Although we often give them flak, the PR and marketing departments of the world’s manufacturers deserve credit. After all, it is through their relentless campaigning that brand identities are forged. And the people at Jaguar are doing a pretty good job here. The launch of each new model in the past five years has been inaugurated by something and someone remarkable. The sultry Lana del Rey made a song to commemorate the F-Type. The XE (an office favourite) was dangled from a helicopter in the London sky, ahead of its big reveal. The talented Idris Elba was among the first to test it. Locally, we had high-flyer Maps Maponyane getting aboard a similar awareness initiative for the model. And not too long ago, the internet was abuzz with pictures of José Mourinho thrashing the F-Pace SUV in the snow.
Such efforts position Jaguar as the cool kid of the luxury marque block. The payoff line for the latest XF is “Not business as usual” — a clever dig at the austere peers from Germany. But of course, snarky quips can only get you so far — core substance is what is needed to truly tackle these competent Teutonic rivals. Happily, we can report that the XF has a variety of competencies that will stand it in good stead when the comparison tests begin. “Grace, pace and space” was Jaguar’s tagline from yesteryear. While the XE might lack in the latter area, this bigger sibling embodies those traditional virtues brilliantly. Let us start with the grace bit.
The engineers were heavy-handed in their use of lightweight materials, culminating in a weight loss of 190kg compared to the old one. We compared technical data and learnt that it weighs considerably less than the Audi A6, BMW 5-Series and Mercedes-Benz E-Class. At the front, they borrowed the suspension from the F-Type — but repurposed it for the application of a dignified business sedan. Jaguar claims a 50/50 weight distribution. It all translates into a driving persona that is graceful and soothing in cruising mode. The XF deftly absorbs beatings from the poorer pieces of tarmac beneath its feet, cushioning blows but rebounding with just the right amount of firmness as it goes. Engage the dynamic setting and the change in character is quite noticeable. These days, every high-end offering promises a certain duality, but the way Jaguar manages to do it defies belief. How can something so comfortable be so spirited and engaging too?
I love how the XF speaks to its helmsman, whispering road surface textures through the steering wheel. It has no right to be so full of feel for an electrically assisted setup. Weight transfer, grip levels and everything else your inner petrolhead wants to know when driving at the limit, the XF imparts it all dutifully. Indeed, we could copy and paste the same bold assertion we made about the XE here: ride quality and handling are easily best in class. But if an immersive drive was the only basis for a car-buying decision, then everyone would buy a manual Porsche Boxster. So what else does the executive Jaguar have going for it? Well, of course it looks sublime. It is essentially an XE adapted to a larger body format. One may level criticism at this generic approach. But just look at how well it seemed to work for Audi. Besides, you can specify a bunch of different styling packages and alloy wheels for the purpose of peacocking.
The interior is also strikingly similar to the XE. Once again, not a bad thing by any means. Jaguar’s digital infotainment system is part of the mix.It is a huge improvement over the system of old, but still not as sorted as BMW’s iDrive or MMI from Audi. The interesting cabin architecture, classy trimmings and supportive seats, finished in supple leather, are great to touch and feel. Brown proved to be a strangely endearing upholstery hue. Go for the British racing green exterior and you have a modern Jaguar infused with “olde” world charm. There is certainly nothing old world about the 2.0 Ingenium diesel engine choice in the XF, with 132kW and 430Nm. Refinement is one of its strong suits. as is frugality, in addition to the added merit of being exempt from emissions tax. However I think the beefier 3.0 V6 supercharged unit does more justice to the nature of the Jaguar. This is available in two states of tune: 250kW and 280kW. Interestingly, the torque figure of 450Nm applies to both versions.
Grunt is delivered in a progressive fashion as the needle climbs. Needless to say, the acoustics are pleasantly throaty. A 2.0 turbocharged petrol choice is also on offer, delivering 177kW and 340Nm. An eight-speed automatic transmission serves across the board. Now, as in the case with the XE, the price might sway you towards the usual suspects in the business-saloon boardroom. In fairness, the ailing rand is to blame for this. Roughly, the XF carries a R50 000 premium versus the equivalent starter derivatives from Audi, BMW and Mercedes- Benz. Things start off at R714 800 for the 2.0 diesel Prestige, while the 3.0 V6 S goes for R1 178 800. This extra outlay seems fairly easy to justify from behind the wheel. The new XF is thoroughly competent. Yet we also cannot forget the added smug factor in putting a Jaguar key on the table, in a world of three-pointed stars, propellers and interlinked circles.