. So for me to fall in love, for what is essentially a saloon, albeit a sports one, it must be darn good. And it is.
From the moment my dad brought home the E-type he’d always wanted, knowing he’d risk amputation of particularly treasured parts of his anatomy by my mother for buying an impractical 2 seater, I was intrigued at just what passion and emotions could be stirred by a car from this marque. Other manufacturers may claim emotional engagement and the like, but honestly, Jaguar, with its long needed, eagerly awaited XF , wins my heart by a mile. Watch out for yours. Jaguar’s got it right, and I love that fact. Long may it continue.
On sale: Now // Price: £37,500 // Main rivals: Audi A6 3.0 TDI quattro SE Automatic, BMW 530d SE Automatic, Mercedes-Benz E 280 CDI Avantgarde Automatic
- Price:£37,500 Engine: 2720cc, V6 twin turbodiesel
- Gearbox: 6-speed automatic with paddleshift
- Max Power: 207bhp at 4,000rpm
- Max Torque: 320lb ft at 1,900rpm
- Max Towing Weight: 1,850kg
- Combined Consumption: 37.6mpg
- CO2 Emissions (taxband): 199g/km (F)
- 0-62mph: 8.2 secs
- Max speed: 143mph
- Insurance Group: 17
6-speed automatic transmission with sequential shift
Dynamic stability control
Electric parking brake
Vented disc brakes, front and rear
LED rear tail lamps
Heated exterior mirrors with electric adjustment, power folding, auto-dimming and puddle lamps
Rain sensing windscreen wipers
Halogen headlamps with automatic on/off
Parking aid with rear sensors
Bright side window surrounds
Chrome grille surround with bright mesh grille
Heated windscreen with timer
18-inch alloy wheels
Alloy space saver spare wheel
Softgrain leather seat facings
Memory function with 2-settings for driver’s seat, exterior mirrors and steering column
Heated front seats
Folding 60/40 split rear seats
Leather steering wheel, with audio, cruise control, and telephone controls
Burr walnut veneer
Keyless start system
Cruise control with automatic speed limiter
Electric steering column
Dual-zone climate control
Interior mood lighting
Front and rear electric winows with one-touch open/close and anti-trap
Auto dimming rear view mirror
320W Premium sound system
Multimedia system with 7-inch full colour touch-screen controls
Bluetooth telephone connectivity
3.5mm stereo auxiliary input socket
A truly special car you’d be proud to drive and own. Has grace, pace and beauty. Jaguar’s claiming class leading residuals too
I’d have to do some serious nitpicking, other than to say the concept was even better looking