2014 Jaguar XF Expert Review:New Car Test Drive
New Car Test Drive
Stylish luxury sports sedan in a range of models.
The 2014 Jaguar XF is a solid, stylish midsize luxury sports sedan with rear-wheel drive. Elegant, flowing lines make it a more visually interesting alternative to many of the better-selling cars in its class. The Jaguar XF has presence, that intangible quality that allows it to stand out in any line of similar luxury sport entries. Underway, the Jaguar XF is smooth, quiet, and comfortable.
A range of engines is available for the 2014 Jaguar XF, all of them blown: a 240-hp turbocharged 2.0-liter inline-4; a superbly powerful and efficient 340-hp supercharged 3.0-liter V6; a 470-hp supercharged 5.0-liter V8; and a 510-hp supercharged V8. All are outstanding in their own way. All are mated to 8-speed automatic transmissions.
New for 2014 is a limited-production, super-fast XFR-S model with a 5.0-liter supercharged V8 that cranks out a door-blowing 550 horsepower. XFR-S features a track-tuned suspension and many high-performance upgrades. Availability will be limited to only 100 units.
The 2014 Jaguar XF lineup offers some new packages and options but is otherwise unchanged over last year. For 2014, the Vision Pack adds safety features including a blind spot monitor, adaptive front lights, automatic high beams and an auto-dimming rearview mirror. A Premium Pack includes a voice-activated feature and keyless entry on 2014 models. A new Performance Pack for the 2014 XFR adds a sport exhaust, upgraded suspension and brakes. The Jaguar XF was launched as a 2009 model; engines were upgraded for 2010, and the styling was revised for 2012.
We found all variants of the 2014 Jaguar XF pleasurable to drive. The four-cylinder engine feels and sounds better than expected. With linear acceleration, a seamless transmission, engaging steering and responsive brakes, the Jaguar XF's driving dynamics are as solid as that of any of its competitors. We especially liked Jaguar's all-wheel drive, which is well-suited to wet and snowy climes.
The Jaguar XF interior is dignified but a good bit plainer than the deluxe XJ. Upon entering and pushing the Start button, the HVAC dash vents scroll open and the JaguarDrive knob pops up to greet you. The leather seating is all you could ask of a luxury sports sedan, and the driving experience in this very adult English sedan is a thing to be looked forward to.
One of Jaguar's traits is its resistance to technology for technology's sake, which is good for those who don't want their cars to be rolling personal computers with distracting interfaces. Those looking for smartphone integration with apps like Facebook and Twitter, streaming Internet audio, and the latest navigation system will have to look elsewhere.
Competitors to the 2014 Jaguar XF include Audi A6, BMW 5 Series, Mercedes-Benz E-Class, Lexus GS. While all of these cars might boast higher sales volumes, the Jaguar remains a great choice for those who want something different, provided the latest in-car technology isn't a priority.
The 2014 Jaguar XF sedan is available in six models. All come with 8-speed automatic transmissions.
Jaguar XF 2.0 ($46,975) is powered by a turbocharged 2.0-liter inline-4 with 240 horsepower. XF 2.0 comes standard with dual-zone climate control, leather upholstery, six-way power-adjustable heated front seats with driver memory, rosewood veneer, a 250-watt 10-speaker audio system, 7-inch color touch-screen, rear parking sensors, power moonroof, automatic HID xenon headlights and 18-inch alloy wheels.
Jaguar XF 3.0 ($50,000) comes with a supercharged 3.0-liter V6 rated at 340 horsepower. It comes equipped as the 2.0 but with different 18-inch alloy wheels and automatic stop/start.
Jaguar XF 3.0 AWD ($53,000) includes everything found on the 3.0 plus all-wheel drive; wheels are 19-inch alloys.
Options for XF 2.0 and XF 3.0 include a Cold Weather Package for ($700) with heated steering wheel and heated windshield. Convenience Pack ($2,500) includes blind-spot monitor, voice command, keyless entry, electrochromic exterior mirrors, automatic high beam, electric rear sunblind. Premium Package ($4,250) includes keyless entry, hard-drive GPS navigation with voice-activation and traffic message channel, 380-Watt Meridian 12-speaker audio, rear camera, front parking air with touch-screen visual indicator, and adaptive front lighting that rotates the headlights during turning. Portfolio Pack ($4,000) includes 16-way and 12-way front seat adjustability, heated/cooled front seats, seatback seat pockets, heated steering wheel, suede cloth headliner, premium carpets; 19-inch Portfolio Sport Package for XF and XF 3.0 ($8,575) and for XF 3.0 AWD ($7,000) includes all the content of the Portfolio Package plus 19-inch Aquila alloy wheels, 18-way/14-way front sport seats with soft-grain perforated leather, black veneer and an aero pack; 20-inch Portfolio Sport Package for XF and XF 3.0 ($10,150) and for XF 3.0 AWD ($8,575) includes all of 19-inch Portfolio Sport Package content but adds 20-inch Hydra alloy wheels. Adaptive cruise control ($2,300) is available.
Jaguar XF Supercharged ($68,100) features a 5.0-liter supercharged V8 with 470 horsepower. XF Supercharged also gets upgraded leather upholstery, suede cloth headliner, heated leather steering wheel, oak wood veneer, 12-way heated and ventilated power front seats, a hard-drive-based navigation system with voice activation, an upgraded 12-speaker, 380-watt Meridian audio system with CD/DVD player, HD radio and satellite radio capability (with three-month subscription), blind spot monitor, rearview backup camera, front parking sensors, auto-dimming exterior mirrors, an active differential, unique exterior trim and 20-inch alloy wheels with summer performance tires. Options for the XF Supercharged include Sport Interior Package ($1,300) with 28-way driver's seat and 14-way passenger's sport seats, with power-adjustable bolsters, bright-finish accelerator and brake pedal cladding.
Jaguar XFR ($83,200) soups the 5.0-liter supercharged V8 up to 510 horsepower and includes all XF Supercharged features plus unique exterior and interior trim, 14-way power front sport seats, a 17-speaker, 825-watt Meridian surround sound system with subwoofer, power rear sunshade, a 60/40-split folding rear seat, adaptive front lighting with automatic high beams and unique 20-inch wheels. The Black Package for XFR ($1,600) includes dark-gray 20-inch Draco alloy wheels with summer high-performance tires, red brake calipers, body-color trunk finisher, gloss-black window surrounds, front bumper inserts and grille surround. XFR Speed Package ($3,900) removes the top-speed limiter, adds front bumper aero splitter, rear spoiler with integrated brake light, modifies engine and transmission calibrations, modifies the speedometer to display a top speed of 174 mph.
The Jaguar XFR-S ($99,000) comes with a 5-liter supercharged V8 good for 550 hp and features unique R-S exterior and interior trim, sport seats with adjustable side bolsters, a rear spoiler, performance exhaust and unique 20-inch ceramic polished wheels.
Safety features on all Jaguar XF models includes six airbags: front impact, front-passenger side impact and head-protection curtains for outboard seats. Rear park sensing is standard, as are a tire-pressure monitor and a full range of active safety features: including electronic stability control (ESC) with an understeer management and advanced antilock brakes (ABS) with Cornering Brake Control, which proportions brake force from side to side to keep the car balanced while braking through a curve. Optional safety features include a rearview camera, blind spot warning, automatic headlight dimming, front park sensing system, and all-wheel drive.
Jaguar XF's exterior styling is carried over virtually unchanged from the refreshed 2012 model. All Jaguar XFs use quintessentially British wire mesh grille work, but the finish and shapes below the bumper vary with the model. The Jaguar XFR has black mesh and larger openings below the bumper. The Jaguar XF Supercharged hood is fitted with louvers featuring Supercharged script.
The bi-function HID xenon headlights are slim and compact but still incredibly bright, and bordered with LED running lights in Jaguar's signature J-Blade shape. The tail lights use LED elements exclusively, which extend onto the trunk lid.
The body is defined by a single, uninterrupted line flowing from the front bumper to the rear edge of the trunk lid. The beltline, or that character-building crease below the side windows, rises up into the roof while the roof drops down toward the beltline. The effect is a forward-biased wedge shape that creates an impression of speed, even when the XF is at rest. The rear deck is higher than that of any previous Jaguar sedan, but this less-formal look pays dividends in excellent aerodynamics and an expansive trunk.
The basic shape does more than create a high-impact presence. Aerodynamically, the XF is very efficient, with an impressive 0.29 drag coefficient and a front-to-rear aerodynamic lift balance of zero. That means neither end of the car is more inclined than the other to lift in the airflow as speeds increase. The excellent aerodynamics keep the XF stable at high speeds and reduce wind noise inside.
We parked an XF next to a contemporary BMW 5 Series and were startled by what we saw. The Jaguar and BMW are very nearly the same size. The 5 Series is nothing if not handsome. Yet next to the BMW, the Jaguar seemed not merely larger but somehow grander, more chic. The XF doesn't merely look fine; it makes an impression, requiring you to take it seriously. Some of this impression may be caused by the XF's relative rarity compared with the ubiquitous 5 Series. But bolstered by Jaguar's recent extremely high quality and reliability ratings, the XF is more than a nice-looking car. It has about it that intangible element, dignity. Even the most-affordable XF model has it. In spades.
Jaguar interiors have always had a nice feel, with beautiful leather seating and ample wood inlays to make the point. The contemporary Jaguar XF interior continues this tradition, but it is somewhat less formal and more straightforward.
Our Jaguar XF had handsome Figured Ebony veneer, one of several veneer choices. But the dominant theme on the dashboard was a broad expanse of scored aluminum running from door panel around the dash to door panel, bright and handsomely adorned with instrumentation.
Slide into the XF with the proximity key in purse or pocket, and the Start button glows, ready to be pushed. Press it, and the vents rotate in the dash, exposing the registers. The gear selector is a big, aluminum dial-knob that rises from the center console when the engine fires up. It's unique, nicer than the drive-by-wire shifters other luxury manufactures have developed, and more functional. Jaguar claims this electronic selector will keep working even if it's drenched with a half-gallon of coffee.
In front of the driver is an analog speedometer and tachometer, with a digital display in between with trip mileage, fuel range, miles per gallon, average speed and a digital speedo. Above this is an analog clock, a linear bar fuel gauge, and at the top, a linear gear indicator, activated when the paddle-shifters are used. When the paddles are not used, a generic fully automatic PRNDS transmission indicator is displayed.
The center stack's premier element is a touch-screen monitor, which controls audio, navigation, phone and climate controls. We find Jaguar's interface not as intuitive as we'd like, and certain functions, like adding an address or modifying a destination, take far too many steps (for example, one has to hit the Home button to switch functions, instead of going straight to, say, audio controls). Also, forget about smartphone integration with apps like Facebook and Twitter, streaming Internet audio. For that, you'll have to go to BMW or another more tech-savvy brand.
The center console's main feature is a pop-up knob aluminum transmission shifter, which retracts flush with the console surface when the engine is not running. To the rear of this knob are buttons for Winter Mode, Stability Control/Off and automatic speed control, the latter protecting against the natural impulse to gradually drive faster and faster on long trips. The Jaguar switchgear are of high quality and reassuring tactile strength throughout.
One Jaguar XF we tested had soft-grain black-leather heated-and-cooled seats with 16-way adjustment for the driver and 12-way adjustment for the front passenger. With contrasting white stitching, they were handsome and blessed with the wonderful aroma of good leather. They also had good lumbar and side-bolster adjustment, allowing an extremely personal fitment for either performance driving or long-distance cruising.
Outward visibility is less than average, due in part to the sexy exterior design and roofline. The rear glass is expansive, but it's raked at a long, flat, coupe-like angle, so the view through the rearview mirror is short. For this reason, we recommend opting for the rearview camera (and navigation system).
The available 380-Watt Meridian sound system performed admirably, with no distortion when played louder than human tolerance.
The Jaguar steering wheel has the usual remotes for adjusting cruise control and audio, but they are thumbwheels placed flat in the spokes of the wheel, not protruding from its edges where they can be accidentally brushed during maneuvering. And in the lower center of the wheel is an iconic, wonderfully Mayan Jaguar's head, the growler, watching your every move. Nice.
Cubby storage in the XF is decent as luxury cars go, but not as complete as some mainstream sedans and family vehicles. The center console is wide, almost as we'd expect in a big sports car. Touch-release covers reveal easy-to-reach cupholders. Bins at the bottoms of the doors aren't very deep, but they're wide enough to lay a phone flat and lined with a soft material that keeps glasses and other delicate items from sliding or scratching. The main bin in the center console isn't large enough to hide a standard-size laptop, but there's plenty of room for cameras or a lot of CDs. There's also an easy-access power point and iPod/auxiliary jacks, with a secure place to leave the plugged-in MP3 player while driving.
The XF's rear-seat accommodations fall short of those of the competition. The rear seat itself is comfortable, with decent side bolstering for the outside passengers, using the same fine materials as in front. Yet the rear space seems more confining than the roomiest cars in this class, regardless of what the published measurements suggest. Rear passengers up to 5 feet, 8 inches will find plenty of space, but taller riders might get squeezed on leg and headroom. The back seat also has fewer amenities then some competitors. There's a power point and two adjustable vents on the back of the center console, but no temperature control or fan. Storage options are limited to the fold-out pockets on the front seatbacks (good), and small bins at the bottom of the rear doors (bad). Cupholders are provided in the fold-down armrest, but they're not very deep or very good at holding cups.
The XF trunk is among the largest in class, however. With 17.7 cubic feet of space, it's bigger than the trunk in some full-size luxury sedans, and it's lined with carpet that's richer than that used inside some cars. To add more cargo capacity, the XF is available with a split, folding rear seat, which expands cargo space to a total of 32.5 cubic feet, making this a great getaway car for a couple. However, loading large items could take some work because the trunk lid is fairly short and the trunk opening is fairly small. So although there's a lot of cargo space, the XF's design is better for multiple, small items than for large, bulky items.
Jaguar XF offers a range of engines, a turbocharged four-cylinder, a supercharged V6, and supercharged V8s in several states of tune.
The 510-horsepower supercharged V8-powered XFR will still streak from 0-60 mph in just 4.7 seconds, competitive with the quickest cars in its class. The XF Supercharged, with a mere 470 horsepower, dashes from 0 to 60 not much behind, in 4.9 seconds. Both of these supercharged 5.0-liter V8 engines get an EPA-rated 15/23 mpg City/Highway.
The supercharged V6 gets from 0 to 60 in a brisk 5.7 seconds while achieving 18/28 mpg. And the turbocharged four-cylinder achieves 0-60 in 7.5 seconds and manages 19/29 mpg. (We consider the 8-second mark generally separates the quick and the slow in 0-60 mph acceleration comparisons.) The supercharged V6 appears to be the performance value here, with dramatically quicker performance than what is offered by the four-cylinder.
We approached the turbocharged inline-4 with skepticism, but our expectations proved unfounded. Throttle response was remarkably linear, and the engine note had a throaty, authoritative grumble that sounded nothing like a diminutive two-liter. It's an enjoyable car to drive.
Cruising at 70 mph in all variants is generally a serene experience, with minimal wind noise to interrupt the solitude. All around, the Jaguar XF is a thoroughly wonderful ride, with fewer of the cookie-cutter qualities that increasingly pervade this class of all-things-to-everyone luxury cars.
The biggest source of noise might be the low-profile sport tires available on the Supercharged and XFR.
JaguarDrive Control is a feature that lets the driver tailor various functions to taste with a single adjustment. The driver can switch through three options. Winter is the most conservative: The transmission shifts up at low engine speeds, the throttle works lightly and the DSC intervenes quickly, all useful in slippery conditions. Dynamic is the most aggressive setting, best for driving hard in dry conditions. There is also a set-and-forget Automatic mode.
The 8-speed automatic transmission that comes on all models is impressive, and works superbly in daily commuter traffic. Its fast, glass-smooth shifts allow constant refinement of engine speed that will suit the driver's wishes. If cruising in Drive, the transmission slips softly down into the lowest efficient gear for fuel mileage. In Sport mode, the transmission holds each gear higher up through the rev range before shifting. Those who want to get the best out of the drivetrain should flick the knob to Sport and try the excellent, lightning-quick paddle shifters, which brings the right amount of engine braking or continued acceleration, all with effortless elegance.
The variable-ratio steering was developed to reduce parking effort at low speeds while maintaining precision and feedback at higher speeds. Jaguar has weighted it carefully, avoiding the airy, no-effort feel that's become all too common in this class. Nor is the XF's steering overly quick, wherein a little twitch sends you to the next lane over. It is nicely linear, with no dead spot in the center. Turn the XF's steering wheel a little and the car turns immediately, but only a little. Lane changes are accomplished at interstate speeds with an eighth of a turn. The XF tracks neatly into bigger, slower curves, always where the driver aims it.
Complementing good steering feel, the XF has an excellent ride and handling balance. It rides firmly, but it glides over most bumps, and the reward for firmness is that it doesn't lean in fast curves. It stays level front to rear under hard braking or hard acceleration, and it's stable as granite at high speeds.
The brakes are outstanding. All models have large rotors and calipers, and the brake pedal has a consistent solid feel. It's progressive in application, meaning that a little bit of pedal delivers a little bit of deceleration, while a lot of pedal stops the XF right now. In repeated hard applications, furthermore, there is no hint of brake fade.
The XF's mechanical components are first-rate. It starts with a tight, flex-free unitized chassis and body, the foundation for all of the car's dynamic behavior. The suspension uses a sophisticated multi-link arrangement in back and aluminum components to reduce weight and improve response time. The Supercharged and XFR models also have Adaptive Dynamics, a damping system which automatically adjusts shock absorber settings to suit both road conditions and the way the vehicle is being driven.
A drive in the rain demonstrate two important things: First, the XF is inherently balanced, meaning it's no more prone to slide on its front tires than it is to spin out at the rear; and second, the Dynamic Stability Control does a great job. In the Automatic mode, where most drivers will keep it, the DSC works early, throttling the engine back or tapping the brakes before the driver anticipates that one end of the car or the other might be sliding.
On a wet skid pad in the high-powered XFR, we learned from former professional racecar drivers during a day at the Jaguar R Driving Academy what the XF will do with stability and traction control fully off. Unlike cars made by other manufacturers, Jaguars truly turn off everything, leaving the driver to her own devices. We had a blast deliberately bringing the rear end around coming out of a corner and counter-steering, but we only recommend doing this on a closed course. Later, we drove the XFR around the exterior road course at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway, where we found the car to handle amazingly well.
The XF 3.0 AWD uses a fully automatic, on-demand all-wheel drive system that engages instantaneously when needed and provides a slight rearward bias carefully tailored to suit Jaguar's traditional chassis and handling tastes. Even driven enthusiastically on snow and ice, we found the system delivered balanced, grippy drive force that is the match for its German competitors.
Especially when equipped with all-wheel drive, the XF delivers the best of all worlds: A comfortable ride, responsive, consistent handling, stress-free, secure skid-management in the rain or a bit of latitude that allows capable drivers to express themselves.
The 2014 Jaguar XF is a sport luxury sedan that stands apart from the hordes of German and Japanese competitors. It has performance, reliability, capability, comfort and a charm that few fine sedans can match, though it falls short when it comes to in-car technology and connectivity.
NewCarTestDrive.com correspondent Laura Burstein reported from Los Angeles with Ted West from Quebec, Sam Moses reporting from Portland, J.P. Vettraino in Detroit.
Jaguar XF ($46,975); XF 3.0 ($50,000), XF 3.0 AWD ($53,000); XF Supercharged ($68,100); XFR ($83,200), XFR-S ($99,000).
Castle Bromwich, United Kingdom.
Options As Tested
Split-fold rear seat with ski hatch/ski bag ($600); Meridian 825-Watt Premium Surround Sound 17 speakers ($2,300).
Jaguar XF Supercharged ($68,100).
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