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Jaguar XF


BMW M3

Summary

Jaguar XF

If a Jaguar owner fell through a wormhole from 2003, the company they bought their car from would be   almost unrecognisable. Back then, it was a bewildering mess making an odd assortment of cars, yet to emerge into the light after Ford's confused and debilitating period of ownership. 

Why 2003? Fifteen years is a nice round number and pre-dates the arrival of the brand-saving XF.

Today, Jaguar has three SUVs, and the gorgeous F-Type, the XE, its second-generation XF and the big XJ. It has three SUVs (the F-Pace, E-Pace and I-Pace) because without them Jaguar would be a niche manufacturer before long, because big sedans, formerly the brand's trademark, are continuing their gentle decline. Oddly enough, one of the market segments contracting even faster than sedans is wagons

So what better time to launch into a draining pool from the three-metre board than now? Jaguar has bravely taken that risk and brought us the puzzlingly named XF Sportbrake.

Safety rating
Engine Type3.0L turbo
Fuel TypeDiesel
Fuel Efficiency5.9L/100km
Seating5 seats

BMW M3

If you’ve got a thirst for power that would make Vladimir Putin seem benign, you’ll likely find the BMW M3 a little underwhelming, what with its measly 331kW/550Nm and a propensity to spin the rear tyres into rubber-flinging oblivion with each traction control-free prod of the accelerator.

Happily, there's now a solution. Enter the M3 CS (Competition Sport); a track-ready special edition that ups the performance ante right across the board, with more power, stiffer suspension, better aero and the kind of angry exhaust note that sets tectonic plates a-rumbling. 

So, is more M3 never enough? Or is the new CS too angry for its own good?

Safety rating
Engine Type3.0L turbo
Fuel TypePremium Unleaded Petrol
Fuel Efficiency8.8L/100km
Seating5 seats

Verdict

Jaguar XF7.4/10

With that iron fist wrapped in a velvet glove wrapped in bubble wrap engine, excellent ride and gorgeous looks, the XF Sportbrake ticks all the boxes. Apart from the entry price and options prices, there are few objective reasons not to buy the car. It's just as good as any of its German competition and arguably the prettiest of the lot.

Should Jaguar have taken the dive? Given the XF Sportbrake is a luxury wagon done right, yes.

So you've decided you want a prestige wagon? Is it the Jaguar for you, or do you need a German machine to lug your load?


BMW M37.6/10

The biggest, baddest M3 is also the very best of the current breed. It's a specialist tool, sure, but if you're in the market for a track-attack sedan that will paint a smile on your face, even while striking fear into your heart, then look no further.

Jump into a BMW M3 CS or wait until next month for the new Merc-AMG C 63 S? Tell us what you think in the comments section below.

Design

Jaguar XF8/10

The second-generation XF is a very pretty car. A few carmakers have a had a crack at that four-door coupe idea, but Jaguar's Ian Callum got it right first go. You might expect the wagon to be a bit dumpy but it's far from it. That's not to say wagons can't be good looking - many are better-looking than the car they're based on (the weirdly proportioned Golf wagon being the exception to the rule). The XF sedan just looks right.

Anyway, the Sportbrake is basically the same until behind the B-pillar, with the roof continuing on to steeply raked tailgate glass. Obviously the lights are different back there but it's a nicely integrated job, it doesn't look like a dodgy extension. Rolling on the optional 20-inch wheels it looks amazing - low, long and well-proportioned. Unfortunately, it's more than vaguely hearse-like in black (the only First Edition colour).

Inside is standard XF, with the obvious exception of the rear seats and the big open load area. With this First Edition's glass roof the cabin seems infinite. Either way it's big and comfortable, although fit and finish could be a bit tighter.


BMW M39/10

Interesting, you say? Well, just look at it. The massively domed bonnet, the flared wheel guards, the blacked-out roof, the quad exhaust tips - this thing looks wild from every angle. BMW tells us you can actually swap the lightweight roof for a traditional version with a sunroof, but why on earth would you?

The dome bonnet is fitted with a massive rear-facing vent that sucks hot air off the engine, while the carbon front splitter emerges from the bottom of the grille as if the CS is forever jutting out its jaw. At the rear, the carbon wing is peaked at each end, again aiding aero efficiency, while four fat and centred exhaust tips complete a pretty angry-looking package.

Inside, it’s the usual M treatment: shoulder hugging seats, Alcantara to shave grams off the kerb weight, plus a clean and functional interior design.

The design across the board is not what you'd call understated, and it likely won't appeal to everyone, but I think it looks the absolute business.

Practicality

Jaguar XF8/10

Front and rear passengers enjoy plenty of space. Storage includes a not-quite-big-enough-for-a-phone tray ahead of the rotary dial gear selector and a pair of cupholders. Those in the rear have plenty of space, except for the middle seat occupant who must straddle a stout transmission tunnel. The rear armrest holds a pair of cupholders and the doors have slim pockets.

The boot holds 565 litres with the seats in place and "up to" 1700 litres with the seats down - that latter figure does not feel like a VDA number.


BMW M37/10

Every bit as practical as any other M3, really, which is impressive given the outrageous performance.

There are some sacrifices made in pursuit of weight loss, of course. There's no centre-console storage (replaced by a strip of Alcantara and a single, lonely USB charge point), and backseat riders lose air vents, power and just about everything else. The good news, then, is that there's space a-plenty back there, with enough head and legroom behind my own 176cm driving position.

But up front, the M3 CS is a comfortable and spacious place to spend time. There are twin cupholders, too, as well as room in each of the doors for bottles. The navigation and multimedia systems are straight-forward and easy to use, as are the performance-focused functions.

Boot space is still a claimed 480 litres with the rear seats in place, matching the storage room in the regular M3.

Price and features

Jaguar XF7/10

Over the years the XF has edged its way upmarket and is now playing with the Germans in the big luxury segment. And as is now customary for Jaguar, the Sportbrake is available in First Edition guise. First Editions are available for a model's first year of production and are usually based on the top-spec (in the Sportbrake's case, that's the 30d S) with a few extra bits and pieces to make things interesting.

While the 30d S retails for $123,450, the FE weighs in at $137,300. For that you'll waft out of the showroom with 19-inch alloys, dual-zone climate control, a huge panoramic glass roof with gesture-activated roof blind, around-view camera, front and rear parking sensors, 11-speaker Meridian-branded stereo with DAB, sat nav, head-up display, electric gesture-activated tailgate, keyless entry and start, rear air suspension, auto LED headlights, auto wipers, leather trim and a space-saver spare.

Jaguar Land Rover's 'InControl' media system is presented on a whopping 12.3-inch screen and, as ever, is steadily improving but goes without Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. The sound is, as you might expect, pretty good.

Our car had a few options fitted. 'Active Safety Pack' (see below), carbon-fibre trim ($3470), driver and passenger memory pack ($3210, including perforated leather trim), 20-inch wheels upgrade ($2790), cold-climate pack ($2540), illuminated metal treadplates ($2110), privacy glass ($950), 'InControl Protect' ($630), configurable interior lighting ($540), nets and rails ($390 and $320 respectively), extra power socket ($240) and 'InControl Apps' ($100). Most of it is cosmetic and/or unnecessary and took us to $158,950.

And there is still a plethora of boxes to tick.


BMW M37/10

At $179,900, the CS sets a new top-price for the M3 family, well above the $146,529 of the Competition version and miles clear of the entry-level Pure ($129,529). And so you might think you get much more for your money, but you would be wrong. In fact, you get much less.

This is a car designed with the relentless pursuit of performance in mind, so expect few extra luxuries - all of which would add weight. Instead, you get more power (of course), as well as a quad-tipped exhaust tuned to sound like the world is ending around you.

Semi-slick Michelin Cup tyres, lighter alloys, a race-focused bonnet (which, along with the roof, is made from a carbon-fibre/plastic composite, helping shave 10kg off the curb weight), some clever aero tech at the rear and lighter cabin materials also join the the standard features list.

Outside, expect staggered alloys (19-inch front, 20-inch rear), adaptive LED headlights and keyless entry. Inside, you'll find air-conditioning, navigation and a 12-speaker harman/kardon stereo controlled through an 8.8-inch screen.

Engine & trans

Jaguar XF7/10

The First Edition ships with Jaguar's 3.0-litre twin-turbo diesel V6. Good for 221kW and a prodigious 700Nm, power heads to the rear wheels via an eight-speed ZF automatic.

With all that power and torque, the XF Sportbrake cracks 100km/h from rest in 6.6 seconds.

The air suspension means you can tow up to 2000kg with a braked trailer.


BMW M39/10

The M3’s twin-turbo 3.0-litre straight-six engine has been tweaked to produce 338kW and a stonking 600Nm of tyre-frying torque. It’s channeled through a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic and sent to the rear wheels.

That’s enough, BMW says, for a blistering 3.9sec sprint from 0-100km/h, with the CS pushing on to a flying top speed of 280km/h.

Fuel consumption

Jaguar XF7/10

Jaguar claims a combined-cycle figure of 5.9L/100km. Our time with it was mostly shuttling around the suburbs with a couple of highway runs and we managed a respectable 8.3L/100km.


BMW M37/10

BMW reckons you'll return 8.5L/100km on the combined cycle, with CO2 emissions pegged at 198g/km. But we politely disagree. We drove the CS in the fashion we imagine everyone will - or at least should, and our numbers were a little higher than that. Like three times higher.

Driving

Jaguar XF7/10

There's no getting away from the size and heft of the Sportbrake. Where a four-cylinder sedan comes in under 1600kg - not bad for an almost five-metre-long car - up here at the top it's well over 1800kg. With big wheels and a long wheelbase it's not going to win any wards for manoeuvrability, with a big turning circle and a length that's challenging to shopping centre car parks.

The 3.0 V6 twin-turbo is a fantastic unit. It can be a bit noisy when cold but it's super smooth and with all that torque it crushes overtaking with little need for advanced planning. The Sportbrake wafts along, lazily turning over in traffic and keeping the vibe calm.

Despite those big wheels, the ride is excellent. Even when in Sport mode, it's a rare bump or surface that will cause drama. It's very comfortable and very quiet, almost to the level of the XJ limo.

If you do fancy a bit of amusement, the V6 and well-sorted chassis are ready to play. In reality, Sport mode is where both myself and my wife left the car the whole time we had it. Both of us found the steering a little too light and preferred the more lively throttle response. The XF features torque vectoring using the brakes and coupled with a well-judged stability and traction control system, it delivers a good impression of a sporty sedan.

But the XF is best when you keep it relaxed. Both in town and in the cruise, it's a lovely, quiet place to be and a relaxing, undemanding drive. 

Only a couple of things were annoying - the light steering we've already covered. The heated windscreen was more reflection-prone so the head-up display could be hard to see in some lighting conditions. And sometimes it beeped for no apparent reason, which I eventually traced to the blind-spot warning.


BMW M39/10

The best performance cars straddle a razor-thin line between exhilarating and terrifying, and the M3 CS definitely parks an axle on either side of the divide.

It's not for the faint-hearted, the CS; it can be an angry, twitchy, rear-grip-relinquishing handful. And not just when you're overly aggressive on the exit of a corner (though also definitely then), but even when you plant your foot on a dead-straight, perfectly smooth and bone-dry patch of tarmac.

As a result, your heart is almost always beating just a little bit faster being the wheel, almost from the moment you slip into the driver’s seat and prod the start button, the exhaust barking into life like a whip cracking in your eardrum.

So intimidating at times, sure. But also huge handfuls of fun. The M3 (and the M3 Competition) experience has been fine tuned to near-enough perfection in the CS formula, from the super direct steering to the thunderous flow of power to the booming exhaust.

This is not a car built for suburban exploring, but BMW deserves credit for making its CS feel pretty liveable when it’s not being driven in anger. The suspension tuning especially, while you’d never accuse it of being overly comfortable, does a surprisingly good job of soaking up corrugations and bumps while still feeling ever-connected to the road below.

Safety

Jaguar XF8/10

The XF comes with six airbags, ABS, stability and traction controls, forward AEB, reversing camera, lane-departure warning, and tyre-pressure monitoring.

For child seats you've a choice of three top-tether anchors or two ISOFIX points.

Our car had the $4360 Active Safety Pack, which adds blind-spot monitoring, reverse cross traffic alert, lane-keep assist, adaptive cruise and driver-attention detection. If you were to ask me, this little lot should be standard at this level.

Despite that, the XF scored a maximum five ANCAP stars following assessment in 2015.


BMW M36/10

Another victim of the performance goals here, I'm afraid, with everything that can be removed, removed - hell, even the reversing camera has been punted.

Instead, the safety package consists of front, and front-side airbags and a performance-focused traction and braking package. Parking sensors front and rear, active cruise and speed-limit recognition round out a fairly basic package.

The rest of the BMW range received the maximum five-star ANCAP safety rating when crash tested in 2012.

Ownership

Jaguar XF7/10

Jaguars are offered with a three-year/100,000km warranty with a matching roadside-assist package. You can purchase a five-year/130,000km service plan for an oddly reasonable $2200. Even more reasonable are the service intervals - 12 months or 26,000km (!).


BMW M37/10

BMW's three-year/unlimited kilometre warranty applies here, with a "condition-based servicing" schedule that means you're car will tell you when work is required. You can prepay your servicing costs for the first five years of ownership, spanning $3350 to $8450 depending on your level of coverage.