Jaguar XF Saloon (2015 - ) review
The Jaguar XF has a tough task taking on established saloons from Audi, BMW and Mercedes, but its looks, efficient engines and sharp handling all set it apart
Interested in buying Jaguar XF?
There's an unwritten rule somewhere that large executive saloons all have to look as drab, grey and lifeless as the corporate car parks in which they normally reside. Fortunately, there's someone at Jaguar who never read that rule, and the slinky XF is the result. It's even better proportioned than the smaller XE, with clean, sharp lines along the bodywork, short overhangs and a long bonnet with a subtle power bulge running down its centre. No matter what angle you choose to view it from, this is a really handsome-looking thing. Standard models are a little less striking than those of a higher trim level, but come with 17-inch wheels, xenon headlights and a gloss black finish for the gaping centre grille. R-Sport models get larger alloys and a sporty body kit; Portfolio models are distinguished by lashings of chrome on the side vents and grille; and, the top-spec 'S' versions get a unique body kit, twin exhausts and red brakes. One optional extra worth going for are the full LED headlights, which make the XF look really hi-tech and sophisticated from the front. Irritatingly, though, they’re an extra on every single version.
The XF provides a really nice driving environment. The high window line and wraparound dashboard make the car feel quite sporty, giving you a sense of the cabin shrinking around you, but that does also make it feel a little cosier than rivals like the Audi A6 or BMW 5 Series. On the other hand, the comfortable and supportive seats have plenty of adjustment, and slide and tilt electrically as standard. A wide centre console bisects the cabin, but the main controls are all either on the steering wheel or contained within the 8.0-inch colour touch-screen. The InControl infotainment system is definitely an improvement on what's gone before from Jaguar, but it's not as quick to respond, or as intuitive to use, as the best systems from Audi and BMW. On the plus side, the visibility is decent, and most of the materials feel classy and solid. It's only when you spend a bit more time investigating lower down in the interior that you start to find some switches and materials that let the side down.
If the previous XF had an Achilles heel, it was practicality, but that weakness has been completely eradicated with this model. The platform is longer and wider than that of its predecessor, and that translates to a really roomy interior. Front and rear passengers have enough space to stretch out, with head-, knee-, and elbow room all generous enough to accommodate even the tallest adults. As with most big saloons, though, the middle seat is harder and narrower than those either side and, combined with the high transmission tunnel, that means this spot is best saved only for occasional use on shorter trips. The boot has an impressive capacity of 540 litres, slightly more than its rivals from Audi and BMW. The opening is a bit narrow, though, and split/folding rear seats are optional extras on the base models, limiting the amount you'll be able to carry.
Ride and handling
Jaguar has an illustrious pedigree when it comes to building sure-footed saloons, and the XF is a worthy new addition to that lengthy tradition. The steering is sublime, with quick, linear responses and plenty of feel; no other saloon feels this connected to the road. The car glides in and out of corners with real poise, and drives like a much smaller, lighter car on very twisty or challenging roads. Grip levels are high, and when they are eventually exceeded, the car’s reactions stay predictable and progressive. If you want the added security of four-wheel drive, it can be specified as an option on the higher-powered 2.0-litre diesel versions. None of this agility comes at the expense of comfort, either. Yes, the ride on larger alloy wheels has a firm edge in town, but everywhere else, the XF is comfortable and composed at all times. That's true whether you choose to stick with the standard springs, or fit the optional adaptive dampers. The latest Mercedes E-Class is comfier than the Jaguar on most surfaces, but also considerably less satisfying to steer once you encounter some corners.
The XF comes with a choice of two four-cylinder diesels - which will make up the bulk of the sales - and a pair of V6 engines, one supercharged petrol, and one diesel. The smaller diesels come with a six-speed manual gearbox as standard, but it's a bit notchy, and the stubby gearstick looks like a real afterthought. The optional eight-speed automatic ‘box (standard on the V6 cars) is much better and, apart from the occasional pause, it swaps the ratios around smoothly and quickly. We'd avoid the entry-level 161bhp diesel, as it struggles to deliver meaningful performance, and feels strangled due to its wide gear ratios. The 178bhp version is better, feeling more muscular and relaxed in every driving situation. If you want a genuinely rapid XF, then the V6 S diesel is the one to go for, delivering close to 300bhp, and 0-62mph in just 6.2 seconds. The sole petrol model uses a supercharged V6 that is shared with the slinky F-Type sports car. It sounds great, but the superior torque of the diesel means it actually feels faster in real-world driving conditions. Refinement is ok but no more than average for the class on the four-cylinder models, but both the V6s go about their business in hushed, effortless fashion, so it's a shame their both so pricey.
Whether it's your monthly finance payments or the lowest possible CO2 emissions, running costs are crucial when it comes to executive saloons. Jaguar knows this all too well, so the latest four-cylinder diesels are up there with the class best for efficiency. In fact, the cleanest XF emits just 104g/km of CO2, and its official combined fuel economy is over 70mpg. These vital statistics are slightly less impressive if you choose the high-powered model or an automatic gearbox, but are still low enough to make the XF a very affordable choice as a company car. The figures for four-wheel drive models are obviously a little higher still, averaging 57.7mpg and emitting 129g/km. Overall, the XF is priced within a few hundred pounds of its closest competitors, but low insurance groups, keenly priced servicing packs and excellent predicted residuals make the XF really affordable for a plush saloon, and its high second hand values will make it very tempting for private buyers too.
The latest XF is too new to have been featured in any customer reliability surveys, but a good indication of its durability comes from our experience with the previous generation. That car has performed pretty well in the Warranty Direct Reliability Index, with one notable exception: a large proportion of owners experienced problems with electrical components. However, the new XF shares very little with the old car, with all-new electronics, engines and gearboxes. Jaguar as a company also does better in the study than most other premium brands, outranking Audi and Mercedes-Benz, but not BMW (although the gap between all four is fairly narrow). As standard, the XF comes with a three-year unlimited-mileage warranty, which owners have the option of extending for another 12 months for a small fee. A five-year servicing pack is also really affordable, which takes the financial sting out of routine car maintenance.
The Jaguar XF is one of the safest saloons you’ll find, and passed its Euro NCAP crash tests with flying colours, earning the maximum five-star rating. It scored 92% for driver protection, and well over 80% in the three other categories. It comes with a wide range of optional and standard systems to keep you safe, too. All-surface progress control (only available on automatic models) can take over the acceleration and braking on slippery surfaces, carefully metering out the power to avoid a low-speed slide. Autonomous emergency braking helps prevent minor shunts, automatically applying on the brakes if the driver fails to react to an impending collision. And, the lane departure warning does exactly what it says. Six airbags round off the standard-issue safety equipment, but options include a rather naff-looking head-up display, as well as traffic sign recognition to remind you of the current speed limit. A lane keep assistant that'll actually steer for you if it thinks you're wandering out of line, and an alert that'll warn you about passing traffic when reversing, are also available as optional extras.
Buyers in this price bracket expect to be well catered for, so every version of the XF is packed with standard equipment to keep them happy. That long list includes DAB radio, sat-nav, dual-zone climate control, leather upholstery, heated front seats, cruise control and a set of reversing sensors. Portfolio trim extends this generosity further, with a parking camera, keyless entry and start, a heated windscreen and a high-end stereo. Frankly, you won't want for much, but worthwhile options include the adaptive dynamics suspension, the automatic gearbox and, on the entry-level trims, split/fold rear seats. One other upgrade you might be tempted by is the InControl Touch Pro infotainment system, which brings with it a faster processor, larger 10.2-inch touch-screen and uprated stereo. However, we experienced no real benefit to the pricier system in testing, so we'd suggest you save your money. The only executive saloon to offer the same amount of equipment as standard, and perhaps even slightly more, is the Mercedes E-Class.
If you want an executive saloon that's as thrilling to drive as it is to look at, few cars will get the pulse racing as fast as the Jaguar XF. Luckily, the excellent dynamic poise and sharp-suited styling is backed up by highly competitive running costs, all the latest safety kit, and a spacious and luxurious interior. One of the very best large saloons you can buy.