THE 2016 JAGUAR XF S IS THE RANGE-TOPPING MODEL. IT'S BIG, LUXURIOUS, AND DELIVERS ON THAT TRADITIONAL JAGUAR PREMISE OF SUMPTUOUS COMFORT.
But under the bonnet beats an athletic supercharged heart powering a sedan with a genuine sporting intent. So, thoroughly British with a stiff upper lip and all that? Hardly.
The distinctive style of the XF S stands out among large premium sedans, it commands attention in the carpark, but exceptional dynamics and a modern luxury feel is also deeply embedded in its character..
Vehicle Style: Large luxury sedan
Price: $127,200 (plus on-roads)
Engine/trans: 280kW/450Nm 3.0 6cyl supercharged petrol | 8sp automatic
Fuel Economy claimed: 8.3 l/100km | Tested: 9.8 l/100km
Underneath the XF’s svelte bodywork is Jaguar’s new aluminium-intensive architecture - light, but strong, it provides a thoroughly modern platform eons advanced of Jaguars of old.
On the inside, there are a few familiar elements from the smaller XE range, but that car, like this one, is about as fresh as you’ll find, sharing features like the instrument cluster and climate control panels across both models.
Pricewise, the XF S asks for $127k before on roads and options, and the vehicle tested here packed quite a few, like the $1420 blind spot and rear cross-traffic alert, the $1500 heated and cooled front seats, $1300 soft-close doors, and $2650 20-inch alloy wheel upgrades.
Some of the things on that list should arguably be standard fare on a car of the Jaguar’s standing and price - but, options aside, there’s a very decent package at the XF’s core, and that’s where Jaguar hopes to impress.
- Standard equipment: Leather and suedecloth seat trim, dual-zone climate control, power-adjustable front seats, keyless entry and start, auto lights and wipers, LED headlamps, LED interior lighting, heads-up display
- Infotainment: 8.0-inch touchscreen interface, Bluetooth phone and audio, USB and Aux input, satellite navigation, 380W Meridian audio
- Cargo volume: 505 litre with spare wheel, 540 litre with tyre inflation kit
Jaguar’s smaller XE put in place the template for how all of Jaguar’s new range of passenger cars would look and operate. In the XF, those themes have matured, giving it a more luxurious look and feel.
The seats, typically Jaguar, are deep and inviting, and there is a robust solidity to the tactile surfaces around the cabin.
Like the previous XF, the engine start-button pulses with a heartbeat - press it and the rotary gear selector rises up from its flush resting position as the outboard air-vents simultaneously rotate into action, signalling that the vehicle has been awakened.
It’s a nice little piece of theatre that makes every drive an occasion.
More, the interior dimensions have grown compared to the previous XF, and while the rear passenger space was hardly compact, extra knee room, and a noticeable boost in rear head room, make the XF’s spacious second row a genuinely enjoyable place to ride.
Driver and front passenger are treated to heated and cooled front seats, with electric adjustment and memory setting, as well as an electric steering column adjustment for the driver.
Button clutter has been removed from the centre stack, with the 8.0-inch touchscreen responsible for navigation, audio, and phone functions. It's a tidy solution but the slow-loading system, with appreciable delays after inputs, can make data entry a frustrating experience.
Jaguar still seems resistant to do anything about some of the stubborn ergonomics of its vehicles, which place the window switches out of reach, but the seat memory buttons (which would arguably get used less) are right where your fingers fall.
It’s a beautiful interior, both to look at and for the feel of the fine-grained leather, and there was little evidence of the sometimes patchy build-quality that we have noticed in earlier generations (although the driver’s soft-close door function only worked on occasion in the car we had for test).
Unfortunately the head-up display unit is mounted atop the dash like an afterthought, ruining the look of carefully considered interior, and the flickering projection varied from subtle to downright irritating.
Luggage capacity measures 505 litres when equipped with a space saver spare (as tested) and grows to 540 litres with a tyre repair kit. Even at 505 litres though there’s really plenty of space, and although some may find the boot a little shallow, it passes the golf club test with flying colours.
ON THE ROAD
- Engine: 280kW/450Nm 3.0 supercharged petrol V6
- Transmission: Eight-speed automatic, rear-wheel drive
- Suspension: Double A-arm front, independent multi link rear
- Brakes: Four-wheel ventilated disc brakes
- Steering: Electrically assisted, turning circle: 11.6m
Thanks to performance and handling inspired by Jaguar’s sublime F-Type range, the XF S feels quite unlike any other large luxury sedan from behind the wheel.
The supercharged V6 springs to life with a menacing growl; point it at the road, and it strains, ready to pounce and with the elastic feel of an athlete.
Throttle response is instant, and the steering crisp and alert. It feels racey in a wholly unique and appealing way; at this wheel, you will know you're not sitting in any one of the Jag's sporting German opposition.
Part of that willingness comes from the 3.0 litre supercharged V6 under the bonnet. It’s the same engine as you’ll find in the F-Type S V6, producing the same 280kW, but with a slightly reduced torque output of 450Nm, 10Nm less than the smaller, lighter F-Type.
Press the accelerator hard the throttle simply unloads to the rear wheels. While it isn’t difficult to drive the big Jag smoothly, the on-tap urgency from the long-pedal is glorious.
That readiness endows the XF S with a sparkling ‘lightness’. Indeed, the quick shifting and fast-thinking eight-speed automatic helps as well, offering smooth yet decisive gear-shifts.
The XF S is a consummate cross-country tourer. Quiet and comfortable for long transit stages, but thunderously quick when overtaking.
The ride, on adaptive dampers, is neither firm nor harsh. But for those moments you’d like to extract a little extra from the big cat, the Dynamic mode offers more focussed steering, suspension, engine and transmission responses.
Over rough roads the XF maintains resolute contact with the tarmac, shrugging off bumps and dips, yet controlled and sporting.
On more demanding roads it masks its large sedan mass, delivering a wealth of information through the direct steering and with the kind of 'thread-the-needle' handling that will have you looking for corners just so you can revel in its sublime balance.
Really, the only black mark against the big Jaguar is its occasional tyre noise on the 'average' surfacing on some country highways.
Otherwise the XF S, is an accomplished grand tourer - there are plenty of large sedans with more power (and Jag will add a few of its own in the future), but the XF S is certainly powerful enough.
It’s also involving - a car that invites you to drive, encourages you to be a part of the grand experience of motoring. That alone, surely, is the real measure of the character of the car.
ANCAP rating: 5 Stars
Safety features: Stability control, traction control, ABS, EBD, brake assist, autonomous emergency braking, lane departure warning and six airbags (dual front, front side, full-length curtain).
RIVALS TO CONSIDER
Jaguar sits somewhat on its own with the XF S - it outpowers the BMW 535i by a decent margin, but sits below the torque-heavy, and more expensive Mercedes-Benz E400 which will itself be replaced by an all new model soon.
Audi doesn’t have a closely-priced answer for the petrol-powered XF S, while Lexus and Infiniti offer hybrid solutions for those seeking a performance sedan, with the GS 450h and Q70 GT Premium respectively.
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
It isn’t often that a vehicle arrives in a well-established segment as a breath of fresh air, but the Jaguar XF S is one such car. Sharp at the wheel, but sumptuously comfortable, and with a feel all its own.
The well-considered relationship between engine, transmission, and suspension systems make the XF S feel brilliantly secure on road - it is beautiful to drive - and it’s only the at-times laggy infotainment system that lets the package down.
There are, of course, lower priced XF variants with less-powerful engines, and there will inevitably be more powerful performance monsters coming too, but the XF S is the Goldilocks model, with the balance of performance and luxury ‘just right’.
Sure, a few of the XF’s options need to make the move to the standard features list before the car becomes a stellar buy, but the XF S is a genuinely impressive premium saloon.
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