2009 JAGUAR XF Review

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2009 JAGUAR XF First Steer & Review

“Jaguar says they are building ‘Beautiful fast cars’. They’re right. The new XF is a superb car in every way and is bound to give its German rivals a migraine or two”

- By Anthony Crawford & David Twomey, photos by Paul Maric.
- Part One & Part Two.

I’m not sure why it has taken so long for this British stalwart to start building “beautiful, fast cars” again.

The incredibly 'cool' E-Type series, produced from 1961 through to 1974, still sits on pole position, as one of the best looking cars of all time.

And before that, it was Jaguar’s Mark 11 saloon, which preceded the beautiful XJ6 Series 1. Both were stunning automobiles, with a huge following throughout the world.

In fact, it was these three Jaguars’ of the past, which most inspired chief designer Ian Callum and his team, to attempt to return the company to one, which creates “beautiful, fast cars”.

I don’t think anyone expected the XF to deliver the kind of driving experience you get from behind the wheel of this extraordinarily rewarding car.

The XF is definitely better looking in the metal, than any digital SLR rendition we shot of the car, at the Australian launch this week.

You can clearly see both XK and Aston Martin DNA have contributed to the overall stying of the XF, and as far as inspiration donors go, you could do a whole lot worse.

It’s a fast looking shape which looks more like a coupe from the rear/side point of view, with beautiful curves on the side window frames and the rather extreme rake of the rear window. Stunning.

From the A-pillar forward though, is where it gets a little more aggressive. The large side vents are identical to those on the XK coupe and real mesh front grille is more a revolution from that overly retro look which adorned the S-Type.

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British Bull dog comes to mind with such a pronounced power bulge on the bonnet but for me, it works well enough and is close to the original C-XF concept, as you can see.

But step inside the XF’s cabin, and this is where you will be seriously impressed.

Jaguar has set the new class benchmark for interior fit out with this car and that’s a big call, if you take into account, superstars like Audi.

Quality – is an understatement, with metres of oak or walnut, married with patterned aluminium to produce a look which you might well find in one of Italy’s super expensive RIVA speed boats.

I love the shape of the key fob, similar design lines to the car itself, but of course, you don’t need to insert a key or anything as old school as that, to fire up the XF.

The flush mounted start/stop button pulsates a blood red colour, begging to be pushed, so as to ignite one of the four powertrains on offer in Australia.

That initial push triggers what someone called a “thrilling piece of mechanical ballet” which I have not seen from any other carmaker.

Rising up out of the console is the JaguarDrive Selector, a cylindrical alloy shifter if you like, which you simply rotate to select your desired transmission mode. Some might protest gimmick, but let me assure you, it is both practical and fast, not to mention the sheer visual theatre of the performance.

And then there are the air-conditioning vents, which when in their inert position, are disguised with more of that patterned aluminium. As the transmission controller rises, these vents simultaneously rotate around to their open position. It’s quite impressive and utterly silent.

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If you like a decent sound and who doesn’t, while in those depressing peak hour crawls, then I implore you to tick the option box for the Bowers & Wilkins 440W surround sound system.

We cranked up the volume on some fairly serious “house” number, and not a hint of distortion or base blow out but with outstanding clarity. It’s just a pity that the 4.2 V8 at 5000rpm sounded better!

If you can’t get comfortable in what I will say now, are some of the best sports/luxury seats in the business, then I have the name of a very good chiropractor.

And while pictures of the leather covered steering wheel were not that impressive, it’s a different story behind the wheel. Although the finish is relatively smooth, grip and feel is superb.

The normally aspirated Jaguar V8 moves this 1749kg sports saloon along with consummate ease at a rapid, yes, rapid pace. On the road, it seems quicker than the published figure of 6.5 seconds from 0-100km/h, which is hardly dawdling. But where the XF really shines, is with its in-gear acceleration and general overtaking skills. It’s very quick in this department.

Throw the XF into a corner or two, and the car’s composure and grip is up there with anything the Germans have to offer in this class.

Mt Buller in Victoria, complete with three kilometres of slippery snow lined tarmac, was part of the drive route for the XF launch program and my drive partner wasn’t mucking around, as we made our way to the ski resort. In fact, I’m not sure he realised it was snowing; such was our rate of progress up the mountain.

My point is, that the XF is so balanced, that I can only recall the DSC (dynamic Stability Control) getting serious on one shockingly drenched corner.

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Initial turn in is sports car sharp, and the gearing and weight of the speed sensitive power steering is spot on.

Interior noise levels have been kept to a whisper although, thankfully, you can still hear that the decidedly sporty note of the V8 and 3.0 litre V6, under power.

If I’m using a few too many superlatives in the piece, then please give me a firm slap on the wrist because I need to use a few more, when it comes to describing the remarkable job Mick Mohan and co, have done with the calibration of the six-speed ZF transmission in the car.

Shifts are cashmere soft and remarkably fast. Even better when using the paddle shifters, which are standard across the range, and that includes the 2.7-litre twin turbo diesel powered XF, which gets along nicely, thanks to 435Nm and 152kW.

Whilst we are anxious to drive the 4.2 litre V8 Supercharged XF, my pick of powertrain will need some qualification. If someone else is picking up the fuel bills, then go the 4.2 V8. If not, both the diesel and the V6 offer excellent driveability with a surprisingly frugal taste for fuel.

“There’s something very special about the driving experience behind the wheel of the XF, and with over 20,000 already sold, Jaguar may well have pulled it off"

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2009 JAGUAR XF First Steer & Review - Part 2

Every now and then a car company produces a car that will shape the future of that company and I think it goes without saying that the new Jaguar XF is such a car.

Jaguar, departing owners Ford and new owners, Indian automotive giant Tata, have a lot riding on the new Jaguar XF and first impressions would seem to indicate they are on solid ground.

Let’s not be confused this new car is not perfect, but as a first step down a new path for a company that has been moribundly locked in its past for far to long, it is very good.

There is no doubt this car needed to break with the past, despite the fact that it still sits on what’s predominantly the chassis of the outgoing S-Type, and while the styling may polarise some it has a pugnacious, British bulldog look at the front that sets its apart from its German and Japanese rivals.

From the moment you drop into the luxuriously leather clad seats of the XF this car sets its own style, the Start/Stop button pulses with a red light – meant to simulate a heart beat, and then the radical new round gearshift controller rises out of the centre console and the air vents motor open in the dashboard.

To quote Jaguar Program Manager, Mick Mohan, who flew in from England for the Australian launch in the Victorian Alps – yes it was snowing, take a look at Paul Maric’s exclusive shots – “We felt the car needed a sense of theatre, and while we are very pleased with the work our designers and engineers have done with elements such as the gear shift, it adds to the drama of the car.”

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Jaguar Australia General Manager, Dorian Lapthorne, assured us it was something every owner would want to show their neighbour.
To a large degree that’s what this new Jaguar is about, discarding the old image and moving the brand down the age profile, already new XF enquiries are coming from much younger buyers.

Hit that start button and in the 4.2-litre natural aspirated V8, it pumps out a reasonable 219kW and 411Nm, that we started out in there’s a satisfying growl from the twin exhaust pipes.

As we headed off from eclectic St Kilda, onto some of Melbourne’s smooth wide freeways the initial impression was one of great quietness, broken only by the burble of the exhaust when the accelerator was given a prod.

Inside the Jaguar, as you would expect is all leather, with discreet touches of traditional wood and aluminium, but what interesting is the way the designers, lead by Ian Callum, have used the materials, it’s all very new age, and then there’s the blue lighting of the instruments and the similarly blue discreet lighting on the doors.

The smooth freeways soon gave way to the more broken edged B roads of the Yarra Valley as we made our way towards the alpine resort of Mount Buller.
It was on the way there that the Jaguar showed some of its form and a few foibles.

The handling on the twisty mountain road was very good, the ride is firm, but the car, it is big and not that light at 1749kgs, took the rapid changes of direction in its stride.
On these mountain roads there were more than a few mid corner bumps, but they did little to unsettle the Jaguar, in fact it stayed impressively on track even when driven most aggressively.

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A criticism would be the lack of feeling in the steering, while it is light initially it then seems to loose its way a bit and doesn’t tell the driver a lot about what is happening under the front wheels.

That said the car always feels well controlled and the ride is very smooth, even though our V8 was riding on 19-inch alloy rims. Mohan told us that the 20 inch wheels that are fitted standard to the Supercharged V8 will be offered across the range, while they might be a good look the ride quality will probably deteriorate markedly.

Even though the car was driven vigorously on the twisty stuff we rarely saw the traction control kick in and when it did it was unobtrusive in its operation, no sudden chop in power that can leave you feel like you don’t know what’s going to happen next.

On the run back down the mountain to Melbourne we had a 3.0-litre V6 and while its 175kW of power and 293Nm of torque, was more than up for the job of hauling the slightly lighter 1679kg car along, it just didn’t have the zing of the V8.

Colleague Anthony Crawford drove the 2.7-litre diesel and you will have to read his impressions of that car but I’d say it is a better prospect that the petrol V6.

The Jaguar is not cheap, and while it mixes in the company of the Lexus GS, Mercedes-Benz E-class and the Audi A6 it gives away a god bit to all those rivals on initial price.
Jaguar-LandRover Australasia managing director David Blackhall, sees little to apologise for with the starting price of $105,500 for the V6 and Diesel, which rises to $130,500 for the V8 and $16,700 for the S/C V8.

He says the new Jaguar is all about style, presence and luxury and he wanted the latter to be right in the cars, not the price.

Blackhall believes that if Jaguar can deliver a new experience to luxury car buyers then they will turn away from the German and Japanese rivals.

Time will tell if he is right, but he certainly has a good prospect on his hands, in the Jaguar XF, with which to start.