Spain’s bull-running city of Pamplona must hold some spiritual significance for Jaguar, as once again, the British luxury car-maker has summoned the world to this spot for its second critical model launch in 12 months – the all-new Jaguar XF.
It may feel a little like Groundhog Day – after all, it’s less than three months since the Tata-owned, UK-based car-maker launched the XE sedan in this region. A BMW 3 Series rival, the Jaguar XE was without a doubt the company’s most important car in decades, given it’s positioning as a volume player.
It’s no easy task.
Originally launched in 2007 with a couple of facelifts along the way, the new XF is only the second-generation of the model – and Jaguar has thrown everything and the kitchen sink at this car to guarantee its success.
There are some obvious carryover features, like the rotary gear selector and rotating air vents. But of the 3194 parts that make up the 2016 Jaguar XF, no less than 2669 of those are brand new to the car – that’s 83 per cent.
It’s based on the same lightweight modular aluminium chassis that underpins the smaller XE, as well as the upcoming F-Pace, which is Jaguar’s new SUV that’s due to be shown in production form for the first time at September’s Frankfurt motor show.
The entire car is a mix of aluminium (for the bonnet and front guards), magnesium alloys and high-tensile steels. The architecture in the body sides alone weigh less than 6kg per side.
As a result, the new car is lighter by 190kg and stiffer by 28 per cent, allowing for better dynamics and ride control, according to Jaguar. It’s also more aerodynamic, with an exceptionally low Cd of just 0.26 (down from 0.29) – exactly the same as the smaller XE.
Design-wise, it’s an all-round tougher look, though not at the expense of the previous model’s much loved elegance. It’s got a bolder, more upright grille and its shoulder line is more masculine, though it’s still a very attractive car that should see it stand out among the crowd.
In fact, Jaguar’s acclaimed director of design, Ian Callum, is already trumpeting the new XF as, “The most visually dynamic business car in the segment”.
Looking at the car in the metal, he may just be right. Though I’d argue the rear styling doesn’t quite have the same presence as the XF’s unmistakable Jaguar nose. At least, that’s my opinion.
Although shorter in length than the old car, the latest XF rides on a longer wheelbase, said to improve ride comfort as well as provide considerably more rear passenger space.
Importantly, those spatial improvements haven’t impacted rear head, knee and legroom, all of which have increased by some margin over its predecessor. Nor have they affected the car’s coupe-like design, thanks to the rear bench being set lower than on the previous version.
The new XF range will be available in four trim levels: XF Prestige, XF R-Sport, XF Portfolio and XF S, although pricing and specification for Australian cars won’t be finalised until closer to the car’s local launch in late November.
That said, expect the range to highly competitive on both fronts, as JLR Australia is on record as saying it accepts the German makes are the leaders in the segment, and it, as the challenger brand, will have to be sharp.
Jaguar will launch the XF with two petrol and two diesel engines, all Euro 6-compliant, and each mated to a super-smooth eight-speed ZF automatic transmission, at least for Australia. European markets will also offer a six-speed manual on some variants.
On the powertrain front, the range kicks off with the first of Jaguar’s all-new Ingenium engines; a 132kW/430Nm 2.0-litre four-cylinder diesel unit, which replaces the previous 2.2-litre diesel.
Designed and built in-house, it features variable valve timing and reduced friction and noise levels, while claiming 4.3L/100km and CO2 emissions of just 114g/km. It will also hit 100km/h from a standstill in 8.1 seconds, while top speed is 229km/h.
We sampled this car first and the performance numbers listed above feel about right. It’s not as punchy as the XE with the same powertrain, but that’s to be expected from a larger car carrying considerably more weight.
So, while it’s no speedster out of the blocks, strong mid-range acceleration is where this diesel rewards most. High-speed cruising on Spain’s motorways was effortless, with wind noise from the side mirrors the only intrusive sound to find its way into the cabin.
Still, it’s a superb powertrain that delivers on all fronts, providing a welcome blend of power, refinement and economy. I’d argue that it’s quieter than any of its German rivals, with almost no discernible vibration felt through the chassis, even under heavy loads.
Stepping up to high-output 700Nm V6 diesel is a bigger leap than I had expected – this thing has got some serious stonk, and there’s very little lag before blast-off under full throttle. Put that down to a Jaguar-first, where ceramic ball bearing technology is used in the primary turbocharger for reduced friction faster torque build up.
It feels quicker than the published 0-100 time of 6.2 seconds, and top speed is 250km/h. And all this, while consuming 5.5-litres of the black stuff with CO2 emissions of just 144g/km.
Read more Jaguar XF details here.
We hammered this thing mercilessly on some challenging tight-cornered back roads and it proved hugely capable. From behind the wheel, it feels like a small car, rather than a large, luxury business express. It also delivers a satisfying punch out of the switchbacks in these parts before its big mid-range punch kicks in, and you’re gone.
Importantly, at least from a Jaguar’s luxury positioning, is the effortless manner in which the XF delivers its power. The throttle mapping is brilliantly precise, allowing for ultra-smooth acceleration from anywhere in the rev range, regardless of what ratio you might be in.
The eight-speed ZF auto is a masterpiece of engineering; delivering beautifully smooth, seamless shifts, and sounding less like a diesel and more like a heavily-tuned V6. In fact, anywhere above 1500rpm, and you won’t pick this for a diesel, bar the rev counter.
So, truck loads of pulling power, silky-smooth power delivery and better fuel economy than a Toyota Yaris. Who said you can’t have your cake and it too?
Our XF launch programme concluded with a track-only session, in the 280kW/450Nm XF S – the range topper and high-performance version in the line-up. It’s armed with the same 3.0-litre supercharged V6 petrol engine used in the XE S.
The venue was the Circuit Navarra – the same racetrack that Jaguar used for the XE programme. Turn one is taken flat by those who know what they’re doing. But there’s also a bunch of slower, more technical turns to contend with.
It’s a good engine, providing stout performance as the revs build, and given the supercharger delivers its boost right from the get-go, its relatively quick off the line – 0-100km/h in 5.3 seconds is the claim.
But it’s just not scintillating, at least not in the XF. It’s baby brother needs just 5.1 seconds to complete the 0-100km/h dash, and it feels properly quick.
Yes, I know that’s a weight issue, so why not give it more power and torque to overcome the car’s extra heft, because the XF’s chassis set-up (just like the XE) is nothing short of witchcraft in terms of its ride, handling and balance, and surely capable of so much more.
That said, the XF’s ability to handle the extreme demands of a racetrack, at flat-out pace, with supreme composure, is world-class stuff.
On the road, it’s even better.
The XF’s double wishbone front suspension is made entirely from lightweight aluminium and modelled closely on Jaguar’s F-Type sports car. The end result is a car that feels agile and responsive – nothing ever feels hurried, even when you’re pressing.
Ride control is another XF eye-opener. Even the passive damper setup enables a level of variable damping that provides a suppleness to the ride (regardless of what seat you’re in), which rivals will find hard to match.
Opt for Jaguar’s adaptive suspension and ride and handling climb to a whole new level. And like the XE, I reckon its class-leading – such is the balance between the two.
We also tried out Jaguar’s Configurable dynamics (on and off the track). It allows the driver to adjust the throttle mapping, shift characteristics, steering feel and damper settings via the touchscreen.
Thankfully, it offers a broad range of settings from low-speed ride comfort to high-speed track work, all of which feel perfectly comfortable as if tailored for each individual or driving conditions.
Jaguar has clearly mastered electric power steering tuning – a black art, and one that is poorly practiced by a few too many car-makers, even in this high-stakes segment. The weighting, at any speed, feels more like a proper hydraulic system, and there’s plenty of communication through the steering wheel for drivers to feel precisely what the font wheels are doing. On-centre feel is especially good, so it feels more autobahn ready than its German rivals.
The brakes, too, are immensely capable, never once showing any signs of fade, even after multiple track sessions in 34-degree-plus heat in Spain. It’s like a mirror image of the XE in this regard.
The evolution of the XF is even more evident, inside. This is an all-new look and feel, although the rising gear selector and rotating air vents have been retained – for their theatrics, according to Jaguar’s head of design, Ian Callum.
Taking centre stage is a high-res 10.2-inch touchscreen that forms the basis of Jaguar’s InControl Pro infotainment system.
For starters, there are no buttons. Instead, all the functionality is located at the bottom of the touchscreen.
Just like your smartphone, the home page can be customised with your own wallpaper – or in fact, any number of wallpapers. Users can also use ‘pinch to zoom’ gestures or the reverse, again, just as you would do on a smartphone. The screen itself offers the latest-generation of Jaguar’s dual-view technology; allowing the driver to see the sat-nav page, while the front passenger watches a movie.
You’ve also got a 12.3-inch digital instrument panel – which drivers can customise, so you could have a widescreen version of the sat-nav in front of you, or a performance display with large rev counter and gear selection.
There’s also a 60GB solid state hard drive that’s used to store mapping data, enabling instant access to a multitude of convenient functions. And with dead-reckoning functionality, which interprets on-board vehicle data 40 times a second, the sat-nav system can accurately position the car, even when GPS signals are lost.
The voice control system also enables a one-shot destination entry for the sat-nav, or to call a contact. Not only that, the system can also share your location and E.T.A, if it calculates that you’re not going to arrive at the scheduled time.
Jaguar has always lagged behind the Germans when it comes to tech, but that’s no longer the case. This is the most connected Jaguar, ever.
The XF also gets an entire suite of the latest active safety kit too, thanks to the stereo cameras that enables autonomous emergency breaking, lane departure warning and lane keep systems. And there’s also adaptive cruise with queue assist that tracks the vehicle in front, at a safe distance.
While we are yet to test the latest Jaguar XF on local roads or lock in pricing and specifications, early signs point to yet another stellar entry for the 80-year-old British car-maker and one that puts the ball firmly back in the court of its competitors.
Release the bulls.