The launch of the new 2.0-litre turbo-petrol Jaguar XF represents the British throwing their union-jack-woven gauntlet (that’s glove if you don’t hail from the 15th
century) down at the Germans and Japanese.
For too long the full-size XF sedan has been similarly priced to the 5 Series, E-Class, A6, and GS establishment, yet has offered mostly inferior engines – particularly the base diesel and petrol V6.
Now, the entry-level XF is priced from $68,900, $10K less than the old turbo diesel starter (which now begins at $69,900...). And it’s powered by a really rather excellent 2.0-litre turbo petrol engine, shared with the Land Rover Evoque and Freelander, and Ford Mondeo and Falcon, albeit in a different state of tune.
There is, however, one major advantage with the Jaguar version – it’s mated to an eight-speed ZF-sourced transmission versus six-speed boxes for all other recipients.
With 177kW and 340Nm, the entry XF is also now more powerful than the (132kW320Nm) Audi A6 2.0 TFSI, (135kW270Nm) BMW 520i, (135kW/270Nm) Mercedes-Benz E200 and (154kW/252Nm) Lexus GS250. All of those models also costs $9-10K more than the newly-discounted upper-crust Brit…
Compared with the old, torque-deprived 3.0-litre naturally-aspirated V6, the new 2.0-litre petrol Jaguar XF is 0.4 seconds quicker, taking just 7.9 seconds to sprint to 100km/h. Top speed has also been increased slightly, from 237km/h to 241km/h – though that won’t matter in over-regulated Australia – while combined fuel consumption has plummeted from 10.5L/100km to 8.9L/100km.
The gains in fuel economy have also resulted in a sizeable reduction in Co2 emissions: from 249g/km to 207g/km.
The Jag/Ford turbo-four is an exceptionally refined engine that packs surprising punch, particularly when mated to the superb auto.
While there’s some initial turbo-lag that becomes apparent when flattening the throttle from rest, or when re-applying the right pedal from low speed coasting, the Jaguar XF 2.0 Petrol accelerates briskly and keeps on strong through all eight gear ratios.
Whether you’re cruising on the open road or enjoying some back road S-bends, the four-cylinder Jaguar XF offers an impressive level of punch and effortless torque delivery. With BMW ditching their aspirated inline sixes, there are few six cylinder cars that are this smooth and flexible.
The shifts from the ZF eight-speed are imperceptible, but there’s annoying reluctance to kick-down to a lower gear when tackling long climbs on the freeway in standard ‘D’ mode, resulting in a momentary loss of speed.
It’s a characteristic that all but disappears when ‘S’ mode is selected or the steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters are engaged.
The four-cylinder XF dispels any fears we might have had with engine noise intrusion under moderate-to-hard throttle. Most unwarranted noise, vibration and harshness has been engineered out of this car.
Equally confident is the car’s dynamic qualities. Jaguar has struck an almost perfect balance between ride and handling with the XF. There’s some slight body roll when tucking hard into corners, but it never feels unsettled.
Moreover, sizeable compressions and imperfections are completely ironed out to deliver a supple ride, even with the 18-inch alloys fitted. Swapping to a car fitted with smaller 17-inch wheels revealed only the slightest improvement in the level of ride compliance.
If anything, the lighter four cylinder engine seems to have only improved turn-in response and there’s a decided resistance to understeer, even when pushed.
Like most Jaguars, however, the steering in the XF 2.0-litre is a tad too light, particularly in those more enthusiastic driving moments when a little more weight and accuracy from the dead centre would help improve feel.
Jaguar’s entry-level XF 2.0-litre petrol luxury model is also well-stocked, standard with combination leather/suede trim, basic electric height and seatback adjustability for driver and front passenger, remote central locking with keyless start, rain-sensing wipers, automatic HID headlamps, and a revised seven-inch touch-screen with Bluetooth phone and music streaming.
Stepping up to the $75,500 Jaguar XF 2.0 Premium Luxury version adds full-leather trim, larger 18-inch alloy wheels, a reversing camera and full electric seat adjustability.
For 2013 the Jaguar XF range also benefits from technology enhancements to the entertainment and navigation functions.
There’s enhanced browsing capability for the iPod interface and a dynamic zoom sat-nav function that automatically arrows-in the display when the car approaches a junction, both on freeways and back roads.
Comfort levels are high, but remain unchanged from superseded models in this regard. The front buckets offer armchair comfort with just the right amount of bolstering to keep your torso planted, and there’s plenty of elbow-room between the driver and front passenger.
Entry and egress is effortless, and the rear seats are suitably positioned to offer sufficient legroom, although the coupe-like sweeping roof line continues to affect headroom for the tall.
Boot room isn’t remarkable – a nothing-more-than-decent 500 litres – although the rear backrest offers 60/40 split-fold flexibility.
Despite the Jaguar XF’s standard six-airbags, a pedestrian contact sensing system, reverse parking sensors, stability control, anti-lock brakes with cornering brake control and electronic brake force distribution, it scores only a four-star ANCAP safety rating. All other rivals listed earlier in this review score a five-star ANCAP rating.
On price alone the Jaguar XF 2.0 Petrol is an outstanding proposition in the luxury car segment. It bridges the gap between large Aussie cars – like the Falcon G6E Ecoboost with which it shares its engine – and the entry level Germans and Japanese. The Jag's newfound affordability may also place the smaller C-Class, A4 and 3 Series cars on notice.
Yep, the gauntlet has been thrown…