Jaguar XF: Review

What with the hype surrounding the XE and the forthcoming F-Pace SUV, it would be easy for the other important Jaguar launch this year to go unnoticed. But it would be a crime to ignore the all-new XF. It was the big saloon, of course, that helped Jaguar move on from its olde-world image and styling. The XF proved, after the unsuccessful X-Type, that Britain was capable of making a great-driving, charismatic alternative to the Germans.

Okay, it might not have been perfect; but the XF, especially the sublime XFR-S, made the world a happier, smokier, place to be.

Old XF reinvented Jaguar; no pressure then
Old XF reinvented Jaguar; no pressure then
Big lightweight
The big news with the all-new version is how little you get for your money - Jaguar has shrunk the XF so that it's 7mm shorter and 5mm lower than before. And thanks to Jaguar's investment in an aluminium-rich platform, the new saloon is up to 190kg lighter than the car it replaces.

Now anyone with a PH mindset will have read that last paragraph and be slavering to skip to the bit about how much faster and better handling it must be - especially the supercharged V8 version that powers the XFR-S.

So go ahead, skip the part about there being more cabin space and better headroom than before. Ignore the fact that the XF looks like a better proportioned XE. And pass over the more appealing cabin that still just lacks the quality of an Audi. Let's talk performance, shall we?

Except there's some bad news: there's no V8 XF yet, and there won't be one until Jaguar's special ops pulls its finger out. With rumours that the next-generation BMW M5 and Mercedes E63 AMG will pack an outrageous 600hp, the new, lighter XF SVR will most likely have to squeeze a lot more from the 5.0-litre V8 that made 550hp in the XFR-S and continues in the Range Rover Sport SVR.

Like an XE but just, well, better looking
Like an XE but just, well, better looking
Numbers game
For now, there's just the option of the 380hp 3.0-litre supercharged V6 for those in desperate need of a fast XF. Accompanying it is a less interesting 300hp 3.0-litre V6 diesel, along with the regular 'Ingenium' 163- and 180hp four-cylinder diesels. Predictably, and depressingly, 95 per cent of all XF buyers will opt for the diesels. All come with rear-wheel drive but in other colder markets all-wheel drive is an option.

With specific instructions to 'focus on the fast ones', the noisy 2.0-litre diesel is largely ignored, which has an unpleasant habit of thumping its way through its eight-speed auto. At the same northern Spanish Navarra circuit as the XE launch, there's time to learn how much time, love and knowledge has been lavished on the XF's chassis. With a pleasing 50:50 weight distribution the lightweight underpinnings are the star of the show, but if there was a Best Supporting Role it would go to the XF's new integral link rear suspension.

Bigger, heavier and costlier than the normal multi-link, the new suspension is worth the compromise. It's key to unlocking the handling prowess of the big Jag because it does something cheaper suspension layouts cannot: separate the lateral from vertical loads.This means softer bushes can be used, which is good news for ride comfort. More importantly, the integral link allows a stiffer front double wishbone suspension set up that improves steering feel. On other cars a stiffer front end with rear double wishbone rear suspension makes it feel inert and, worse, understeery

Softer bushes at the rear also allow a degree of passive rear steer, again reducing understeer. The XF also has ZF's latest electric power steering rack and software.

Clever rear suspension pays dividends on road
Clever rear suspension pays dividends on road
Softly does it?
So, with barely a glance at which way the race track goes, I leap into a supercharged 3.0-litre and hit the Navarra circuit. A lack of knowledge makes my driving very poor, much to the amusement of my human ballast and circuit instructor George, who laughs as I demonstrate that any big heavy car, even with a clever rear suspension, is capable of both big under- and oversteer.

But there's little to learn about the XF on this smooth, perfectly surfaced track other than how balanced it feels, and that the transition into a slide is smooth and very catchable. To the road...

Up in the Pyrenees, the XF S is far more impressive than the small diesel. Not a great surprise really. The eight-speed automatic gels better, with less pronounced thumps as it shifts and, in the bumpier real-world conditions, the front-end holds on remarkably well. At the limit the XF is also agile and adjustable, even a little more lairy than you might imagine in the Trac ESP mode.

Adaptive dampers seem a useful option
Adaptive dampers seem a useful option
Our car was fitted with the adaptive suspension that uses the Sport rather than the Comfort springs of the two passive set ups, but it has dampers that can be set far more compliant than the latter, resulting in a good compromise. Apparently it's better still on the small 19-inch wheels but all the 3.0-litre petrol cars we drove rode on 20s.

As we climb steeper the trees die off and the scenery hardens, the road coils into the occasional hairpin. Again, left in Trac DSC mode there's a pleasing amount of slip and plenty of traction thanks to some trick torque vectoring, meaning you won't miss a limited-slip differential the spec may suggest it needs. But with one, the 332lb ft could surely be deployed yet more efficiently and entertainingly.

What's missing is an evocative soundtrack. The XF sounds great from the outside, but inside it's a little plain, with only a dull supercharged whine to keep you company. We're not asking for the F-Type histrionics, but it needs more than this.

Diesel might be preferable to petrol. Really
Diesel might be preferable to petrol. Really
Diesel delight (!)
The next day, the climb up the Pyrenees is repeated in the 3.0-litre diesel and, well, it's preferable to the petrol. Yes, really. Aside from some very odd resonances on our car, generally it sounds better - which is strange. Riding on a slightly smaller 19-inch wheel and tyre combo it was difficult to compare ultimate turn-in grip with what must be a lighter supercharged petrol 3.0-litre, but it didn't matter.

Even though you lose out in confidence on turn-in, the diesel's greater torque destroys the petrol on the straights and, pleasingly, works those rear tyres harder too. Finally, the diesel also has a silky-smooth eight-speed auto. The petrol V6, and earlier 2.0-litre diesel, use a more compact version of the ZF gearbox that obviously still needs some software work to even things out.

In any case, after two days' driving the new XF over some extremely challenging roads, it's clear Jaguar has proven it remembers how to make a big car endlessly entertaining and engaging. But can the XF V6 S be recommended over Audi's mighty 450hp 4.0-litre twin-turbo V8 Audi S6? Impossible. The German would walk it in performance terms - it's almost a whole second quicker to 62mph.

Instead, if you want a faster, more enjoyable XF until the V8 SVR arrives, go along with 95 per cent of all other buyers and buy the diesel. It's the better, more enjoyable car.

2,995cc V6 supercharged
Transmission: 8-speed auto, rear-wheel drive
Power (hp): 380@6,500rpm
Torque (lb ft): 332@4,500rpm
0-62mph: 5.3sec
Top speed: 155mph (limited)
Kerbweight: 1,710kg (EU, with driver)
MPG: 34.0 (NEDC combined)
CO2: 198g/km
Price: £49,945

P.H. O'meter

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Comments (128) Join the discussion on the forum

  • Jimbo. 15 Aug 2015

    fk me. What a God-awful write up.

  • dme123 15 Aug 2015

    That V6 diesel has always been a surprisingly sonorous and enjoyable thing, right from it's (rather underpowered) 2.7 form in the S-Type. Bit of a problem for the world market if the V6 petrol is disappointing though, remember that diesel is totally irrelevant outside of the European market. Did you get a chance to try the 240bhp petrol 4 pot? Is this a new ingenium powerplant of the same engine they've been using in the world market XJ and in the Evoque? I'm sure that will be the volume seller worldwide.

    ETA Why didn't they release images like this in the early material rather than the hopelessly drab coal bunker interior shots??

    Edited by dme123 on Saturday 15th August 16:53

  • Wills2 15 Aug 2015

    Are these pre production cars? As it sounds like they aren't fully developed from reading the piece.

    Looks nice though inside and out.

  • DeltonaS 15 Aug 2015

    "The XF proved, after the unsuccessful X-Type, that Britain was capable of making a great-driving, charismatic alternative to the Germans."


    I don't think your doing little Britian a lot of favours with his kind of write-up. Jaguar doesn't really need this, they've proved themselves more than once in their history; I've never seen Audi make an E-Type for instance. So Judge them on their individual products, instead of overemphasizing. By the way VAG does nothing but badge engineering...

    And German cars are not perfect. F.i. the BMW 5 series is a great car (probably best in class), but it's not very roomy (in it's class and not even a class below), nor sporty (let alone BMW sporty), it's pretty heavy and some standard features are not "premium"; the standard (cloth) seats f.i., but also the standard audio, the part plastic leather and the small business sat-nav screen. Some things are just ridiculous on what the Germans so fondly call: a "premium product".

    "But can the XF V6 S be recommended over Audi's mighty 450hp 4.0-litre twin-turbo V8 Audi S6? Impossible. The German would walk it in performance terms - it's almost a whole second quicker to 62mph."

    Why compare apples and oranges. Audi also has a 3.0 TFSI....

    "Instead, if you want a faster, more enjoyable XF until the V8 SVR arrives, go along with 95 per cent of all other buyers and buy the diesel. It's the better, more enjoyable car."

    Strange how different car journo's have different opinions about cars; a Ghibli Diesel is not tollarable, but a Jaguar Diesel (or a Audi A6 3.0 tdi) suddenly is the pick of the bunch........

  • RoverP6B 15 Aug 2015

    Lousy journalism from PH... for one thing, completely ignoring the model which will (alas) make up 90% of sales, and also comparing the V6 S with an Audi S6, which is nearly 7 grand more expensive (basic list price, haven't compared spec-for-spec).

    Any word on estate versions of this or the XE yet?

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