Jaguar XF review
by David Morgan (15 February 2008)
Jaguar has produced an S-Type replacement that's full of contradiction. The front of the new XF is unmistakably Japanese with a horrible chrome-plated plastic moulding for a grille that's over-large and flanked by fussy headlight assemblies. There is too much nose plastic and fiddily decorative chromed bits. But this is a car that will move the world. It will sell in droves – despite the controversy Jaguar Chief Designer Ian Callum has drawn into its fascinating lines.
The nose is not so much weak as confusing. It looks more Lexus than Brown's Lane - but there was method in Callum's labours. At the launch in Monaco he answered my doubts with a walk round the car highlighting why the XF had to be different from Jaguars of the past; why it had to move on in styling terms and why it looks as it does.
Photography does the XF no favours. But in the metal the car is elegant, with beautiful rear quarters that ape the original E-Type coupé, a side profile that evokes the 1960s Jaguar Mk2's rear window line and a crease line that mirrors the short nose of the original saloon and camouflages the XF's long collision-absorbent front overhang.
I can't warm to the XF front. It's bland, and that chrome-coated wire-lookalike plastic grille would have been far better crafted from real metal. But taking a closer look I could see the nose features evocative Jaguar design clues and, viewed from the right angle in the right light, is a design masterpiece. But should you have to work so hard to see the car's beauty?
Callum told me: "The XF had to be modern, a coupe shape to reflect Jaguar's sporting past. We couldn't simply pick up from what we'd done before. Jaguar design has always evolved - look at its past and see how many different forms the cars have taken."
It's true. The Mk9, the SS Jaguars, the XK120 to XK150 series, the E-Type, the original Mk2, the unlovely XJS, the elegant XJ6 and its modern XJ counterpart - all different.
What's more, when engineers examined the angles of the front and rear screens, the rakes precisely matched those of the XK8 coupé. And there was another bonus - Callum's new car had the lowest drag coefficient seen on a Jaguar. This roomy, five-seat high-performance saloon cuts its way through the air with a drag number less than 0.29.
The dash sits lower than on existing Jaguars and is the most dramatically sculpted and dynamic on the market. There's more leather and wood than on any previous Jaguar mixed in with a generous helping of aluminium. My only doubt is if this eye-opening design will stand the test of time in a society where style and fashion are faddish.
The hand-stitched leather content is league leading, top quality and even covers the top of the dash. Seats are superb - hugging, beautifully shaped, heated and ventilated. Space for passengers, front and rear, is excellent with plenty of head and legroom. The boot is vast and easily the biggest seen on a Jaguar saloon.
At night the instruments are bathed in calming blue tones. But the real delight is on the central console with a keyless starter button pulsating subtly with soft red light as you prepare to fire up. Then there's the electronic gear selector "turret" that rises gracefully to await the driver's demands. All theatre, but brilliantly delightful.
The outstanding ZF six-speed autobox transforms the XF. By remodelling the change characteristics engineers have produced a slick-changing unit. The standard paddle-shift change on the back of the steering wheel helps make the XF driving experience one of the most memorable on the road today.
I drove the 294bhp 4.2 V8 petrol and the 412bhp supercharged model. There's also a 235bhp three-litre V6 petrol. But the XF that will sell is the 2.7 TD turbo diesel - a 204bhp delight.
Capable of 143mph and rest to 60mph in 7.7 seconds, it will also average 37mpg and handles brilliantly. Despite its steel body the 1.7-tonne XF is incredibly agile. I was able to set up the XF Premium Luxury 2.7 TD precisely for mountain bends. Feedback was rewarding with responsive. Hardly surprising as much of the rear-drive XF's suspension is carried over from the XK coupé. But what was most remarkable was the comfort and silence inside the car and the lack of wind noise and the incredible smoothness of the ride despite the test car's ridiculous 19" alloys and low-profile tyres.
The superbly-equipped paddle-shift automatic XF range is priced from £33,900 for a Luxury 2.7 TD or a 3.0 petrol V6. The jump to Premium Luxury with the same engines costs £37,500. The 4.2 V8 is available only in Premium Luxury trim at £45,500 while the SV8 tops the sales list at £54,900.