NEW model Jaguars aren’t exactly a common phenomenon, so when an all-new derivative arrives in the market, expectations are raised. Indeed, the very level of anticipation may trigger unduly close analysis so the question to be answered outside all the hype, is: “Does the latest generation of Jaguar XF match or exceed expectations?”
This ”new” model has taken quite a while to reach African shores so there have been plenty of opportunities to read opinions from around the world, but what readers will want to know is how the latest from the Coventry litter shapes up in home conditions.
A recent launch event held in Gauteng provided some of the answers but as I’ve always said, driving around for a day or two, usually on the open road rather than in the daily grind, doesn’t always generate a comprehensive picture that encapsulates the real ownership experience.
Inevitably, comparisons will be made with the Merc E-Class, the Audi A6 and the BMW 5-Series but on this occasion, I’m not driving into that territory as this is not a comparative test. But I will state that the ultra-high tech new Mercedes E-Class is only months away from taking to the road and it is this model that others have the most to fear.
In my book, one of Jaguar’s problems in terms of volumes is that it hasn’t achieved sufficient conquest sales to get the cash registers turning over at high speed. One of the brand’s hurdles is founded in consumer perceptions based on reasoning that says a Jaguar is not built for African roads. And secondly, the uptake of traditional three-box saloons has been dwindling for years as the SUV craze has taken hold.
On the former issue, modern Jaguar saloons are very different animals from the days of yore and frankly, I can’t really see why an XF is any less suitable than the German brigade for running around on reasonably-surfaced roads. Frankly, anyone who has to traverse nasty roads on a regular basis is mad in the head to buy any luxury saloon but at least with the Jaguar, there’s a segment-leading 5 year/150 000km warranty to provide solid reassurance.
What’s more, Jaguar isn’t into high volume production which means it doesn’t have to design cars that may be toned-down in certain areas to ensure a broad-based appeal.
This is precisely what makes Jaguars distinctive which means that sporting overtones have often been adopted at the expense of passenger space. Those flowing roof lines and heavily-tapered flanks take their toll for obvious reasons. That said, the new XF is still very obviously a Jag but now with sharper lines that are, in the eyes of many, somewhat too similar to those of the XE.
With a clean sheet of paper and a reasonably long gestation period, a more revolutionary design may have been expected but even if this new model isn’t quite as graceful as the outgoing XF, it is definitely more tautly-sculpted and most importantly, it really does offer more rear seat space and a more usable luggage area. Furthermore, aerodynamic drag has been reduced as the Cd figure of 0.26 proves.
Under the bonnet, you’re also offered the option of a leaner, cleaner 2.0 Ingenium diesel engine fresh from the new manufacturing facility in Wolverhampton. This motor is supplemented by the more familiar 177kW 2.0 petrol mill and the melodious 3.0 V6 petrol about which more in a moment.
In South Africa, a four–model range is offered, specifically XF Prestige, XF Portfolio, XF R-Sport and XF S all with 8-speed auto transmission. Jaguar as usual has made serious efforts to curb weight and with the aid of aluminium–intensive architecture, up to 190kg has been shed. Wheelbase is up by 51mm, front overhang is reduced by 66mm, overall length is down by 7mm and height has shrunk by 3mm. At the same time, torsional rigidity has been improved by around 28 percent to the benefit of structural integrity, refinement and handling.
The launch route consisted of a mix of motorway, sweeping A-roads and busy urban access roads, some with mildly indifferent surfaces which helped in assessing the feel of the chassis. Of most interest to me was the new Ingenium diesel which I was advised will be offered across sub-Sahara Africa markets too.
This motor is torque-rich as the stats have already revealed and the rewards come in the shape of effortless progress aided and abetted by that still-wonderful 8-speed auto activated by the familiar rotary controller in parallel with paddler shifters.
Up-hill and down dale, this motor provides serene progress with an absolute minimum of fuss and so little aural disturbance, you’d not know a diesel was doing the work. However, a heavier foot such as employed when getting away from a standstill with extra fervour, does reveal a slightly growly nature that betrays the composition of the fuel. If you’ll be doing a lot of open road work over longer distances, this is the motor to have, especially as it has a low thirst indicated by a combined figure of 4.3l/100km which I suspect would translate into a more realistic 6.5l/100km in daily use.
The 2.0 turbo petrol offers a surprisingly meaty delivery when pressed but as it needs more revs than the diesel, it never feels quite as relaxed in open road driving but it is more responsive off the line and is mostly devoid of turbo lag so would be my choice if urban driving conditions predominate.
The 3.0 supercharged six-cylinder motor offers different rewards. As with most sixes, the melody produced under load is music to the ears and the surging acceleration and dismissal of gradients is grin-inducing, but so effective are modern force-fed, smaller displacement engines that the choice of this larger motor is something of an indulgence, albeit a pleasant one! Also, be aware that in overall use, fuel consumption of around 12l/100km or more would be realistic despite a combined figure of 8.3 being projected.
If all three engines earn their spurs in different ways, the standout feature of the new XF is its ride. Imperfections are soaked up with minimal disturbance thanks to an underlying initial pliancy which is countered at speed by astonishing levels of control and agility normally only associated with rock hard installations. Rebound control is exceptional which means dips and crests taken at speed simply don’t create a disturbance and thanks to a responsive power steering system, quick directional changes are effected with no effort and maximum assurance.
Somehow, Jaguar has managed to retain the expected sporty feel associated with the brand but with no sacrifice in ride comfort and talking of comfort, the cabin of the XF is also a great place to while away time. Truth be told, the cabin is a tad familiar if you’ve been exposed to the XE but materials are, in the main, more premium and rear space is vastly better, albeit still not palatial. I particularly liked the heavily-grained trim of the upper dash surfaces and the cocoon-like environment created for front-seat occupants.
Other areas to have been tweaked include the infotainment system which is now less cluttered and more intuitive, albeit that the InControl Touch System is still not quite up with the best. Jaguar has also stepped-up the number of high-tech assistance items, not least an excellent head-up display, full LED headlights, All-Surface Progress Control and an automated parking system but please be aware that such features are not necessarily standard-fit on all models. Again, I suggest a visit to a Jag website to get a full run-down on all the offerings which are simply too comprehensive to enumerate here.
To answer my earlier question about whether the new XF measures up to expectations, the answer is “most definitely”, especially for those who value driving dynamics above all else. In a way, the new model has shed some of the slightly laid-back aura of the outgoing XF and become a sharper, more agile contender which despite its obviously leaner disposition, really does offer decent space for four adults and their luggage.
Please talk to Premier Auto, the authorised Jaguar importer for Zimbabwe, about their XF plans.
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