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Long-term tests

Long-term test review: Jaguar XF

Final report: we thrash out the highs and lows of our relationship with the Jaguar XF

Overall Auto Express Rating

4.0 out of 5

Time is up with the Jaguar XF and 12 months have revealed a lot. A year ago the car felt like a class leader, but new rivals such as the Mercedes E-Class, BMW 5 Series and Volvo S90 have rained on its parade. Despite the flawed infotainment system, the XF’s gorgeous looks and engaging handling have delighted. We’re sad to see it go.

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Mileage: 14,530Economy: 50.1mpg

My 12-month relationship with the Auto Express Jaguar XF is up, and it’s time to lay my cards on the table.

I’ve seen enough episodes of the Jeremy Kyle Show to know that you must talk about relationship problems. So what follows is a frank chat with the executive saloon.

• Jaguar XE long-term test

Your infotainment system delights and frustrates in equal measure. I specified you with the upgraded InControl Touch Pro system and it’s a must-have, even if it does cost £2,095. Not only is there a wider 10.2-inch display, there’s also an 825-watt Meridian surround system and a TFT screen for the instrument dials.

But, my goodness, you’re difficult to use – a touchscreen is more frustrating than a rotary dial, like that on the BMW 5 Series. Life with you would also be a little more cheery if you had Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Instead, I’m forced to use the Jaguar InControl App on my mobile. 

Once downloaded from the app store, it offers phone, calendar and contacts apps, plus a range of others – such as radio and navigation to memo and audiobook apps. However, I have to admit to you, I haven’t downloaded a single one of them. With other cars I just plug in my iPhone and my apps are there and waiting – with you I have to download other, similar apps and inevitably I don’t bother.

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There’s more – the voice recognition system simply does not recognise what I’m saying. I’ve even ditched my southern accent for something a little more Midlands (where the XF is built) and still no luck. Even simple instructions like ‘Navigation’ are met with either ‘Please wait…’ or ‘I’m sorry?’. 

It’s frustrating because the system is neatly designed. There is one app that has made me smile – and that’s Shell. Once downloaded and synced to Apple Pay or PayPal, it allows you to pay for fuel through the touchscreen without having to waste time and talk to a bored teenage cashier. It’s a real timesaver and is the only genuinely useful app you can download. 

And now we come on to the good bits of our relationship. You’ve been a delight to drive – I’ve looked forward to spending time with you as you thrill in bends. 

Your chassis is still class-leading and your steering is still the sharpest around. You haven’t cost the earth to live with, either – a year on, your engine has a healthy 14,500 miles on the clock and it eventually returned an impressive 50mpg regularly. You’ve been sumptuous to sit in, elegant to turn up to posh dos in and a relaxing partner to spend time with. 

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So while you haven’t aged gracefully and there are better, more pleasing competitors out there, I’ve loved our time together. 

Jaguar XF: third report

Our man finds out if the XF lives up to its alluring marketing slogans

Mileage: 7,540Economy: 47.1mpg

Grace, space, pace. It’s one the most famous car advertising slogans ever. Three words that perfectly sum up exactly what a Jaguar has to be, and while Jaguar probably wouldn’t ever admit to it, every new car it builds has to match up. With this in mind, I wanted to find out if our Jaguar XF can live up to the slogan in 2017.

It certainly has the grace. As I bored you with in my last report I deliberately specced the XF in a traditional way. Instead of going for modern R-Sport trim or a racy V6-powered XF S, I chose a range-topping Portfolio, with its flashes of chrome trim and mesh grille, and a paint scheme Inspector Morse would be proud of. While it may a look a little old fashioned, the XF does have a grace and a dignity that a BMW or a Mercedes could only dream of.

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There’s space, too. The new XF is shorter than its predecessor, but there’s more room inside, even if its German rivals are roomier still. Our Portfolio’s Windsor leather front seats are comfortable, but it’s in the back where the difference can really be felt.

Over the past few months I’ve jumped at the chance of chauffeuring so I could quiz my passengers. The reaction has been positive, with some thinking it was roomy enough and mistaking it for the larger XJ.

Thinking the XF is like an XJ in the back isn’t as ridiculous as it sounds, because I opted for the £1,100 Rear Comfort Pack. It adds four-zone climate control, heated front and rear seats and a feature that most of my passengers like: the manual sunblinds and electric rear blind. In combination with the darkened rear windows, my passengers say the ability to shut out the world makes them feel like celebs. Apparently.

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Moreover, there’s lots of luggage space: at 540 litres the boot is the same as that in the E-Class, and a smidge larger than the 5 Series’. It’s a good shape, while small handles fold down the rear seats for practicality. I’m less keen on the ugly AdBlue nozzle on show, and there’s too much unpainted aluminium visible – not what you expect from a £52,000 car.

So the Jag has passed the grace and space tests with flying colours – but how about pace? When the marketing slogan was coined in the 1960s, it would have been ridiculous to think a Jaguar could use a diesel engine. While our XF certainly isn’t the quickest in the range, it gives a good blend of performance and economy.

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The 178bhp 2.0-litre four-cylinder diesel is a strong performer; it’s a little less refined than BMW’s and Mercedes’ 2.0-litre units, but the XF’s soundproofing makes the diesel rattle just bearable. The eight-speed auto also shifts quickly even in Normal mode, meaning I rarely have to switch to Sport to use the steering wheel-mounted paddles.

Perhaps we can extend ‘pace’ to handling, because despite the new BMW 5 Series leading the exec saloon class, the XF is still entertaining. The steering is delightfully reactive. Its ride doesn’t have the forgiving edge of its competitors’, but the chassis is nicely set up for fast cornering, and one press of the JaguarDrive Control button and the dampers slacken off and I can waft along serenely, helped by our car’s relatively conservative 18-inch alloys and taller tyres.

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The 5 Series and E-Class may have stolen the limelight, but the XF is still my favourite choice for a gentleman’s express.

Jaguar XF: second report

Our man thinks there’s a hint of Inspector Morse to the Jaguar XF that has joined our fleet

Mileage: 4,295Economy: 47.1mpg 

Everyone knows Jaguar has had its fair share of image problems over the years. And for the past decade or so it has been loudly reinventing itself – and I’ve just gone and undone all Jag’s hard work.

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Why? Well I’ve realised that our Jaguar XF is the modern-day Inspector Morse Jag – an image the brand has tried to move away from. While John Thaw’s depiction of the beer and opera-loving Detective Chief Inspector Morse was spectacular, his car of choice was bad news for Jaguar.

The sight of Morse and sidekick Sergeant Lewis rolling through Oxford, past colleges and under the ‘Bridge of Sighs’ (pictured above), solving crimes in a 1960 Mk2 2.4, enforced the image of Jaguar being a stuffy car company for old fuddy-duddies.

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I was given free rein of the Jaguar configurator when choosing our XF, and I’m rather ashamed to say that a diet of watching Morse on TV manifested itself in the spec of XF you see before you. And before you write in to complain, it was totally accidental. Instead of Morse’s car’s Regency Red paintwork, it would appear I clicked Italian Racing Red. But he would at least approve of the imposing chrome mesh grille, as well as the flashes of chrome in the lower bumper and across the bootlid. It’s all terribly traditional and proper.

When the first XF appeared in 2007, it immediately shunned Jag’s dark days of building old-fashioned pastiches and showed it could design and execute a modern car. And while my XF looks old-school from the outside, it’s anything but on the inside.

As a result, the good news is the XF doesn’t feel like an old relic. I’m very much enjoying the upgraded InControl Touch Pro infotainment system. Its wide 10.2-inch screen looks great and it has a slicker operation than the standard, eight-inch system. And while the TFT dials do look a little basic compared to those in a Mercedes E-Class – especially when showing the navigation map – the tech is straight out of the XJ limo, so it feels quite special.

We’ve plumped for the Wolverhampton-built 2.0-litre Ingenium diesel, and it’s smooth and much quieter on the cruise than in the XE previously on our fleet, thanks to better sound insulation. But, with 178bhp, it does feel a little lethargic compared with Mercedes’ new 191bhp 2.0-litre in the E-Class, while it’s a little strained at high revs. Still, I’m getting 47mpg, which is around 2mpg more than I ever managed in the XE we used to run.

The aluminium chassis is cutting-edge and this translates to a simply fantastic driving experience. While both the XE and XF use Jag’s new iQ[Al] modular platform, it’s amazing how differently the two perform on the road. The XF is the larger car and it feels it – it’s not quite as agile as the smaller XE. And nor should it be, as the XF is more refined executive cruiser than sports saloon. This is reinforced by choosing the £1,020 adaptive dynamics pack – with the dampers in Comfort mode, our XF can almost give a Mercedes S-Class a run for its money.

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• Best executive cars

That doesn’t mean it’s not fun to drive. Until we try the new BMW 5 Series head-to-head with the XF, the Jag is still the most capable car in its class. Its blend of sharp handling and a soothing ride is straight out of the Jaguar textbook – something Morse would definitely like. Sorry...

Jaguar XF: first report

Having waved goodbye to the XE, we welcome its big brother to our fleet

Mileage: 2,100Economy: 46.3mpg

You can’t call my job ‘normal’. Driving the very latest cars, presenting videos and flying from country to country means a varied schedule from one week to the next; it’s fair to say it doesn’t involve the usual office hours or meetings, for instance. 

However, I’m now getting a taste of what many business buyers might be used to on the road, as I’ve traded the Jaguar XE junior exec saloon we had on fleet for the brand’s larger, full-on executive XF model.

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But it’s not because I’ve become a corporate high-flyer overnight. I don’t spend my evenings poring over company car lists, nor do I possess a deep-rooted wish to climb from a middle-management motor to an executive express. Instead, there are some important reasons why I found myself collecting our XF from Lookers Jaguar Land Rover West London this week.

Firstly, it’s do with needs. I clocked up more mileage in my XE than almost anyone else in the office, thanks to a regular 140-mile round trip to our central London base and many long-distance runs to filming locations. A comfortable car that’s preferably diesel powered is ideal for me, then. 

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Secondly, having already lived with an XE, I would like to think I can accurately analyse whether these two new volume-selling saloons have what it takes to make Jaguar’s future a successful one. Well... that’s what I told my boss anyway. Truth is I’m a massive Jag fan and wanted to see what a customer trading up from XE to XF might find.

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You can imagine my excitement when I arrived at the impressive new Lookers showroom. The dealership has been a big distraction as I’ve driven past it on the A40 over the past 18 months during its construction. It towers over the neighbouring showrooms and even gives the cathedral-like West London Audi a run for its money in the style stakes. 

It’s the first retailer to show off JLR’s new ‘global Arch’ design – and the word ‘retailer’ is a key one, as this is like no old-fashioned dealership. I was met on the forecourt and directed inside where everyone knew my name, and then I was shown upstairs to a smart coffee bar. On one side, there were around 25 Jaguars, and on the other, 20-odd Land Rovers, arranged like clothes rails in a Knightsbridge department store. The site cost £12m, has ‘Drive In’ service bays (where you drive your car in and a like-for-like courtesy vehicle is waiting for you) and a roof with space for over 100 cars. It’s like no other dealership I’ve ever been to. 

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It’s here where handover coordinator Anthony Cross reveals the new Auto Express Jag. In contrast to the racy R-Sport XE, the XF is more ‘traditional’. It’s in range-topping Portfolio spec, complete with lashings of chrome and leather seats.

Jaguar XF vs Audi A6 vs BMW 5 Series

We’ve specified plenty of options, too – full-LED headlights, a panoramic sunroof, tinted windows, adaptive dampers, soft-close doors and much more. We’ve also gone for the £2,095 InControl infotainment system with a 10.2-inch widescreen and upgraded 825W Meridian surround sound system. Oh, and for a touch of extra glam, Italian Racing Red paintwork, costing £690.

We’ve stuck with the tried-and-tested – and also best-selling – combination of Jag’s 178bhp 2.0-litre four-cylinder diesel with the eight-speed automatic gearbox for the perfect comparison with the XE. 

As I was talked round the car and the keys were handed over, I had a sense that running this Jaguar is not going to be a ‘normal’ experience. It’s going to be a special one.

*Insurance quote from AA (0800 107 0680) for a 42-year-old in Banbury, Oxon, with three points.

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