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Jaguar XF-S 30D 2016 review

The XF packs engineering and tech but lacks the edginess to combat coming German rivals.

When Jaguar created the original XF it rewrote its own rules. All the historical stuff holding the British brand back to the 1950s, from oily engineering to ancient drawing-room ambience, was binned in favour of a thoroughly modern approach to mid-size luxury motoring.

It worked. The XF laid the foundations — and the financial base — of the classy cars that have followed.

For once, the XF was a Jaguar that didn't need any excuses. It still didn't trouble the Mercedes-Benz E-Class or BMW 5 Series on the sales charts but it did a brilliant job for a Jaguar and lots of people were won to over the brand.

Why the (recent) history lesson? Because here's the new XF and, sad to say, I'm a bit underwhelmed.

It has some important engineering changes but it looks and drives far too much like the original for my liking.

I still love the ride quality and the diesel-powered XF test car has a whacking 700Nm of torque to punt it along. There is more space in the rear seat. But it's not enough.

This XF is evolution from a company that has done brilliantly with revolution, from the first XF and the F-Type sports car to the XE that was a Car of the Year finalist in 2015. Now the F-Pace is taking the brand into the modern SUV world for the first time.

It arrives with promises of aluminium building blocks that make the car stiffer and lighter, to the benefit of fuel economy. There are new-age engines, an excellent eight-speed automatic with sports programming and paddle-shifters, a quieter cabin and extra multimedia technology.

The steering is meaty, the brakes are good and the car really likes to romp

Pricing starts at $120,700 for the S with the 3.0-litre V6 turbo diesel. The test car is loaded up to $132,530 with such extras as a giant glass sunroof, sports leather seats, 20-inch black alloy wheels, reverse traffic detection and powered bootlid.

It's a reasonable deal but I keep thinking about the new Mercedes-Benz E-Class due later this year. The new XF might feel more modern than a current 5 Series from BMW but I can't see it surviving the inevitable onslaught from the coming Benz.

But that's the future and, since I've already been through the past, it's time for the present with the XF.

First impressions are good, as the S bodykit adds some impact, as do the gloss black alloys. On the safety front, there are multi-mode driving control, auto safety braking, LED headlamps and the updated (if somewhat fiddly) multimedia.

It's just scored a five-star rating from ANCAP, which means the safety is top class, and it's also good to see affordable capped price servicing and 26,000km service intervals. The official fuel rating is 5.5L/100km yet it can do the 0-100km/h sprint in a lively 6.2 seconds.

Settling into the sports seats, I like the driving position and the heft of the controls. The steering is meaty, the brakes are good and the car really likes to romp from as little as 2000rpm thanks to the torque shove from the V6.

The suspension is exactly what I expect from Jaguar — developed with input from brilliant chassis tester Mike Cross — with excellent body control, neutral handling balance and exceptional grip. It's one area where the Jaguar leads the class, making potential rivals including Lexus feel primitive.

Even on 20-inch wheels, which would normally produce a jarring ride and too much noise, the chassis keeps its composure.

On the living front, the boot is roomy, there is discernible extra space in the rear and outward vision is pretty good.

The XF is missing some of the edginess of recent Jaguars.

Partner Ali is not happy that she can't see the leading edge of the bonnet and has to rely on the rear-view camera at the supermarket but that's becoming more and more common in all cars.

The XF is an excellent country-road runner, cruising frugally and comfortably, and can also get along briskly on a twisting road. The best tip is to shift to the Sports setting on the transmission and use the paddles both to slow the car and slingshot out of corners by keeping the engine turning at about 3000rpm in the meat of the torque band.

It definitely feels as quick as Jaguar claims but I can't match the fuel economy. It's disappointing to find a space-saver spare and there is no tow rating for a car that could easily haul a small boat.

It sounds pretty good, and it is, but the XF is missing some of the edginess of recent Jaguars.

It's not as crisp as the original and definitely not as sharp as the XE. I wonder whether some of the soul has been sacrificed to make it more acceptable for people who want transport ahead of driving.

It's not as much of a Jaguar as I want and need, and not as bold as I think it should be to stand out against Audi and Benz and BMW and, yes, even Lexus and Infiniti.

Verdict

So the XF is a perfectly fine and perfectly acceptable car. But is it a car I would recommend?

No, not really. And definitely not with the E-Class just up the road. So, even though I like the car and enjoy driving it, The Tick eludes it.

Does the XF earn your tick of approval? Tell us what you think in the comments below.

Click here to see more 2016 Jaguar XF pricing and spec info.

Pricing Guides

$61,490
Based on 40 cars listed for sale in the last 6 months
Lowest Price
$39,990
Highest Price
$85,990

Range and Specs

VehicleSpecsPrice*
20D Prestige 2.0L, Diesel, 8 SP AUTO $39,990 – 67,900 2016 Jaguar XF 2016 20D Prestige Pricing and Specs
20D R-Sport 2.0L, Diesel, 8 SP AUTO $49,990 – 57,990 2016 Jaguar XF 2016 20D R-Sport Pricing and Specs
25T Portfolio 2.0L, PULP, 8 SP AUTO $49,990 – 69,900 2016 Jaguar XF 2016 25T Portfolio Pricing and Specs
25T R-Sport 2.0L, PULP, 8 SP AUTO $49,990 – 77,990 2016 Jaguar XF 2016 25T R-Sport Pricing and Specs
Pricing Guide

$39,990

Lowest price, based on 30 car listings in the last 6 months

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