Review: 2016 Jaguar XF 35t
– Cleveland, Ohio
While the big German luxury automakers – Mercedes-Benz, BMW, and Audi – chase each other in every segment imaginable, some automakers take a different tack. Lexus is trying to make its mark with wild designs. Acura has launched a new halo car in the NSX. And then there’s Jaguar, which doesn’t take a different tack than those German companies, but rather finds differentiation in more subtle ways. The XF is a perfect example. There’s nothing wholly unique about it compared to its popular rivals; it’s as comfortably luxurious and exhilaratingly sporty as they are. But it comes with an image that’s more appealing to mavericks than management types, and therein lies its appeal.
- The XF is a pretty kitty. I dare say it’s the most outwardly attractive midsize luxury sport sedan you can buy. There’s nothing complicated or clever going on with its design, and there’s not too much chrome, either. It’s just a well-proportioned, classically styled four-door that, because of the relatively small numbers that are sold, always looks fresh amidst a sea of rings, roundels, and stars. And those 20-inch Star alloy wheels, which cost an extra $1,500 on my R Sport tester, fit the XF’s sporting character perfectly. My wife’s assessment: “Handsome.”
- The suspension of this XF 35t R Sport deserves a gentleman’s clap for how adaptable it is. This car sports Jaguar’s optional Adaptive Dynamics system ($1,000) that adjusts the suspension to road conditions and your driving style in real time. It works, and well. Even when JaguarDrive is left in its standard driving mode, the XF both rides comfortably and handles sharply. Enter the Dynamic setting and things firm up, but not so much that you couldn’t drive the car in this mode all day, too.
- Jaguar’s 340-horsepower, supercharged 3.0-liter V6 engine is another gem. Thanks to this particular brand of forced induction, there’s a swell of power available at all speeds, and it comes on quietly with just a hint of that unique supercharger whine. This engine also makes the XF’s sportiest Dynamic driving mode much more easy to live with than some competitors. Often a car’s most aggressive drive mode will keep the engine operating at high RPM so it’s ready with maximum power when you need it. That’s great for response times, but grating when you just want to have some fun while driving errands. With so much torque available low in its rev range, the XF’s engine doesn’t have to stay on boil like that to be ready for when your right foot drops. That means Dynamic mode still works great for daily driving.
- The XF feels like a premium luxury sport sedan for sure, but it doesn’t feel quite as solid as competitors from Mercedes, BMW, and Audi. They’re the gold standard for ingot-like assembly; this Jaguar falls somewhere near Cadillac on that scale (I’d put brands like Lincoln and Infiniti near the bottom). All this means is that some of the switchgear doesn’t feel as expensive as it ought to, like the steering wheel-mounted shift paddles, the volume control knob, or even the rotary shift knob. These are all things that get used everyday, so even two degrees of wiggle deserves a demerit in a car costing over $70,000.
- For as gorgeous as the XF is on the outside, its interior is a letdown. The dashboard is rather conventionally styled and, while the two-tone leather in our tester is a nice touch, this particular XF was ordered without Jaguar’s new InControl Touch Pro infotainment system. That system’s 10.2-inch widescreen display, full sweep of all-digital gauges, and upgraded sound system would’ve felt right at home in this high-end car, as well as matched what its competitors are offering. Instead, the standard analog gauges and comparatively small eight-inch display look low rent.
- Because I really liked the XF, the only things left to harp on are a few quibbles. The brakes on this particular XF felt squishy, requiring more travel to effectively brake than I expected. Also, the gas and brake pedal are too close together; my size 9.5 shoes shouldn’t have been touching both as much as they were. Lastly, the rotating air vents and rising shifter knob that perform their act on start up were cool when the XF first launched in 2008, but now they’ve become trite.