First Drive: 2009 Jaguar XF
This 2009 review is representative of model years 2009 to 2014.
By Shaun Bailey of Road & Track
Phoenix, Arizona — If you've seen the Jaguar XF concept car, you've likely had high hopes for the new Jaguar S-Type. With good reason, as the concept is the best example of a modern Jaguar we've yet seen. At Frankfurt, the S-Type replacement was officially unveiled and dubbed the XF. Not nearly as striking as the concept, the XF is still clearly a sporting sedan with a windshield rake and sloping backlight that nearly match those of the XK coupe.
But to allow adequate interior space required a fairly high beltline, making the car a little too tall and depriving it of a completely sporting aesthetic. But that's the way of the world where designers are forced into compromises to meet restrictions set by crash standards, headlight technology and non-vertically-challenged buyers. A clear benefit of the shape is its trunk whose volume is a whopping 17.6 cu. ft. With folding rear seats, the XF is indeed practical for a luxury sedan.
The steel chassis is a variation of the previous S-Type's that was originally shared with the Lincoln LS. Iteration has its rewards as the XF is stiffer and noticeably quieter. Dual front bulkheads and a composite undertray help keep the cabin hushed, and a low-drag coefficient of 0.29 minimizes wind noise.
The fully independent suspension is adapted from the XK coupe, as are both the 300-bhp 4.2-liter V-8 engine and optional 420-bhp supercharged variant. Improvements were made to the ZF 6-speed automatic transmission; gear changes are quick and the system is easily among the best automatics. Paddle shifters rev-match and in the supercharged car will hold a gear when in the most sporting setting. The result is a rear-drive sedan that has the soul of a sports coupe. Overall, the XF is an easy car to drive and enjoy, while still having a bit of quirky English charm. It's fast, smooth, incredibly quiet and drives like a 4-door XK. It does what a luxury sports sedan should.
The interior is modern without sacrificing the use of classic materials — leather, wood and metal. The start button pulsates like a heartbeat when it senses the key fob, and upon starting, the shift selector knob rises into the driver's palm while hidden air vents rotate open. This shift knob replaces the venerable J-gate and is referred to as the JaguarDrive Selector. More than a novelty, the selector is an effective mechanism for gear selection and is likely the inspiration for the rest of the interior, which is unusual, yet intelligent and functional.
I particularly like the glovebox button. It is an unlabeled Royal Air Force roundel in silver that's inlaid in the wood dash — about the size of a dime. Swipe your hand over it and nothing happens, but with a deliberate touch to its center the glovebox pops open. It looks purely ornamental but is quite the entertainment for passengers. The overhead lights work in the same way. Simply touch them to activate; no fumbling for buttons in the dark. When it is dark, the interior's blue ambient light transforms the car from fancy restaurant to a swanky blue-neon nightclub. It's almost as if the car, like its owner, put on different clothes for going out on the town. With the optional Bowers & Wilkins 440-watt stereo and distinctive yellow Kevlar-coned speakers, it's easy to forget the world outside the car.
Three packages will be available: Luxury, Premium Luxury and Supercharged. Compared with many in the class, the XF is a bargain that offers far more for a little less, starting at $49,975, $55,975 and $62,975, respectively. The base car is well equipped with 18-in. wheels, while the supercharged SV8 has standard 20s. The SV8 also receives CATS electronically controlled dampers, larger front brake rotors and Dynamic Mode for the stability control, which enables a full-off setting. And, of course, a 0–60 time of perhaps 5.1 seconds compared with the normally aspirated model's that should be closer to 6.2 sec.
For a company that appears to be on Ford's chopping block, Jaguar seems to be heading in the right direction. Now, if only it can bring the production-car styling closer to the concept cars'. That will ensure success.