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First Drive and Review: 2016 Jaguar XF


The 2016 Jaguar XF has been completely re-engineered, though you’d never know it from the exterior.

MSRP
$62,700 (est. base price, excluding destination charge)
Engine
3.0-L supercharged V-6
Power
380-hp; 339 lb.-ft.

Jaguar has suddenly become the strong and silent type.

The British automaker has a long-held reputation for being a little bit brasher, a smidge more mischievous than the competition. Whether it has been stoic German luxury brands, or politely unassuming Japanese ones, a Jaguar automobile, in comparison, has been the automotive equivalent of arriving in bold pin-stripes amongst a sea of somber grey suits.

Except now, even the likes of Lexus, normally that last bastion of completely safe and non-polarizing design, has thrown caution to the wind. Huge grilles, sedans masquerading as coupes, and highly complex LED lighting have literally changed the face of the luxury car world.

Jaguar brought us to sunny Spain to drive several variants of the new XF, including the diesel version and 380-hp S model (seen here).Nick Kurczewski

Jaguar brought us to sunny Spain to drive several variants of the new XF, including the diesel version and 380-hp S model (seen here).

So along comes the brand new 2016 XF sedan and, to be frank, you might hardly notice it at all. That’s not because it’s an unattractive car. The XF is very nicely proportioned; the front end is particularly good looking, with its narrow headlamps, large lower air intakes, and wide grille.

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The cabin of the 2016 XF is clean and uncluttered, though too short on the special touches that make a Jaguar cabin so unique.Jaguar

The cabin of the 2016 XF is clean and uncluttered, though too short on the special touches that make a Jaguar cabin so unique.

The sides of the XF are clean and uncluttered but, in my opinion, some curves to the fenders would make it stand out better. At the rear, sorry, to my eyes it’s anonymity-ville. At a distance, I mistook a sparkly new XF for an Acura – and this was during a test drive in Spain, a place where Acura vehicles should really not have been anywhere on my automotive radar.

No excuses or serious complaints can be levied at the cabin, which gets an overdue remodeling and features clear controls and a more modern infotainment interface. Maybe Jaguar erred too much on going to coldly clinical route, however. If your idea of a Jag sedan cabin involves burled walnut wood trim and smatterings of chrome, this is going to feel like you’ve bypassed the cozy confines of your beloved old XJ6 for, say, a spell in the waiting room of your local dentist.

Jaguar has lightened the new XF by upwards of 200 lbs., depending on the trim level you choose.Nick Kurczewski

Jaguar has lightened the new XF by upwards of 200 lbs., depending on the trim level you choose.

There are lots of nice details, don’t get me wrong. The front leather seats were very comfortable during a long day of driving, the TFT gauge cluster in directly ahead of the driver’s helm is crisp and futuristic, while stretch out room in the back is more than enough for long-limbed adults. I personally like the circular gear-change, too, which raises or lowers when the car is turned on or off. Some auto critics have labeled it as being a bit garish or superfluous. I think these are silly people, ones who should be ignored at all costs.

Granted, there’s nothing wildly cutting-edge about the cabin, such as the latest navigation display we recently discovered experienced in the Audi TT, or the Volvo XC90’s center screen. But it all gets the job done and makes negotiating various controls simple and perfectly painless – meaning you don’t need to spend a month with the owner’s manual to change something like the fan settings, or how to turn on the heated seats.

Despite being slightly shorter than the previous generation, the new XF has a longer wheelbase. This helps free up more cabin room, especially for rear seat occupants.Nick Kurczewski

Despite being slightly shorter than the previous generation, the new XF has a longer wheelbase. This helps free up more cabin room, especially for rear seat occupants.

Jaguar saved its most important changes for many of the things you can’t see, which is a good thing if you’re the lucky one doing the driving. The XF has lost a ton of weight, more than 200 lbs. in total (though this varies depending on the model you choose). This has been done thanks to Jaguar’s continued push for aluminum-intensive structures in the company’s entire range of vehicles.  Overall, the new XF is slightly shorter than before, but a stretch in wheelbase has helped carve out some of the aforementioned rear seat room.

This is a Jaguar, and I haven’t even gotten to the engines at this point of the review? Bear with me, there will be no more talk about heated seats or the sensuous touch of a door handle. In the U.S., the XF will be available in either rear or all-wheel-drive format, and three engines will be available to start. These include supercharged, 3.0-liter V-6s delivering 340-hp or 380-hp, along with a choice of 2.0-liter turbo diesel 4-cylinder. This latter engine, which offers 180-hp and 317 lb.-ft. of torque, would have been a tough sell even before VW ruined the diesel party for pretty much everyone here in the U.S.

The best angle of the XF is probably the car's expressive front end.Nick Kurczewski

The best angle of the XF is probably the car’s expressive front end.

I spent some time with this diesel and, to be honest, I don’t see many Jaguar buyers being lured by the promise of fuel economy that exceeds 40 mpg on the highway. That big chunk of torque is nice on the open road, when wafting along mile after mile. But for my money, the supercharged sixes are the way to go.

The vast majority of my driving was done in the 380-hp S model, in both rear and all-wheel-drive format. This motor, coupled with the quick-thinking 8-speed automatic, had excellent responses and a fluidity that pairs nicely with the XF’s compliant ride. This car really does have a more nimble feel to it, and the electronic steering, while not the final word in corner-cutting prowess, keeps pace with everything the engine and suspension throw at it.

In the 380-hp S model, seen here, the run from 0 to 60 mph takes an estimated 5.1 seconds. Top speed is 155 mph.Nick Kurczewski

In the 380-hp S model, seen here, the run from 0 to 60 mph takes an estimated 5.1 seconds. Top speed is 155 mph.

That can be a whole lot, considering the XF S accelerates from 0 to 60 mph in 5.1 seconds and has a top speed of 155 mph. If the rest of the car was a slouch in some way, you’d know it…quickly!

While the XF is another fine choice in a crowded luxury field, I know Jaguar’s true revolution hinges upon the smaller and cheaper XE sedan, and especially the F-Pace sport-utility. Those two vehicles will make or break Jaguar’s fortune over the coming years – much as I’d like to fool myself into thinking the company can live on F-Type sales alone.

As important as the XF might be, Jaguar's smaller XE sedan and F-Pace SUV are going to completely redefine the English automaker.Nick Kurczewski

As important as the XF might be, Jaguar’s smaller XE sedan and F-Pace SUV are going to completely redefine the English automaker.

The 2016 XF is different enough to lure car buyers who might have never considered a Jaguar before. That it’s also dynamically fun to drive, and even more user-friendly, could also mean these newcomers remain Jaguar owners for a long time, and across several models.

Did I mention how important the F-Pace is going to be? Stay tuned, there is a lot more to come from Jag.

 

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