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How ironic is this. Jaguar, that most traditional of British luxury cars created in the post-war strength of the empire, will soon be owned by a company from the colonies.
As the Indian conglomerate Tata prepares to buy Jaguar and Land Rover in a $2.2 billion package deal, the car company that is a division of Ford unveils a stunning sedan that could just produce lifesaving riches.
Late last year Ford put Jaguar and Land Rover up for sale to divest itself of what it saw as weaker assets. Perhaps it didn't know about the XF.
This is Jaguar's latest mid-sized sedan and replaces the retro-styled S-Type. It is itself moulded on the two-door XK range
Jaguar, for the moment ignoring what may happen in India, sees the XF as more than a rival for BMW, Mercedes-Benz, Audi and whoever else wants a slice of the luxury car segment.
Coming into Australia in June and very competitively priced from $105,500, the XF has already attracted 200 Aussie pre-sales orders. More than 50 per cent are non-Jaguar owners.
The saloon, based extensively on the XK sports, will be offered in four versions in Australia, starting with the bi-turbo V6 turbo-diesel and 3-litre V6 petrol Luxury models, both priced at $105,500.
Then there is a 4.2-litre V8 Premium Luxury model at $130,500 and at the top, the 4.2-litre supercharged SV8 version at $166,700. Jaguar dealers have said they are surprised at the value in the prices considering the feature list.
Efforts have also been made to ensure buyers are protected as much as possible by poor resale value that has been linked to quality control issues.
The car is designed by a young team and emphasis has been placed on quality, said project director Mick Mohan.
There is also a move to introduce a younger audience. Overall, Jaguar owners in Australia average 59 years of age. BMW, by comparison, is at 44 years.
The XF is the second in Jaguar chief designer Ian Callum's reinvention of the marque after the XK. The latest Jag shares some components including engine, transmission and some suspension pieces, with the XK even having a similar set of tail lights to Callum's other drawing, the Aston Martin DB7.
It's a very pretty car with modern styling and lines that belie its size.
“We are done with retro,” said Mr Callum of the car that replaces the S-Type.
Jaguar has created a big car that feels small. Externally, it appears on par with the now defunct S-Type though the cabin feels as roomy as the larger XJ saloon with a right cabin laden with quality rim and a bit of design flourish.
The driving position feels sporty, primarily because of the high centre console that makes a distinction in separating the front occupants.
The sporty nature of the XF is further enforced by bold instrument graphics, aluminium flash through the dashboard, the wide-rimmed leather-bound steering wheel and phosphor-blue mood lighting. Jaguar XF program director Mick Mohan said; “It's like sitting in a sports car and that's the way a Jaguar should feel.”
"There's a lot of wood in fact, more than any Jaguar in the past 40 years together with the finest leather."
There are accoutrements like the push-button starter which illuminates and pulses like a heartbeat before being pressed into action. Touch this starter and the ventilation vents rotate from their closed position. Jaguar said this empties stale air from the vents before fresh air is introduced into the cabin.
Very few fittings are options, so even the two cheapest models, the V6 petrol and turbo-diesel at $105,500, have competitive feature lists.
All models get sophisticated audio systems; the entry-level has 140-watts and eight speakers with sat nav, TV, iPod and iPhone interfaces, Bluetooth and so on.
In many cases, the XF will outdo most European rivals.
Much effort has been placed on widening the car to move occupants apart and this has been effected without damaging shoulder room for the driver.
There's seating for four adults though five is plausible.
The XF gets Jaguar's biggest boot and, surprisingly for this class of car, split and folding rear seats for luggage versatility.
A space-saver spare tyre is standard though some markets will be offered a repair kit, basically aerosol goo, to increase boot space.
Ignore the remote keyless entry, the press-button starter and the subsequent pop-up central gear selector and the most impressive feature of Jaguar's alluring XF sedan is the exhaust note.
Each of the engines — 3-litre V6 petrol, a supercharged and normally-aspirated 4.2-litre V8 and the sole bi-turbo 2.7-litre V6 turbo-diesel — makes its mark on the surrounding countryside from a deep burble to a barely-restrained high-rev roar.
Of course, all the noise is accompanied by brisk engine performance that combines neatly with pleasant road manners.
Jaguar provided three models for its international launch in Provence and Monaco — the 3-litre V6 was absent with the turbo-diesel the first drive car.
It comes with the same PSA-derived engine also picked up in different tunes by the Peugeot 407 and Land Rover Discovery.
There is added refinement to virtually negate idle clatter.
At speed, any speed, it's as quiet as a sophisticated petrol engine. It's also incredibly flexible and has a locomotive mid-range power delivery that brings a smile to any face.
That smile gets wider when after 300km through France's high-speed autoroutes and narrow mountain zig-zags, the trip computer relays a fuel consumption figure of only 8.4 litres/100km.
That gives a range of almost 830km which, more than concerns about fuel prices, makes diesel-engined saloons so appealing to buyers in a hurry.
Like its petrol-fuelled counterparts, the diesel drives the rear wheels through a six-speed ZF automatic with sequential mode and steering-wheel paddle shifters.
The supercharged V8, like the diesel and the normally-aspirated V8, is a carry-over engine that has only mild tweaks.
Clearly, Jaguar has released the XF with the focus on street presence knowing that it already has a desirable armoury of power plants.
Obviously, with 306kW and a massive 560Nm of torque, the supercharged version is a raucous machine.
Jaguar aims it at the top-end, performance seeker and has come to the party with a saloon that will run the 100km/h sprint in a claimed 5.4 seconds.
In fact, it feels more like a sub-5 second car and that sits with Jaguar's conservative attitude.
This engine comes with a gearbox with more switchable features, such as turning off the electronic stability control (ESC) and a dynamic mode for full manual shifting and more sensitive throttle feel.
While the exhaust noise is audible, it is muted enough not to impinge on the luxury theme.
Impressive also on all models is the flat-cornering stance and delightfully-weighted steering that balances the ability to relay road feel with sufficient lightness to ease parking effort.
The XF gets high marks for comfort and ergonomics, though visibility is poor especially to the rear through its stylish window.
|2.7D Luxury||2.7L, Diesel, 6 SP AUTO||$15,868 – 17,868||2008 Jaguar XF 2008 2.7D Luxury Pricing and Specs|
|3.0 V6 Luxury||3.0L, PULP, 6 SP AUTO||$13,777 – 21,450||2008 Jaguar XF 2008 3.0 V6 Luxury Pricing and Specs|
|4.2 SV8 Supercharged||4.2L, PULP, 6 SP AUTO||$28,160 – 33,990||2008 Jaguar XF 2008 4.2 SV8 Supercharged Pricing and Specs|
|4.2 V8 Luxury||4.2L, PULP, 6 SP AUTO||$20,900 – 26,400||2008 Jaguar XF 2008 4.2 V8 Luxury Pricing and Specs|