What lies beneath the new Jaguar XF's seductive exterior
It is near impossible not to be seduced by Jaguar’s latest creation, given the launch setting of Pamplona and the Navarran Pyrenees in northern Spain. This expansive and hugely dramatic landscape, with its empty roads that snake high into the lush green uplands, pockets of grazing cows and sheep, wild horses and the occasional bull in the distance, makes for quite a setting. This part of the country can help create a compelling story for most vehicles, yet the XF almost ‘owned’ these silent roads.
The experience was made complete with a teaser at the Circuito de Navarra track where we were briefly let loose. Few such standard road cars can handle this challenging racing circuit, yet the light, aerodynamic, agile XF does so with apparent ease. This is a car essentially destined for a more demure life as a company vehicle and it is precisely this kind of juxtaposition that has come to distinguish Jaguar from its more cautious rivals. It is the marque’s charm.
This is the second-generation XF – the company was undergoing a huge transformation when the initial car was introduced in 2007. As an entry-level Jaguar, its task then was to court new customers and debut a distinct new design language. The swooping coupé roofline, compact body and a bold interior that played with the digital and craft world succeeded in presenting a new, confident marque. Eight years on, and with a small XE in production, it was also time for a new XF.
At the heart of the car is the firm’s new lightweight modular architecture. The design team worked closely with engineering to harness this and conceive a vehicle that is lighter yet stiffer, highly aerodynamic and more compact in proportion – yet roomier inside.
At 4,954mm the XF is 7mm shorter and 3mm lower than the previous model, yet the reduced front overhang and stretched wheelbase has allowed for 15mm more legroom and up to 27mm more headroom. The car also boasts exceptionally low aero drag of 0.26cd, achieved through a range of small design tweaks.
The fusion of light aluminium for the body panel and a mix of high strength steel in key structural areas (and the all-aluminium suspension set-up) means the car is now 190kg lighter than the outgoing model, improving fuel economy and CO2 emissions figures.
This is evidently an evolution in design, exploring the distinct silhouette of the original model while introducing a more vertical assertive mesh grille, shorter front overhang and a distinctive power bulge that now runs all the way up the elegant long bonnet.
Jaguar director of design Ian Callum points to the waistline, which sits at a more horizontal level on the new car: ‘the strongest element visually,’ the design director notes. ‘We’ve worked very hard to create a shoulder line that is much more elegant, stronger yet relaxed, in many ways, sitting underneath the window graphic of the car,’ he says, explaining how it has been essential in tying the whole sculpture together.
There are extra ‘sixth light’ rear windows, which, coupled with the optional panoramic sunroof, really improve the feeling of spaciousness in the cabin. The rear has a distinctive look too, with an interpretation of the LED tail lights first featured on the F-Type. Together with a rather lovely chiselled boot line, they visually connect the XF with its sportier sibling.
‘One of the things that is great about the interior is the theatre of it,’ muses Callum. Thus, he has retained the tactile metal rotary shift control and rotary air vents that spin open when you turn the engine on. ‘It’s a wonderful moment when they spin up to say hello to you. It gives you that sense of occasion.’
The interior continues Jaguar’s quest to marry traditional design and craft with the modern age. This is a hugely connected car, highly digital yet at the same time offering decent levels of quality and craftsmanship – and plenty of tactile surfaces. Soft leather, warm wood and shiny chrome elements are abundant, and the new seats are pretty comfortable, almost gripping us on the Navarra circuit.
There is a reconfigurable TFT instrument cluster and a 10.2-inch touch screen containing all the infotainment and entertainment information, 17-speaker, 825W Meridian digital surround sound and bold laser head-up display.
The layered instrument panel now swoops the width of the car, merging into the doors and emphasised by singular stitching featuring the marque’s signature Riva Hoop design, first introduced on the XJ. There is certainly a sense of lightness inside the new XF; it feels hugely more spacious, especially in the rear compartment.
Jaguar has simplified the engine range to include a 3.0-litre supercharged V6 – with 375bhp and available in the top of the range S trim – with a 5.0-litre supercharged V8 expected at a later stage. At the top of the diesel range sits the 3.0-litre V6 tweaked to deliver some 296bhp, and the 2.0-litre Ingenium diesel engine that comes with 178bhp and 161bhp, the latter emitting what the marque says is the lowest CO2 figures in this class at just 104g/km.
The business car sector is a crowded one and choice is often made according to less sexy values, such as running cost and tax. Yet the individuality based on intelligent design and that element of surprise that the XF holds will no doubt appeal to those looking to stand out in the sea of grey suits.