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Jaguar XF | review

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    The 2.0 litre Jaguar XF has great balance in price and performance, comfort and wow factor. Photo Gallery

Neil Dowling road tests and reviews the Jaguar XF Luxury with specs, fuel economy and verdict.

Jaguar XF 4

galleryDon’t let the cute look of sadness fool you. Cats live in a self-absorbing world on the knife-edge of impetuous affection and murderous intent. Simply, it is an oxymoron to describe Fluff as a domesticated animal. We only think they are trained to do what we want.

Yet this unsettling independence is part of the cat's appeal. The bonus is that they purr, have soft fur and an ability to self-clean that a dog can't match.

Early Jaguar cars had similar issues, the most alarming being a regular desire to leave home and live in a mechanic's workshop. Now that desire has tamed. The latest Jaguar XF is the least cat-like in the company's history and through smart breeding, is better equipped to take on its voracious German rivals.

VALUE

The sub-$70,000 entry point is attractive enough to lure prestige-car buyers away from the Germans. The Jaguar XF Luxury stacks up well but the little things on the option list are expensive and restraint is advised.  

For example, metallic paint is very expensive at $2650 (though British Racing Green is $4650) and it's a $990 option for split fold rear seats that takes boot space from 500 litres to 920 litres. Given the drivetrain basics are more than sufficient, consider the Premium Luxury version (an extra $6240) which includes most niceties. Standard fare is pretty good with satnav, leather-faced seats, woodgrain and metal cabin trim, 17-inch alloys, touchscreen control and a pleasant 10-speaker audio. There's no capped-price service plan and resale value is a relatively low 44 per cent, equating that of the Audi A6 but under the BMW 520i's 47 per cent.

DESIGN

The only steel-bodied Jaguar sedan left in the range is a sweet looker, made all the more beautiful in its 2011 makeover that streamlined the headlights and expand the front spoiler intakes. It's a five-seater - though far more comfortable for four adults - with a large 500-litre boot.

Though this is the base model, leather facings are used - there's no cloth option - which enhances the dashboard. There's a bit of theatre with the rotating gear shifter that rises from the console, the ``heartbeat'' red flashing light of the start button and the auto-rotating air vents - the added complexity of which makes me a bit nervous. The touchscreen is an easy way to access the car's functions and eradicates potentially dozens of dash switches, though navigation can sometimes get tedious.

TECHNOLOGY

The clever features include the cabin's creative switches and vent functions but the serious stuff starts with the insertion of Ford's 177kW/340Nm 2-litre four-cylinder turbo-petrol engine. It's a smart move but it's really the eight-speed ZF automatic transmission that makes the car sparkle. But fuel economy was disappointing, averaging 11.2 L/100km when Jaguar claims 8.9 L/100km. There is a lot of convention in the remaining components - steering, suspension and brakes - yet all work harmoniously and aided by a very rigid body. The touchscreen controls a sensible range of features including Bluetooth and iPod/USB connectivity. Jaguar's XF replacement, due in 2015, is expected to follow the bigger XJ by having an aluminium body.

SAFETY

This is a four-star crash rated car that falls short of the five-star rating of its rivals. It has all the high-end chassis and brake electronics, six airbags, rear (but not front) park sensors, a graphics park display, dusk-sensitive bi-xenon headlights with wipers, daytime running lights, auto windscreen wipers, heated mirrors but only a space-saver spare (there's room for a full-size wheel). The Premium Luxury model gets most of the goodies missing on this Luxury version.

DRIVING

This has to be one of the best all-round prestige sedans on the market, certainly for its price. The engine is smooth and pumps torque from only 2000rpm yet has no compunction to sing at the top end of the rev range. There's plenty of performance and effectively negates any desire to have the V6 engine. But I was disappointed in the high fuel consumption and occasionally annoyed at the times when the turbo lag left the engine breathless. Ride and handling are very good. The suspension is supple and matches the cushy seats while low-speed road rumble is practically non-existent. I also reckon the steering is spot on for this type of vehicle - accurate yet neither light nor firm. It is a very enjoyable and rewarding car to drive and makes even trudging through morning traffic almost a pleasure.

VERDICT

Great balance in price and performance, comfort and "wow" factor. I'd buy one.

This reporter is on Twitter: @cg_dowling


JAGUAR XF LUXURY
Price: $68,900
Warranty: 3 years/unlimited km, roadside assist
Capped servicing: No
Service interval: 12mths/26,000km
Resale: 44%
Safety: 6 airbags, ABS, ESC, EBD, TC
Crash rating: 4-star
Engine: 2-litre, 4-cyl turbo-petrol; 177kW/340Nm
Transmission: 8-speed auto; rear drive
Thirst: 8.9L/100km; 95RON; 207g/km CO2
Dimensions: 5.0m (L), 1.9m (W), 1.5m (H)
Weight: 1754kg
Spare: space saver

RIVALS

BMW 520i - see other verdicts

Price: from $78,500

Engine: 2.0 litre, 4-cyl turbo-petrol, 135kW/270Nm

Transmission: 8-spd auto; rear drive

Thirst: 6.7L/100km; 95RON; CO2 155g/km

AUDI A6 2.0TFSI - see other verdicts

Price: from $77,900

Engine: 2.0 litre, 4-cyl turbo-petrol, 132kW/320Nm

Transmission: CVT auto; front drive

Thirst: 6.4L/100km; 95RON; CO2 149g/km

Mercedes-Benz E-Class - see other verdicts

Price: from $79,900 (E200 ELEGANCE)

Engine: 1.8-litre, 4-cyl turbo-petrol, 135kW/300Nm

Transmission: 7-speed automatic, RWD

Thirst: 6.4L/100km; 95RON; CO2 148g/km

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