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The updated 2012 Jaguar XF wouldn't look out of place in a design museum. It oozes a near-perfect look for an elegant large luxury sedan and its existence is a sigh of relief in a largely conservative segment.
It’s not that the new Jaguar XF is 'out-there' in the looks department, or that it’s a protest buy, but more that it stands out and evokes emotion wherever it goes. Get behind the wheel of a new BMW 5 Series, Mercedes-Benz E-Class or Audi A6 and you instantly become just another man behind the wheel of a well-engineered luxury German car. All three are brilliant in their own way, but every once in a while you just want something distinctive.
Drive around in a new Jaguar XF and it feels completely different to its German rivals. Not different in how it drives or because of its interior quality or powertrain supremacy, simply that it makes you feel unique. Jaguar says it makes cars for people who have class, not just money, in the case of the new 2.2-litre XF diesel, it’s a pretty darn accurate statement.
The problem with Jaguar has always been an interesting one. The company has consistently produced beautiful cars that you simply want to stop and look at but has failed to compete with the Germans on technology. Whilst the Germans are arguably the pioneers and leaders of powertrain and engine development, the British, well, they do okay.
So when Jaguar Australia announced that it would add an entry model 2.2-litre diesel Jaguar XF to the range (with prices starting from $78,900), we were a little surprised. Not because we had doubts, but because the specifications of the 2.2-litre diesel powertrain read like something from Germany. 140kW of power, 450Nm of torque are respectable figure but best of all is the fuel economy rating of just 5.4 litres of diesel per 100km. This is partially a result of the brand new eight-speed automatic with start-stop technology.
To put that figure into perspective, the Jagaur XF diesel uses less fuel than the much lighter Toyota Corolla (7.3L of petrol per 100km). That’s right, a 1745kg large luxury Jaguar uses less fuel than the most popular car in the world. A strange world we live in.
To be fair, the Jaguar XF has to be compared to the Germans. BMW offers a 520d coupled to an eight-speed automatic that uses 4.7L of diesel per 100km, Audi is right up there with the seven-speed A6 2.0 TDI (5L/100km) whilst Mercedes-Benz’s five-speed E220 CDI manages 5.9L/100km. So all in all, the Jaguar XF is finally very competitive with the German’s on engine and powertrain technology.
The 2.2-litre diesel works a treat in the Jaguar XF. Despite the weight and overall size, the entry-model XF moves with ease and can sprint from 0-100km/h in a reasonable 8.5 seconds. Of course, if you want a supercharged 5.0-litre V8, then the XF-R is hard to look past, but for everyday needs, this is the one to go for.
The addition of start-stop technology to the Jaguar is also interesting because unlike most start-stop systems, the XF’s works in unison with the driver by assisting in an easy shutdown procedure. So while it still stops and starts the engine in traffic to save fuel (and does this very smoothly), when you come to a stop and actually want to turn off the car and get out, you’ll realise it’s already done that for you. When it goes into stop mode, if you turn the gear knob to park, it will understand that you no longer wish to drive and simply shutdown the rest of the car. This way you never have to physically turn the car off. The first few times it’ll catch you by surprise in how it read your mind, but eventually it all becomes part of the experience.
To the outside world the best part of the Jaguar XF is the exterior. While the Germans design appealing cars, the British design beautiful cars. The updated look has seen the headlights portray a more XJ-shape with sharper curves and a more aggressive stance, meanwhile other minor cosmetic changes have brought it inline with the evolving family look.
For the buyer, though, the best bit of the XF is where you’ll spend the all your time, the interior. Unlike its direct competitors, Jaguar’s interiors are far livelier and make good use of contrasting colours. Our Jaguar XF test car was equipped with white seats that contrasted well against the subtle laminated wood trim, aluminium air-conditioning vent surrounds and a soft leather-covered dashboard. Four distinct colours all working harmoniously together in such a small space.
The steering wheel is smooth, easy to hold and home to paddles that can control the eight-speed auto if need be. Little touches, such as the automatic air-conditioning vents, which open and close on command, are all part of what makes the XF feel special. There are still bits that can do with improvement, the most noticeable, not surprisingly, is the XF’s touchscreen entertainment system which also hosts the satellite navigation. It has a high resolution screen and the clarity is pretty good, but it can be frustratingly slow. It takes too long for things to happen from when you press a button and when the command is acknowledged. This is an area the Germans do rather well at. In saying that, it does have Bluetooth audio streaming and phone connectivity and if you happen to tick the box for a $2,040 Jaguar 600W premium sound system, sound quality is superb.
Behind the wheel the Jaguar XF performs well for a big car, it absorbs the bumps and potholes of our poor quality roads with ease. It’s not as sporty or dynamic as a BMW 520d, but it’s not as lifeless in its steering feel as the E-Class. Around bends it does tend to lean in a little but nothing unexpected for a car of its size. It’s the sort of car that feels right at home whether you’re doing short trips to work or a drive from Brisbane to Melbourne.
Nonetheless, there are some technological limitations to the British engineered car worth mentioning. For a start, it lacks the ultra-modern multimedia features offered by the Germans. That includes BMW’s internet-ready and easy to use iDrive system and Mercedes-Benz’s COMAND system. Both systems are capable of browsing the web using your mobile phone’s internet connection (and even taking route guidance wirelessly from Google maps). A total gimmick, but a noteworthy feature nonetheless. Then there’s the Jaguar XF’s four-star safety rating (out of five) which is an unusual occurrence for a vehicle of its calibre. Particularly one equipped with two-stage airbags for the driver and front passenger, as well as side and curtain airbags and all the electronic gadgetry you can think of.
Overall we can’t help but to love the Jaguar XF for what it is: a beautiful car inside and out. It may not be as technologically advanced as its German opponents, but if owning a unique luxury car that stands out in a sea of black, silver and white Germans appeals to you, head straight to your nearest Jaguar dealership.