With quicker reflexes, the Jaguar XF is a fast-on-its-feet British-built exotic creature that won’t likely be caught anytime soon. Two new V8 engines see to that.
The automobile’s arrival as the replacement for the retro-themed S-Type for the 2009 model year signaled an abrupt change in design philosophy that’s no longer constrained by historical mandate: new Jags don’t have to look like old Jags. The XF is a thoroughly modern up-market carriage in every sense of the word, including its progressive styling. From stem to stern, it strikes an authentic, original pose. As always, there’s no mistaking the XF for anything but a Jag.
More originality is apparent once you step inside the first-class cabin that’s laden with double-stitched leather-covered seats plus a variety of genuine wood and aluminum trim. As the driver settles in, the Jaguar Drive Selector shift knob emerges from the center console, the rotating air vents spring to attention with military precision and the illuminated starter button begins to eagerly pulse in what can best be described as well-choreographed synchronicity. No other vehicle greets its operator in quite the same way.
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A 300-horsepower 4.2-liter unit — an older design that originates with the retired S-Type sedan — is the starting point on the $52,000 base model. Of course, it’s hardly “base” given its impressive array of standard features. But from that point on up the sliding performance scale, the cat has sprung some new claws.
For the 2010 model year, an all-new 385-horsepower 5.0-liter V8 has been added to the options list. As well, the high-output XFR arrives with a supercharged version of the 5.0, which raises the performance bar with 510 horses, 90 ponies more than the previous supercharged 4.2-liter V8.
Jaguar claims the XFR will claw its way to 60 mph in a scant 4.7 seconds, compared to the 5.5 seconds required for the regular-strength 5.0-liter XF and 6.2 seconds for cars running with the base 4.2-liter V8. All acceleration figures are particularly impressive when you consider that every XF tips Jaguar’s scales at more than 5,000 pounds.
A six-speed automatic transmission is standard equipment, regardless of engine choice, although the unit installed in the supercharged XFR has been beefed up to handle the added power.
For 2010, the XF is able to compete more aggressively on the opulence scale thanks to the new XF Portfolio. The model leapfrogs the existing Luxury and Premium Luxury trim levels and is fitted with the 385-horsepower 5.0 Among the Portfolio’s many inducements are uniquely styled 20-inch wheels, deep-pile carpeting, suede-like premium headliner, upgraded interior trim and multi-adjustable heated and cooled leather seats.
The $80,000 XFR is equally important to the line as it allows Jaguar to compete in the same lofty league with the 518-horsepower Mercedes-Benz E63 AMG, the 500-horse BMW M5 and Cadillac’s 556-horsepower CTS-V super sedans. As expected, the XFR is fitted with a wealth of appropriate gear, headed by a black-mesh grille, chromed air intakes, sport front seats with adjustable bolsters, rear spoiler and bodyside cladding.
Of course the XFR is good looking, but the functionality improvements are all found beneath the skin. The brakes are better, the steering is quicker and the suspension is electronically controlled and automatically adapts to road conditions and the driver’s playfulness. Out back, Jaguar says a special electronic-locking differential for the XFR is far more precise than a traditional mechanical unit at directing power to the wheel that has more grip.
The changes to the 2010 XF come as somewhat of a welcome relief. When India-based Tata purchased Jaguar from Ford, the world wondered what would happen to the British brand. Would it be bought and sold? Would it begin turning out weird vehicles or selling badge-engineered versions of the $2,500 Tata Nano microcar? It was anyone’s guess at the time. Happily, things seem to be moving in the right direction. Tata is backing Jag’s gorgeous new XJ and as even considering a smaller convertible to compete with the Mercedes SLK.
As far as the XF is concerned, Jag has added the right stuff to make the car a more complete up-market brand that meets different needs and wants with more variety.