As the world increasingly turns away from sedans, some manufacturers are keeping the faith. Jaguar has treated the XF to an impressively serious midlife facelift to try and sharpen its appeal, or at least to remind luxury buyers they don’t have to automatically choose a plush SUV.
But the changing shape of this bit of the market is reflected by the reduction of the Australian range offering to a single model: the 2021 Jaguar XF P300 AWD R-Dynamic HSE.
Which, by a happy coincidence, is pretty much exactly the same car I drove in the UK – the same engine and all-wheel-drive powertrain and fractionally less plush R-Dynamic SE trim. Power comes from a 221kW/400Nm version of Jaguar’s 2.0-litre ‘Ingenium’ four-cylinder petrol engine and reaches each corner through a standard eight-speed auto ’box.
Six-cylinder XFs have been dropped for all markets, as has the rarely bought option of a manual transmission that Jaguar still offered in some places. Europe does still get four-cylinder diesels as well as the stylish, practical station wagon. But does our sole surviving variant deserve a broader audience in Australia?
Exterior changes are slight, and similar to those that have been given to the F-Pace to mark its mid-term. The XF gets sleeker all-LED headlights that contain dual DRL elements on both sides, plus a tweaked bumper and grille. At the back is a new bumper incorporating a pseudo-diffuser element. New 20-inch wheels come as standard, and buyers will also be able to add a black exterior pack that brings a shiny gloss finish to the grille, side vents and window finishers for $2120.
|2021 Jaguar XF P300 (MY21)|
|Engine||1997cc four-cylinder petrol, turbocharged|
|Power||221kW at 5500rpm|
|Torque||400Nm at 1500–4500rpm|
|Drive type||All-wheel drive|
|Fuel claim combined||8.6L/100km|
|Main competitors||Mercedes-Benz E-Class | BMW 5 Series | Genesis G80|
|Price as tested||TBC|
More substantial changes have been made where they were really required – inside the cabin. The old XF was really beginning to feel its age, but the facelift has been treated to the same makeover as the closely related F-Pace. That means a new dashboard with a broad leather facing, an 11.4-inch curved touchscreen running JLR’s spiffy new Pivi Pro infotainment system, and also a far classier-looking centre console.
The outgoing XF’s plasticky heating and ventilation buttons have been binned for upmarket rotary controllers reminiscent of those fitted to Range Rover models. Jaguar’s trademark pop-up rotary gear selector has also gone, and replaced by a more traditional lever selector, with Dynamic mode selection now done by a smaller dial to the right.
With new seats and steering wheel, redesigned digital instruments and various bits of haptic switchgear, it’s no exaggeration to say that the changes have dramatically improved the case for the XF. There’s a warmth to the cabin and a simplicity to the much improved Pivi user interface that the more tech-heavy German alternatives don’t have.
Jaguar also deserves credit for the substantial size and satisfying weight of the metal gear-change paddles behind the steering wheel, a detail that too many get wrong. The only complaints are minor ones, like the rubbery volume controller by the gearshifter, which feels cheap and mismatched to other switchgear. But this is a very nice place to spend time.
It can be made nicer, of course. Jaguar is offering bundled option packs on top of the generous standard specification, with these including a Convenience Pack ($3168) that adds an electric sunblind, soft-close doors and the waterproof ‘activity key’. A Hot Climate Pack brings four-zone climate, a cooled glovebox and cabin air ionisation with a filter able to catch particles down to 2.5 microns in diameter ($2304). Lastly, the Technology Pack includes a head-up display, wireless charging pad and a ‘clearsight’ video screen rear-view mirror ($3276).
My test car was fitted with the last of these, but I’d turned the smart mirror into a traditional mirror within two minutes. The display was much too bright for the gloom of a British winter.
Praise falters when it comes to the engine. The four-cylinder petrol Ingenium does the job, but lacks the sort of social graces you’d expect from a Jaguar power plant – especially when compared to the brawnier inline six that isn’t coming to the XF. The four-pot sends a surprising amount of vibration into the cabin when idling, and suffers from an elastic throttle response that makes it feel dull-witted at low speeds or when trying to summon overtaking urge.
Once rolling, the auto ’box does its best to keep the engine where it is happiest, in its broad mid-range, and full-throttle acceleration is strong enough, although it also turns the soundtrack thrashy as the engine gets towards its 6400rpm limiter. (With the transmission in drive, it will always shift up well short of this.) It is effective, but there is little joy in pressing it.
Yet there is still plenty to like about the XF. The cabin stays tranquil at cruising speeds, the active noise-cancellation system that it shares with the facelifted F-Pace helping to reduce road and tyre noise. The Jaguar’s chassis copes with the abrupt crests and steep cambers of its English homeland about as well as anything could, my test car’s adaptive dampers staying pliant in the car’s Dynamic mode and yet maintaining order in Comfort.
The steering is good, direct and with some proper sensation, and the XF is easy to place on the road and keen to hold its line. Even in wet and frequently slippery conditions, the all-wheel-drive system never ran short of traction.
Jaguar has admitted it is unlikely to directly replace the XF – or the smaller XE – so this version will likely live on for as long as there is any demand for it. There deserves to be – Jaguar has been building sedans for much longer than it’s been making SUVs, and the revised XF is one of the better ones.