Rolling around the streets of downtown Toronto, the XF S manages to turn a lot of heads.
Put yourself in these stereotypical shoes: you’ve worked your white-collar office job for number of years, and you’ve moved up from your analyst position to one in management. To celebrate your newfound responsibilities, what does a young urban professional do? You may already own an entry-level luxury sedan – perhaps a BMW 3-Series or a Mercedes-Benz C-Class. It’s common practice nowadays to want to move up to a car the next size up, like a 5-Series or E-Class. However, in today’s increasingly individualist society, a lot of people are putting more weight into choosing something that stands out a little more from everybody else’s usual choice – a silver or black sedan from Germany.
There are some offbeat competitors from Japan and America, but it’s important not to overlook one of the big players as of late: Jaguar. Now under Indian ownership along with Land Rover, they seemed to have received a significant infusion in resources as well as less micromanagement – both were real items and issues under the Ford ownership. New cars like the Jaguar F-Type (see review here) have restarted the resurgence in interest behind the brand, and the upcoming XE is poised to be a very strong competitor to the BMW 3-Series. Not to leave out the medium-sized Executive sedan market, the XF is also all-new for 2016.
The Jaguars of the 1980s and prior, did a good job portraying the classic British style of motoring – conservative but contemporary design, and an unmistakable identity. The downside to all this was that the typical Jaguar buyer was of fairly advanced age. One of the goals of every automaker, is to bring down the average age of the typical buyer. One way to do that is to introduce smaller, more dynamic models. Jaguar’s version of this was the Jaguar S-Type, which ran from 2000 to about 2008. It was about the size of a BMW 5-Series, and was certainly more expressive in its styling.
The replacement for the S-Type, called the XF, rolled around in 2007. Featuring a much more modern design, and updated powertrains to match, people took more notice. While it was still technically based on the old platform that was under the S-Type, its new skin, designed by Ian Callum, was a real conversation starter, and was a good pre-cursor to Jaguar’s recent design-focused renaissance. In its most powerful iteration, you could get a 510hp 5.0L supercharged V8, and on the XF RS, you could get a very shouty shade of blue, complete with a rally-style rear wing. Straight up: it wasn’t your average Jaguar. I picked up a 2016 Jaguar XF S, painted in a shade of Polaris White for a test week.
2016 finally sees a complete divorce from the old Ford platform, onto an all-new aluminum-intensive platform, designed in-house. Styling-wise, the XF isn’t actually a big departure from the refreshed first-generation car, but that’s not a bad thing. The overall shape of the greenhouse largely remains, and I think it does a good job hiding the overall size of the XF. Out back, the taillights receive light pipes, similar to those on the Jaguar F-Type. Up front, the aggressive headlights are now a full LED array (at least on the S model), and white LEDs also serve as the daytime running lights. My particular tester came equipped with a set of gorgeous 20-inch “Labyrinth” ten-spoke wheels, with 255-section rubber at all four corners.
In short, it’s a very handsome car that does a good job hiding its size well. Rolling around the streets of downtown Toronto, the XF S manages to turn a lot of heads. One pedestrian gave me a thumbs up, and another came closer, to get a better look at the front “S” badge. Out of the sea of European midsize executive sedans, I think the new XF is the best-looking of the bunch. Ian Callum has another winner on his hands, here.
Inside, the XF continues the clean design theme, with the trademark pop-up gear selector that rises out of the centre console when you hit the low-mounted engine-start button. The other party trick has to be the outboard HVAC vents that are power-operated and rotate open when you turn on the heater or air conditioning. It reminds me a little of the centre HVAC vents that pop up out of the dashboard in the F-Type. Totally unnecessary, but it’s sure to impress.
What I also like about the XF interior is the liberal use of real wood trim all over the place. It surrounds the gear selector and is installed along the top of the dashboard. It’s real enough to squeak and pop a little bit when you turn on the heat. This might suggest a lack of refinement, but depending on your viewpoints, you may consider this little quirk to add character to an already handsome car. The XF S gets more aggressive 18-way power sport seat. The seat bolsters are adjustable, as is the thigh extension, so it’s easy to find a setting that works for you.
The Jaguar XF S sits at the top of the XF lineup, but as of this writing, it doesn’t get the big blown V8 under the hood. Rather, Jaguar’s AJ-series 90-degree V6 continues to serve in all trim levels of the XF. Displacing 3.0L, it features a Roots-type supercharger between the two heads that compresses air into each of the six combustion chambers. Jaguar rates the engine in the XF S at 380hp at 6500rpm, and 332lb-ft of torque from 3500-5000rpm. These two figures come together to help propel the XF S to 100km/h from a standstill in 5.3 seconds. What’s interesting is that lesser XFs are all rated at 340hp, but retain the same torque rating. It’s only the horsepower rating that changes, and this is good for a 0.1 second improvement in the run from 0-100km/h.
The supercharged V6 in the XF (and many other larger Jaguars) represents a bit of a departure compared to some of the competition. BMW uses its excellent turbocharged inline-six to good effect, but it’s down on power somewhat, at only 300hp. It’s great for delivering turbine-smooth power, but it simply doesn’t deliver in the way of excitement. Turbochargers also have a knack for reducing exhaust noise volume – something superchargers don’t have a problem with. Audi’s A6 is also powered by a supercharged 90-degree V6, but I feel they’ve gone further to isolate the cabin from the outside world, reducing the sound that you actually hear from the engine. The XF allows you to hear more of the drama coming from under the hood – if you lay into the throttle, the whine from the supercharger becomes very audible, and is a good match for the growl of the V6. It’s a little more gruff, but I find it more interesting.
All XFs put their power to the ground through an eight-speed automatic transmission, designed by ZF. Used just about everywhere nowadays, we’re big fans of this longitudinal-mount transmission. All XFs in Canada also feature a rear-biased all-wheel drive system that improves traction while maintaining most of that traditional rear-drive feel. Part of what makes the XF feel so good behind the wheel has a lot to do with the aluminum intensive architecture that lies under the skin of the XF. Weight reduction is a big deal in the auto industry these days, with things like fuel efficiency, braking, handling, and acceleration all benefiting from having less mass to push around. The new XF shrinks very slightly in overall length (only by 7mm), but overall weight is down a whopping 190kg. In terms of curb weight, this puts the XF S at about 1760kg. To put it in perspective, a comparable BMW 535i weighs about 1885kg.
To add to the feeling of overall agility, Jaguar fits the XF S with an aluminum intensive front suspension. Like the F-Type, it is of a double-wishbone design, which allows for finer control of the balance between ride quality and driving dynamics. Variable dampers are also fitted that allows the driver to further tighten up body control at the press of a button. Like most of the competition, you can configure the different systems, from the damping, engine behaviour, transmission calibration, and steering weight. For what it’s worth, I had the dampers set to the “Comfort” setting most of the time – the Sport setting produces a ride that is a little too busy for my liking.
Jaguar rates the XF at 11.9L/100km in the city, 8.3L/100km on the highway, and 10.3L/100km in a combined cycle. During my week of mixed winter driving, I ended up at an indicated average of 11.7L/100km, over about 700km. The XF S is equipped with an idle start-stop system that helps reduce fuel consumption when you’re sitting at a red light, and an Eco mode that alters throttle response, transmission programming, and climate control usage. The XF S will accept 74L of premium-grade fuel.
The 2016 Jaguar XF starts at $61,400 for the Premium trim. Jumping up to the Prestige trim ($66,400) will get you things like leather seats (not standard on the Premium trim), satellite navigation, and larger 19-inch wheels, among other items. The R-Sport ($69,900) adds a more aggressive body kit and seats, as well as the all-important LED adaptive headlights. The flagship XF S starts at $72,900, but you can still add more options. My particular XF S came equipped with the $2,000 Comfort & Convenience Package, which add ventilation to the front heated seats, heated rear seats, power rear trunk, and the all-important soft-close doors. This brings the as-tested price to $75,600.
There are actually more option packages available, such as the $3,100 Technology Pack, which replaces the traditional analog gauge cluster with an all-digital 12.3-inch LCD display that takes over all instrumentation – a very slick interface. You also get a larger 10.2-inch infotainment interface, and an upgraded 17-speaker Meridian surround sound system to go with it. There’s also a $2,900 Premium interior Pack, which includes sun shades for the rear and side windows, better interior trimmings (suede on the headliner, additional interior accent lighting, and illuminated door sill finishers), and four-zone climate control. Checking every single option box will push the price to well over $80,000. If it were up to me, I would skip most of the option packages, except for the Technology Pack. I would also opt for the $400 Black Pack, which changes out some of the chrome items for gloss black, which adds a ton of contrast when paired with the Polaris White paint.
There are several big players from around the world that compete with the Jaguar XF. Namely, the BMW 535i, Audi A6, Mercedes-Benz E400, Lexus GS350, and even the Cadillac CTS 3.6. All of them deliver on their own version of what the midsize executive sedan should be. The Lexus GS350 is probably the best value, but its polarizing styling isn’t for everybody, and its V6 is a little down on power compared to everybody else. The BMW, Audi, and Mercedes all represent somewhat different shapes of the same cookie-cutter mold. All are good at just about everything, but none of them really stand out nowadays. The Cadillac CTS delivers with a striking design, but I’m not the biggest fan of the naturally aspirated 3.6L V6 under the hood, and CUE still remains a contentious point for some.
The Jaguar XF S, to me, is for somebody who values the alternative design a little more – somebody who wants to break away from the usual “safe” (read: German) choices, and is looking for a little more character in their premium vehicle. From the sexy exterior style, to the whine of the supercharger, the 2016 Jaguar XF has got to be one of the most interesting entries in the segment.It is for that reason that it should definitely be on more shopping lists. It’s the kind of car you look back at as you walk away.
2016 Jaguar XF S Gallery