Does Jaguar’s mid-sized XF saloon offer the perfect balance between comfort and performance? Our man certainly seems to think so
|Engine||Power||Torque||0-100kph||Top speed||Weight||Basic price|
|V6, supercharged, 2993cc||375bhp @ 6500rpm||450Nm (332lb ft) @ 4,500rpm||5.3sec||250kph||1760kg (213bhp/ton)||$78,800|
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|The perfect balance for a premium, mid-size saloon|
|Will the ‘R’ undercut all that good work?|
The world of mid-level management can rejoice, for while Mercedes has rolled out the new E-Class, Jaguar has demonstrated in its British alternative – the new XF S – what I feel to be the perfect balance between power and comfort, features and luxury, performance and space.
What’s clear from the start is that the S is a car that does not need any more power. The 3-litre supercharged V6 delivers 375bhp to all four wheels through an eight-speed automatic in a very refined manner, catapulting you to Ridiculous Speed (see SpaceBalls for more info) without complaint.
Good that it brings suspension and chassis to match that power delivery, one that is – apparently – 28 per cent stiffer than the previous version. Certainly this shows in the corners, with a level of precision the outgoing model did not have, thanks in no small part to some surprisingly responsive electric steering. Jaguar has also thrown in the Torque Vectoring they developed for the F-TYPE, a system that brakes the inner wheels independently to improve turn-in.
How does the new XF S handle?
Consequently the XF S not only gets into the turn quickly, but handles it properly too. The most important factor is that it tells you what’s going on tarmac-side, highlighting the limits of grip, so that when you unintentionally go beyond them – even the best 1710kg mid-size saloons, plus the bag of skin and water behind the wheel, can experience some understeer – you have at least been forewarned. It’s a composure that just feels so easy to manipulate: I remember driving the previous XF R and thinking it was a happy-go-lucky muscle car with sideways roundabout capabilities. There might be a hint of that in the new S, but it’s a big improvement.
So, it is powerful, it is proficient, it is fun, and it is also a Jaguar. But as a premium mid-size saloon, it also has to be comfortable, beautiful and classy. Is it?
Yes, on all counts. The Mercedes may offer massage seats and technology borrowed from the Starship Enterprise, but short of that, Jaguar will give you every other comfort you can think of. The cockpit forms a cocoon around you, albeit one covered with expensive animal hides, while the displays and array of controls are easy to access and straight forward to use. The seats hug you firmly, true, but are still plush enough to serve on long trips or annoying traffic jams. The Meridian 17-speaker arrangement will isolate you from the outside blabber of the hoi polloi while giving you the stock-market quotes. And the Bluetooth system actually works. Properly.
So what’s the overall verdict?
The diplomatic types amongst you (read ‘people with drivers’) will be happy to know that although the new model is shorter than it’s predecessor, the longer wheelbase has increased legroom by a full inch, and that you can now put two golf bags in the 540-litre boot. Clumsies are also aided by automatic parking and a new Surface Sensing Something-Something system, a new computerized traction control for über-slippery conditions.
Inevitably Jaguar is sure to launch an ‘R’ version of the XF, one that will probably boast a 542bhp 5-litre supercharged V8, go back in time to reach 100kph and be a BMW M5 killer. But, really, you won’t need it. If your aim is to have a fast, FAST car to show how good a driver you are, get the F-TYPE. For a comfortable full-size saloon, this is the perfect balance.
Technical specifications available on page 2