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My young daughter has recently discovered the (messy) appeal of pulling petals off a daisy in a game of ‘loves me, loves me not’. Watching her litter the floor with little white scraps of flora, recently, helped me think about my relationship with the 2016 Jaguar XF 20d Prestige.
For everything there is to like, there is something else that counters it. The flower game serving as a fitting metaphor for the almost polar nature of the Jag.
It loves me. That beautiful balance through corners. It loves me not. Those cheap plastics used on key touch points throughout the cabin.
It loves me. That grille. It loves me not. Those wheels.
And like the game, the predominant emotion is weighed on which petal sheds the last. So will the XF be a case of love, or love not?
Priced from $82,755 (before options and on-road costs) the XF 20d is the entry point to the big-Jag line-up. It’s rear-wheel drive with a 2.0-litre turbocharged ‘Ingenium’ diesel engine with 132kW and 430Nm paired with an eight-speed automatic transmission.
Keyless entry, HID xenon headlamps with washers, torque vectoring, power seats and satellite navigation is all standard equipment.
As always, I’m okay with a sunroof as an option ($3200), and can even forgive automatic parking ($1710), but an optional power-boot in a car of this calibre ($2500) and even some of the basic driver safety assistance like rear cross-traffic alert and blind-spot monitoring ($1420) is having a lend.
From the outside, especially front-on, the XF is all Jaguar. The gaping maw of the black-mesh grille, the narrowing lights and lashings of chrome. It’s the best angle of the XF by a long way and there is no mistaking the lineage.
Step to the side and the shining Rhodium Silver paint (no cost option – one of 20 colour options), long, tapering roofline, chrome cooling vents and snub tail are all but forgotten. Instead, we're distracted by the cheapest looking set of alloy wheels we’ve seen in a long time.
These are the standard 18-inch five-spoke fan wheels, and we all but implore anyone looking at buying an XF to option up to at least a 19-inch rim to help balance the look of the car. It loves me not.
That said, I’m still not sold on the double ‘smiley face’ rear lamp treatment, but it is unique and that’s not so easy to do these days. And some of the panel gaps are what I would consider too large for a car of this level.
As a whole car though, ignoring the wheels, the XF is classy and premium like a Jaguar should be. It loves me.
Open that optional powered boot, and while the space is good at 505-litres, and the 40:20:40 split back seat is convenient, the release handles themselves feel like plastic toys and there is no lining on the upper side, so you can just see bare metal framework under the parcel shelf. It loves me not
Step inside and the dichotomy continues.
I’m a huge fan of a light interior in a premium car, and our car with its ‘Light Oyster Taurus’ leather is no exception. The seats both front and rear are very comfortable, the leather is soft and the design well sculpted. Just sitting in the XF is quite a lovely way to spend time. It loves me.
In the back, on the move though, and while your posterior is quite adequately cushioned, there is a lot of road noise from the rear wheels, predominantly through the rear three-quarter window. Again, this isn’t a moving part and it wouldn’t be hard to double-glaze or seal it better. A luxury car needs a luxury experience, for all passengers. It loves me not.
Room is good, but it is more premium-economy than business-class. You get vents and a pair of 12-volt outlets, as well as some cheap map-nets (they aren’t really pockets), along with some rather lush carpet. We had intermittent issues with the one-touch power window switches, too.
Up front, and the materials around the centre console and dash-stack are a real mish-mash of lovely aluminium and cheap plastics. Things like the area around the rotary gear controller and the panel between the digital temperature displays just look unfinished and out of place, as there is just nothing there.
You’ve got the light and cheap plastic gear shift paddles within the same arm reach as lovely felt-lined door pockets. At times it feels like two different cars. Love me, love me not.
We’ve mentioned before that the new InControl Touch Pro infotainment system looks great but is still a $2630 option, so the XF makes do with the standard eight-inch JLR unit with a combination of buttons and touch-screen interactions. The interface feels too cheap for this car, and the resolution of the rear view camera is downright awful.
Navigation works well though, and the contextual settings menus are very handy, but this system should be limited to the smaller XE and Land Rover Discovery Sport. The Pro system should be part of the XF experience, even at this entry level.
Use it to play some music, and the 11-speaker Meridian sound system is really quite good! No digital radio as standard though.
Twist the volume knob and it feels light and low-rent, plus it doesn’t illuminate at night. On the opposite side of the same console, the engine start/stop button feels cool and weighty and pulses light before the engine is started.
So close and yet so far. It loves me, it loves me not.
The dynamic experience of the XF has been one its most praised attributes, but there are still a few flaws in the big cat.
Selecting gear with the rotary dial can be less than smooth, particularly when parallel parking and needing to change from Drive to Reverse.
Low speed driving isn’t the strong point of the Ingenium diesel. Peak torque is available between 1750 and 2500rpm, which is a surprisingly narrow band and the Jaguar has a noticeable dip in response off the line.
The automatic start/stop system too tends to vibrate the car more than it really should.
But leave town and hit the highway or the countryside, and the XF is a completely transformed machine.
Linked, sweeping curves are a joy. The steering is brilliantly weighted and the car feels balanced and confident. The ride on those balloony 45-profile tyres is compliant and comfortable, and the Ingenium diesel responsive enough for touring driving.
Sustained highway sections see fuel consumption in the low 4L/100km range (Jaguar claims 3.8 for highway, with a combined figure of 4.3L/100km) and it swallows miles with comfort and class.
It loves me.
But even here, at its best, the XF is still not a paradigm of perfection. Despite the optional driver assists and the XF being a brand new car on a brand new platform, the cruise control doesn’t have an overspeed braking function. That means if you set your speed to 80km/h and go down a hill, the car will pick up pace.
Sure, it will settle again when you hit the next flat or inclined stretch of road, but given our prehistoric approach to speeding in Australia, and that this is an $80-thousand-dollar Jaguar in 2016, I find it pretty disappointing. It loves me not.
Bottom line, the Jaguar XF just doesn’t feel as complete as it should be. We even saw it in our recent two part luxury sedan comparison. The XF wasn’t good enough to beat the big-name Germans, but it held its own against Lexus, Infiniti, Hyundai and Skoda. I know which company it would rather keep.
The thing is, it ‘should’ be good enough to challenge the best, and it is really only the final polish and attention to detail that is stopping it. As regardless of interior trim selections, the Jaguar still has a huge amount of appeal.
It might be a generational thing, but things I loved passed others by, and areas that left me underwhelmed often impressed. And almost universally, the differing opinions were governed by age.
Take the street presence for one. I mean, it is a Jaguar so there is an inherent sensation of class about it, but in the basic silver colour and with those 18-inch wheels, it just doesn’t jump out at me. A friend of mine even thought it was a Mondeo!
But as chance had it, I was driving the Jag when visiting my parents, and my father loved it. And I don’t just mean in a ‘James is driving a nice work car’ way, he really loved it. I had it parked at the shops at one point and caught a number of ‘other people’s dads’ having a good hard look too.
Like Robert, they saw past the dull wheels and pedestrian paint, past the cheap plastics and tech gremlins. They saw a Jaguar.
The power, the look, the style, the special experience that goes with the brand’s very sporting, and very British heritage. Every part a Jag.
So as to the final petal, it has to be ‘it loves me’.
The 2016 Jaguar XF 20d Prestige is, at its core, a lovely car.
The engineering is all there, and that’s crucial. You can fix sound deadening, you can improve materials, you can adjust throttle mapping, you can fit different wheels – it's all polish and finalisation.
It just feels that it was delivered before it was finished. Someone drew a line below a figure on a spreadsheet and declared it ‘good enough’. But a Jaguar is more than just a car, and the XF needs to be more than just ‘enough’.
Refine it. Make it better. Mill some paddles from aluminium, double-glaze the rear-quarter windows, bundle in some of the options and fit some decent wheels and even the most basic diesel XF will be fitting of its heritage.
It will be special, it will be a Jaguar. It loves me.
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