How much ever you change its design, and wrap it with stunning curves and sporty lines, or equip it with absolutely mind-blowing technological titbits, the Jaguar XF will still remain what it has always been – a true classic.
The Jaguar XF is designed to inspire awe in the insider as much as an onlooker. The pulsating start button signals the presence of life even as you enter. Gather yourself, press the button and as the engine purrs to life, there is movement inside – tossing, tumbling, turning – and majestically, the big cat shakes off its slumber.
To clarify the allegory, the knurled aluminium dash panel dramatically flips over at several spots, like hidden doors to an Indiana Jones secret chamber, followed by a cool blast of air as you feel the AC on you. The Jaguar Drive Selector knob rises – like the periscopic elevation of a nuclear sub. And the steering moves over to take its predetermined position. In the theatre of Jaguar, it’s the curtain raiser to the XF experience: Let the performance begin.
Jaguar founder Sir William Lyons’ words also come to life amidst these happenings: “The car is the closest thing we will ever create to something that is alive.” I would say it again for the XF.
The technology of touch
The Jag XF is designed to do anything at the flick of a finger or the mere touch of it. From shifting gears to engaging the parking brakes to switching on the cabin lights.
I remember how, as a child, I would tear away with all my might at the handbrake (as it was called those days) of my granddad’s 1969 Ambassador (known as the Landmaster in the ancient western world). In the XF, I could do it without lifting more than a finger. It’s just a half-moon button mounted on the central console!
It just takes a touch to awaken a Jag all over. Jaguar Sense is the name of the technology that lights up the front overhead console lamps. Besides, the XF’s 7 inch colour touch screen allows almost every control available in the cabin, to be at your fingertips.
The drive character of the Jaguar XF 3.0 isn’t as powerful as a BMW or as mellifluous as an Audi, but it is one of the smoothest and the most stable you will ever come across. The handling is remarkably steady and can boast of being one of the most precise and comfortable on the roads yet. Despite the low-arched shape, the cabin postures are relatively high-mounted giving a feeling of security right behind the imposing façade, similar to that of an SUV.
The steering grudgingly spares an inch, while generously holding on to your hand along curves, lane changing or cornering – swinging all the way you want in your waltz on the highway. The narrow, winding road up the Jabel Hafeet (UAE’s highest point) was perfectly traced by the XF’s unflinching road adherence and precise steering controls. Yet, it’s not the precision that’s overwhelming as much as the ease with which it is achieved.
Usually, before you are a Jaguar XF driver, dignity has already settled in. Hence leaving behind your dust to bite wouldn’t exactly be the priority at a signal. The Jaguar XF 3.0 spits out 238 bhp @ 6800 rpm with a 293 Nm torque @ 4100 rpm, with 80% of its torque available before you reach 2000 rotations. The 0 – 100 achieved in 8.3 sec is a telling figure of priority while the 237 kmph top speed still speaks for its capability.
The lack of size-relative torque available at a lower rpm range was a dampener at first till I discovered the S mode. The S mode holds the lower gears for longer allowing a quick sprint halfway up the rpm meter, taking your pulse rate along with it.
The Jaguar Sequential Shift System is excitingly quick and satisfying, but the steering-mounted paddle-shift suffers from an accidental activation hazard of the manual mode by a straying finger. If you know how, you can deactivate it just as easily by holding up the right paddle for three seconds.
As night falls and the car makes a sharp turn, the cornering lights spring out next to its Bi-Xenon lighthouse, like a pleasant surprise from the dark!
Getting caught in traffic in an XF would be a nightmare for the fuel-conscious among you. A five-kilometer stretch of snail-paced peak-hour fare can feed on as much as 3 full litres of gasoline. It makes up on the long run though – I ended up with a 9.13 km/L mixed result. You would expect the thirst to increase dramatically with the switch to the S mode – but thankfully, it doesn’t. Coming to think of it, for a saloon that carries the weight of such luxury, the figures are pretty impressive!
With 540L of surprisingly large boot space, the Jaguar XF offers space for a family entourage of suitcases but you might have to think twice about particularly tall stuff, thanks to the long yet low-flung tail-design.
Only the facility for cigarette lighters has been provided, hoping you would have the good sense to not have them fitted.
Even in a Jaguar, there’s always room to crib!
What baffled me were a couple of idiosyncrasies. While the 120 km warning is only visual and you notice it only by an accidental glance on the electronic screen in front, the XF is sort of obsessed with the safety belt. While the insistent warning dong is still in the rational realms of safety concerns, what’s inexplicable is the tendency to drive it in even when you are idling!
The gadgetry, especially after the redesign that catapults the Jag into the digital universe, is pretty impressive but for a few glaring anomalies. The “door open” warning is kind of dated – you would expect the Jag to tell you which one, without your having to check all fours and the boot lid. The trip meter (on the console screen as well as in front of the steering) could have been made complete with projected statistics like the time to destination. Information on upcoming service also was conspicuously absent.
Cabin and controls
In the show-off quotient, Jaguar scores high on what I call the iconic value against brand value, the former being the product of a legacy of reverence and a thread of legend built over time.
The Jaguar XF pronounces its verdict on luxury – reiterating that it lives in the detail of exquisite craftsmanship. There is nothing like handcrafted double-stitch leather laid-out like the ordained icon of bespoke luxury on the dash and the window sill, complemented by wood veneer trims. The knurled Aluminium dash-top band with Burr Walnut panelling as well as the Phosphor blue halo illumination and mood lighting complete the ambience.
The cruise control knobs loaded on to the right steering flank are pretty simple to handle. The touch-screen display with drive data and cabin ergonomics does away with the need for complicated and cluttered instrument panels. The dials could have been more imaginative, given the sort of ambience that the rest of the cabin creates.
The storage design of the XF is excellent and well thought-through. The console somehow provides a place for almost everything, neatly concealed by a seamless design and a lush, leather armrest.
The disadvantage of its swooping coupe lines is the feeling of having given up rear headroom. But it’s a passing feeling once you make the backdoor entry to heaven’s interiors. And one might add to answer Middle Eastern concerns: for a cabin this spacious, the air-conditioning is surprisingly effective.
Light and Sound
Bi Xenon headlamps with integrated cornering lamps light up the way, even if it is a wayward move. Illuminated sill tread plates and window controls add to the haloed ambience. The 8-speaker sound surrounds you from the ankles upwards. Available in the supercharged version, the 14 speaker Bowes & Wilkins surround sound system delivers 440 w of dramatic listening experience.
Still a classic with an improved design
Even after four years of familiarity with the new design, I have heard many Jaguar loyalists complain, “They shouldn’t have changed the shape of the S type!” However, a fan of the old Jag design myself, I feel the new design is an ingenious work of art, retaining the claw marks on the bonnet, the bestial muscularity of the flanks and even the pillars that are reminiscent of the agile limbs of the big cat. Incidentally, the roof pillars are carved out of Boron, 9 times stronger than regular mild steel. The chrome side-power vent also adds a menacing touch, quite in character if you are driving the V8 powerhouse.
There is no escaping the classical realm to which a Jag truly belongs. The burbling rage of the British race car is a voice that echoes down the corridors of the sixties onwards. In the new Jag, it makes itself heard from the bowels of the turbine well, though hardly audible at cruising speeds. The cabin is silent like a tight-lipped British noble, with the wind noise reduced to a strenuously heard whisper. Further, the low drag co-efficient of .29 is one of the factors behind the superlative stability and precision.
3.0 Petrol Vs other variants
While my Drive was the XF 3.0 L Petrol, many tend to look beyond this one, at the much more potent 5.0 L engine variants, and the powerful yet fuel-efficient Diesel versions. At the top rung of the performance ladder is the XFR Supercharged 5.0 L V8 that flashes past 100 in 4.9 sec.
You can’t take the classic out of a Jaguar. How much ever you change its design, and wrap it with stunning curves and sporty lines, or equip it with absolutely mind-blowing technological titbits, it’ll still remain what it has always been – a true classic.
Also available in higher versions:
Smart key entry system with keyless start, various luxury trims, radar-based blind spot monitor, Adaptive dynamics system (XF Supercharged), Active Differential Control, Jaguar Voice
Upside: Precise control and accurate steering, Abundant showmanship, Feel of a classic, Mature drive with sporty interludes
Flipside: Want of initial thrust (3.0 L version), Thirsty in slow traffic, Seat belt warning active in idle
Drive courtesy: Al Tayer Motors
Picture courtesy: Al Tayer Motors & Sudeep Koshy