Jaguar XF review
The new Jaguar XF elevates itself straight to the top of the executive saloon sector
Jaguar has taken the elements that make the smaller XE compact exec saloon so great and upscaled them for this new Jaguar XF four-door, improving on its predecessor with better rear seat access and more space once you’re inside. Sharp styling, a strong range of engines and an engaging chassis mean the XF is right at the top of its class. Another hit from Jaguar.
Following the challenging retro looks of the Jaguar S-Type, the first Jaguar XF was a big hit when it was launched back in 2007, with more modern styling, a sweet range of engines and Jag’s typically easy-going ride quality. But it wasn’t perfect.
Compared to the BMW 5 Series and Audi A6, the XF was cramped in the back, but with this new XF Jaguar has gone back to the drawing board, thoroughly re-engineering its executive salon and come back with a class leader.
The aluminium chassis serves up agile handling and decent efficiency with the new range of engines under the bonnet helping with the latter. Jaguar’s latest Ingenium engine family powers the XF, while tech inside the car is a match for the sophisticated way it drives thanks to a new infotainment system.
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And the Jaguar XF will need all these developments to compete in one of the most hotly contested classes, as the car goes up against rivals like the BMW 5 Series, Audi A6 and Mercedes E-Class. Up to now the German manufacturers have mostly had this sector their own way, but the XF changes the status quo.
There are four trim levels on offer: Prestige, R-Sport, Portfolio and S. The first three are only available with Jaguar’s 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbodiesel Ingenium engine, featuring two different power outputs and one all-wheel drive version, while the sportiest S model comes with a choice of high-power 3.0-litre V6 diesel and petrol engines.
Expect an XF R super sports saloon to appear in time, which will rival the likes of BMW’s M5 and Mercedes’ E63 AMG. At the moment there’s no word on a replacement for the previous XF Sportbrake estate, though – Jaguar is assessing its options. With the F-Pace SUV launching in 2016, there might not be a need for a more spacious estate version of the saloon.
Engines, performance and drive
Thanks to the aluminium underpinnings, the XF is relatively light compared to its rivals, which helps the way it rides and handles. The suspension keeps the body tied down nicely during cornering, so there’s plenty of composure – but there’s also lots of comfort on offer, as the XF boasts that typically plush ride quality big Jag’s have always possessed.
Show the XF a twisty road and the fast steering helps the chassis devour bends. The car turns in sharply and while it can feel over alert at times, we prefer this responsive nature to sluggish, overly relaxed steering. The all-wheel drive model strikes a good balance between keeping the tidy rear-wheel drive feeling to the handling and adding lots of grip for poor conditions.
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Both S models only come with the eight-speed auto, while they’re also the only versions to get Jaguar’s Adaptive Dynamics adjustable suspension as standard. It’s an option on the 178bhp models elsewhere, and using the adjustable driving modes the car’s damping characteristics can be tweaked.
In Dynamic mode the car feels tauter and more alive, responding to direction changes quickly and cornering flatter. But in Comfort the ride quality is good, even on big wheels, and the dampers filter out most lumps and bumps, with only serious road imperfections being felt inside the car.
As many XF buyers will be business users, CO2 emissions are vitally important in this sector – which is why Jaguar has opted to go almost exclusively for diesel in the latest engine line up.
There are two power outputs available in the 2.0-litre four-cylinder diesel, with 161bhp or 178bhp on offer. Both engines come with a choice of six-speed manual or eight-speed automatic gearboxes, but we’d stick with Jag’s smooth eight-speed auto.
It makes motorway journeys effortless, while with steering wheel-mounted paddles as standard, there’s a nice element of driver involvement. We’d go for the higher-power of these 2.0-litre Ingenium units, as the extra 17bhp and 50Nm more torque (making 430Nm in total) mean progress is swifter in this sizeable saloon.
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The engine is eager and pulls strongly. The 0-62mph sprint takes 8.1 seconds in the auto, while the lower-powered model completes the same test in 8.7 seconds. However, at higher revs refinement is an issue, as the engine emits a diesel growl that the best rivals keep a lid on. Keep to a more subdued cruise and the XF is as quiet as you’d expect.
At the top of the range sits the XF S. With a massive 700Nm of torque from the twin-turbo 3.0-litre V6 diesel – and a healthy 296bhp – the Jaguar packs some serious overtaking punch. It’s not quite as fast as the petrol version, with 0-62mph taking 6.2 seconds, but its huge reach gives incredible flexibility.
The supercharged 3.0-litre V6 petrol S hits 62mph from rest in 5.3 seconds, making it a proper performance saloon. Borrowing the engine from the F-Type sports car, it snarls as you rev it hard, but it’s hushed on the motorway and gives a great balance between driver involvement and refined cruising ability.
MPG, CO2 and running costs
If you’re after a real CO2 champion, the lower-powered 2.0-litre diesel manual is the one to go for. In this spec the XF emits just 104g/km – less than some superminis – but unless you’re a business buyer really looking to same some cash, the 109g/km auto is a better bet, as it won’t cost any more in road tax.
With the auto fitted, Jag this entry-level XF will return 68.9mpg on the combined cycle, while the 178bhp 2.0D offers 65.7mpg on paper. The latter equates to 114g/km CO2, which is the same as for the manual model. Road tax is £30 per year, and £10 cheaper for the 161bhp version. The all-wheel drive version loses out for economy, emitting 129g/km of CO2 and returning 57.6mpg.
Despite its punchy performance, the diesel S is actually surprisingly efficient, returning 51.4mpg and 144g/km CO2, which means it’ll cost £145 to tax per year.
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The petrol S will, unsurprisingly, be costlier to run. Claimed efficiency of 34.0mpg and 198g/km CO2 means you’ll pay the price at the pumps compared to the rest of the range. Road tax will cost £265 per year.
Insurance costs should be on a par with its rivals, but for the higher-powered XF Prestige 2.0D auto we were quoted £557 for our sample driver, which was cheaper than the equivalent BMW and Audi, at £651 and £591 respectively.
The XF’s insurance group ratings range from 25 to 42, with the S models rated higher. The diesel S will attract the highest premium at group 42, while the petrol S comes in at group 38.
The XF should resist depreciation well, with residual values leading its rivals slightly according to our experts.
The Jaguar will hold onto anywhere between 42 and 46 per cent of its value, with the XF S petrol the only anomaly, expected to retain around 38 per cent of its value after three years/60,000 miles from new. However, that’s to be expected, as the diesels will be much more popular for both business users and private buyers.
Interior, design and technology
As with the exterior styling, the XF borrows many of its design cues inside the cabin from its smaller sibling, the XE. As soon as you open the door and lower yourself into the plush leather seat, it’s clear Jaguar’s interiors have moved on to the next generation with its new tranche of cars.
The eight-inch widescreen infotainment system sits in the middle of the dash, and with sharper graphics it’s a big improvement on the previous XF’s multimedia setup. Below this are two rows of buttons, which give a logical layout to the heating controls.
At night it all lights up in a cool blue glow, which gives the cabin an appealing look. However, in some areas quality is lacking, especially compared to the solid and slick cabin in the BMW 5 Series.
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The design is more modern in the XF though, and the highly adjustable seats mean you can easily find a comfortable driving position. Compared to its predecessor, access to the back is much better thanks to the large rear doors, while space once you’re back there is good, too.
Sat-nav, stereo and infotainment
Equipment levels are strong, with even the entry-level Prestige model receiving Bluetooth, sat-nav, USB, DAB radio, heated electric leather seats, cruise control and dual-zone climate control as standard.
Most of these systems are controlled by Jaguar’s touchscreen multimedia setup, which is easy to navigate. There are big buttons at either side to take you to certain key areas – like audio, nav and climate – but although the layout is intuitive, the touchscreen sometimes takes a while to respond.
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The standard sound system is good, and there’s the option to upgrade it to a more powerful Meridian stereo. It’s easy to pair your phone using the Bluetooth, while Jaguar’s InControl apps provide another neat feature.
These let users monitor functions like their car’s remaining fuel level and security status on their smartphone, for extra peace of mind.
Practicality, comfort and boot space
The XF’s impressive usability stems from its improved rear access and legroom, as despite the low roofline it’s easy to climb into the back. There’s acres of space once you’re in there, so even taller adults should be comfortable on longer journeys. Comfortable seats mean it’s easy to while away the miles, helping you feel fresh when you reach your destination.
The XF is 1.88 metres wide, which makes it wider than both the BMW 5 Series and Audi A6. It also means there’s plenty of width in the back, so space across the rear bench should accommodate three adults for shorter trips.
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It’s also slightly longer than its German counterparts, and slightly higher too. However, the narrow window opening and flowing roofline helps to elongate the car’s elegant shape, making it look lower and longer than it is. A sensible ride height makes it easy to get in and out of.
Leg room, head room & passenger space
Despite the tapering roofline towards the rear of the car, there’s ample headroom in the back, and with a large wheelbase, passenger space inside is maximised.
At 540 litres, the XF boasts a bigger boot than the BMW 5 Series (520 litres) and the Audi A6 (530 litres). It’s a good shape, too, so should take almost everything a company car driver or family can throw at it.
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But if you need even more space, Jaguar offers a split-folding 40:20:40 rear seat as an option, which increases luggage room to 963 litres. Plus this configuration, with a foldable middle seat, helps accommodate long loads.
Reliability and Safety
In the 2015 instalment of our annual Driver Power customer satisfaction survey, Jaguar finished second only to Lexus. That’s a great result for the British brand, backed up by the performance of its dealer network, which scored a third place.
Owners of the previous XF praised the car’s ride quality, and handling and performance, so with the new car improving in both areas, the XF should find favour with buyers.
Plus there’s lots of safety kit as standard. Even the entry-level Prestige model comes fitted with lane departure warning and autonomous braking, unlike the Audi A6 or BMW 5 Series. In the latest round of Euro NCAP crash testing, this and the solid body shell helped the XF earn a full five-star safety rating.
The XF comes with a three-year/unlimited mileage warranty, which is standard for the sector. There’s also three years’ roadside assistance, so if the car should breakdown inside the standard warranty period, you’ll be covered by Jaguar’s breakdown policy.
Jaguar’s five-year/50,000-mile servicing package comes in at £525, which is exactly the same price as BMW’s five-year/50,000-mile offering on the 520d. There’s the option to extend this to a five-year/75,000-mile option for drivers who cover long distances for an extra £150.
If you go for the petrol S, routine maintenance will be a bit more expensive, as Jaguar charges £899 for its five-year/50,000-mile pack on the supercharged 3.0-litre V6.