2009 Jaguar XF Review


PHOTO (select to view enlarged photo)

DRIVING DOWN THE ROAD
WITH CAREY RUSS

2009 Jaguar XF

If Jaguar made its reputation with fast, luxurious, and beautiful sports cars exemplified by the XK series from the original XK 120 of 1949 through today's XK, it has also built some fine sedans to broaden its lineup. The best-known and most influential was the mid-sized Mark 2, produced from the late 1950s through the 1960s, is a classic today, was successfully raced, and inspired the S-Type of 1998 through 2008. The large XJ sedans, in all their various guises over the years since the nameplate debuted in 1968, have also cemented the company's reputation for distinctive styling.

But all of those Jaguar sedans, beautiful as they were and are, were of the standard three-box sedan body style. Three gorgeous boxes, perhaps, but three boxes none the less. Current fashion, and Jaguar's need to re-establish its presence after recent turmoil, dictated something very different for the newest Jaguar sedan offering.

And that car, the 2009 XF, is very different. Designer Ian Callum has called upon all of his best lines from recent Jaguars, in particular the second-generation XK coupe. You could easily be excused, if seeing the XF at a glance from the side, for thinking that it was an XK. The two cars share windshield rake, and nearly share the semi-fastback roofline and fender lines and vents. The sleek shape is not merely for looks, as the body development process utilized computational fluid dynamics to optimize the design for minimal aerodynamic drag and lift before any final wind tunnel testing.

Computer modeling also was used during chassis design, to speed up the development process as intermediate prototype parts no longer needed to be built, since they were replaced by virtual structures. This also had positive effects on build quality and serviceability. The suspension is inherited from the current XK, as is the 4.2-liter V8 engine, offered in 300-horsepower naturally-aspirated or 420-hp supercharged form, matched with a six-speed automatic gearbox with manual-shift mode and the unique "JaguarDrive" (tm) rotary mode selector.

The XF replaces the S-Type, and is positioned appropriately a bit above it as there is no six-cylinder model in North America. The Luxury and Premium Luxury models have the naturally-aspirated V8, while the supercharged variant is found under the appropriately named Supercharged model's hood. Although its lines may not make it immediately noticeable, the XF is a touch larger than most of its competitors, especially inside. It is a full five-passenger, four-door sedan, not a 2+2 coupe.

I've been driving a Premium Luxury example for the past week, and am feeling quite spoiled. While more a luxury car in specification that sport-luxury, the newest cat from Castle Bromwich is quick on its feet, supremely comfortable and quiet, and reasonably fuel-efficient considering its size and power. And the non-supercharged engine is in no way deficient - and has a wonderful, and appropriate, growl when called upon to perform. Jaguar has been through some changes of late, with ownership transferring from Ford to India's Tata, but the XF points to a healthy future.

APPEARANCE: No doubt as to the maker of this automobile, even without the signature "growler" in the middle of the mesh grille or the "leaper" in the bright trim on the tail. It's pure Jaguar, with an overall shape more than reminiscent of the current XK coupe, especially from the sides, although there are four doors. From the front, the main influence reaches back further in Jaguar history to the XJ of 1968 for the rectangular grille shape, and appropriately cat-eyed headlights and a powerfully-shaped hood help give the XF presence. The wheels, especially the front wheels, are moved toward the corners of the car, and the sides rise to the rear for a wedge-shaped profile. The rear is high for both trunk space and clean aerodynamics, and attention to underbody airflow is shown by a nearly complete undertray. Correct air management obviates the need for tack-on spoilers to reduce lift at speed, and spoil the XF's lines. The rear styling is simple but elegant, highlighted by wide taillights and large twin exhausts.

COMFORT: Jaguar is known for its sumptuous old-English interiors, with leather and burled wood aplenty. That's the XJ, the XF, while incorporating both materials, also features textured aluminum trim for a sportier and more contemporary look. It works. There is plenty of electronic trickery - get in, press the start button, and the air vents in the dash rotate from their closed positions while the JaguarDrive Rotary Gear Selector knob rises from its flush storage position in the console - but that is appropriate for a modern luxury car. There is also plenty of room, as the high sides disguise a roof that is higher than it may appear, and moving the wheels to the car's corners produces ample interior space. Leather is used for the seats, instrument panel top, steering wheel rim, and door trim, with wood and aluminum across the dash and on the console. Plastic is notable by its absence, and what little is used looks much like the aluminum. The navigation system, standard in the Premium Luxury model, has a simple touch-screen interface, which also serves for the audio and climate control systems and trip computer. All common audio formats are supported, including Sirius satellite radio and USB, mini-jack, and iPod ports in the console box next to a power point. Front seat comfort is superb, and the rear offers first-class comfort for two, with room in the center for a third person for short distances. Unusually in a luxury car, the rear seat folds with a 60/40 split. But the trunk is large enough that that won't be used often.

SAFETY: The XF surrounds its passengers with a strong steel safety cell, and further protects them with fine handling, strong four-wheel vented disc brakes with antilock, electronic brake assist, electronic brake-force distribution, traction and dynamic stability control, cornering brake control, and understeer control logic.

RIDE AND HANDLING: With a rigid chassis and proven suspension design, the Jaguar XF is smooth, quiet, and agile on the road. Its double-wishbone suspension makes extensive use of aluminum to reduce unsprung weight, for better response. It's tuned more softly than a pure sports sedan, but still is eager to make time on an interesting road - and in comfort, too. Interior noise levels are low, further aided by good aerodynamics to not only reduce lift and drag, but wind noise.

PERFORMANCE: With 300 horsepower (at 6000 rpm) and 310 lb-ft of torque (at 4100 rpm), the naturally-aspirated XF engine is by no means deficient. It's capable of moving the car from a standstill to 60 mph in 6.2 seconds, and makes wonderful music while doing so. The six-speed automatic transmission helps both acceleration and economy, and I found 25 mpg or better easily attainable at normal highway speeds. Jaguars are known as high-speed, long-distance touring machines, and the XF will shine in that role.

CONCLUSIONS:The 2009 XF points to Jaguar's future.

SPECIFICATIONS - 2009 Jaguar XF

Base Price			$ 55,200
Price As Tested 		$ 58,850
Engine Type			dual overhead cam aluminum alloy V8 with
				 continuously-variable cam phasing
Engine Size			4.2 liters / 256 cu. in.
Horsepower			300 @ 6000 rpm
Torque (lb-ft)			310 @ 4100 rpm
Transmission			6-speed automatic
Wheelbase / Length		114.5 in. / 195.3 in.
Curb Weight			4017 lbs.
Pounds Per Horsepower		13.4
Fuel Capacity			18.4 gal.
Fuel Requirement		91 octane unleaded premium gasoline
Tires				P245/40 R19 94H
				 Continental Conti Pro Contact
Brakes, front/rear		vented disc all around,
				 ABS and yaw control standard
Suspension, front/rear		independent double wishbone
Drivetrain			longitudinal front engine, rear-wheel drive


PERFORMANCE
EPA Fuel Economy - miles per gallon
    city / highway / observed		16 / 25 / 19
0 to 60 mph				6.2  sec


OPTIONS AND CHARGES
B&W sound system				$ 1,875
Advanced Vision Pack				$ 1,000
Transportation and handling			$   775

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