Road Test: 2009 Jaguar XF Supercharged
This 2009 review is representative of model years 2009 to 2013.
By Jim Hall of Road & Track
An argument can be made that Jaguar's current XK coupe/convertible and top-of-the-line XJ sedan — handsome as they may be — are too reliant on retro themes of generations past.
The all-new Jaguar XF luxury sports sedan, which replaces the long-in-the-tooth S-Type model, boldly breaks with that tradition.
The first thought that popped into my mind when seeing our metallic red test subject was that it looked "Lexus-like" — there's certainly no denying that it is very similar in profile to the Toyota luxury brand's GS model.
But upon closer inspection, especially watching it in action as Road Test Editor Jonathan Elfalan and Road Test Assistant Calvin Kim took turns flogging it out at the test track, I've come to the conclusion that this car is quintessentially Jaguar. Its angled windshield, stylish front fascia (with a dominant chrome grille front and center), vertical side vents, chrome Jaguar "leaper" emblem on the rear decklid, and long, narrow, Aston Martin-looking taillamps lend this stylish new sedan a distinctly British appeal.
The sheet metal is not alone in breaking with tradition. Hit the engine start/stop button at the base of the center console, and a large gear selector knob (called JaguarDrive Selector in company parlance) rises up from its flush position just south of the button; simultaneously, hidden air vents for the heating and air-conditioning system rotate vertically to an open position. Intuitive from the go, the center stack's controls — climate, sound system, etc. — are different as well, made up almost entirely of large metal buttons grouped tightly together. Above them is a large touch screen through which all functions and navigation controls can be accessed; and its bright blue icons are clearly visible even in bright daylight.
Other neat cabin touches abound. JaguarSense allows the overhead interior lights to be turned on/off by simply touching them; similarly, the glovebox can be opened or closed with a single touch. Another feature is hip, nightclub-like mood lighting — Phosphor Blue Halo Illumination — that irradiates in a light blue shade. Take that, Scion.
Rear-seat room is good, and persons with similar proportions to my own (6 ft., 170 lb.) will find a few inches to spare between their kneecaps and the front seatback; head room is equally generous. Front buckets, like the rear bench accommodations, emphasize comfort over lateral support.
Serene yet strong, the supercharged all-aluminum 4.2-liter 32-valve quad-cam V-8 engine offers plenty of silent motive force and an enthusiastic boisterousness when called upon. Producing a robust 420 bhp and 413 lb.-ft. of torque, the V-8 allowed us to achieve a standstill-to-60-mph time of only 5.0 seconds and the quarter-mile in only 13.4 sec. at 107.7 mph. In normal driving, the quiet engine is but a murmur to those riding within.
Of equal aplomb and efficiency is the refined 6-speed ZF automatic transmission. Formula 1-style steering-wheel-mounted paddle shifters further complement the performance-oriented character of this British luxury sports sedan.
Driver-aid technologies are continuously evolving in the upper-crust sedan segment and the XF sports some new ones including Understeer Control Logic that automatically slows the vehicle to restore front tire adhesion when necessary. JaguarDrive Control allows the driver to change the engine mapping, transmission shift points and dynamic stability control to Sport or Winter (snow and ice) settings.
Likewise, the latest in safety technology offerings are also present, including active head restraints, front and rear side-impact head curtain airbags, a tire-pressure monitoring system and automatically leveling bi-xenon headlights.
A nice balance between performance and comfort is achieved by this posh 4-door's quick, electronically adjusted suspension, a system that, fittingly for a company named for a fleet-of-foot jungle cat, is called CATS for Computer Active Technology System. Middle-of-the-road body roll is present (not real soft, not too firm) but, working with very capable 20-in. Pirelli P Zero tires with a large footprint (wide 255-mm rubber up front and even more substantial 285s aft) help the fairly hefty 4335-lb. sedan to post a respectable 0.88g on the skidpad.
Although the slalom speed of 66.8 mph is good — equal to that of the Volkswagen GTI — we expected more from the XF with its solid-feeling chassis, responsive dampers and excellent tires. A surprisingly sluggish throttle was the culprit, making it hard to quickly adjust the weight transfer, as is needed in the slalom. "All of the hardware is there, but the software holds it back from being a really world-class performance-handling sedan," said Elfalan.
The lethargic throttle response in testing may have been related to another issue at the track: With traction control deactivated, the XF would not allow us to spin the rear wheels — excessively or even lightly — during our acceleration runs. "This is a gentleman's car, so I guess you're not supposed to do burnouts," said Kim. He's right: Nobody is going to be autocrossing this luxurious British sports sedan. Rather, they should appreciate the XF for what it is — an eminently capable and stylish 4-door with a top-flight interior and componentry. It can be a muscle car when called upon, or a whisper-quiet cruiser as needed.
With a full complement of standard accessories — keyless start, blind-spot management, rear parking camera, heated and cooled front seats, leather, wood and aluminum interior trim, etc. — and a base price of $62,200, our supercharged edition's options are limited to only adaptive cruise control with collision warning ($2200) and a heated steering wheel ($300).
The XF is definitely a worthy enough machine to help Jaguar get back into the black. But it will be an unjust irony of sorts if — after injecting untold billions of dollars and years of engineering input from the Ford Motor Company — this car becomes a very good seller for this storied brand's new Indian owner, Tata Motors.