The key to the XF’s vigor is its aluminum-intensive body, shared with the new XE. The old Jaguar XF was no slouch, but it made do with very old bones that dated back to the old S-Type. The 2016 model loses some 420 pounds over the last model and, just as important, is 28 percent stiffer. Tactile and composed, it carves through bends at ambitious speeds, always on the alert and rarely caught out.
We start our day at the Circuito de Navarra. It’s a splendid track but, on this particular day, it’s hot enough to fry an egg. Our test car, an XF S AWD, isn’t happy out here. The automatic transmission responds too slowly to kick down orders, and the all-wheel-drive XF-S we were driving liked to chew its front tires. To add insult to injury, the air-conditioning packed up after two laps, and a couple of laps later the driveline switched to limp-home mode.
The XF feels far better on the winding mountain roads of the picturesque Basque country. Charging through a set of sweepers where certain rivals would roll or understeer too much, the Jaguar XF, particularly the rear-wheel-drive version, is capable and inspiring. Turn-in is eager and weighted just right, and steering feedback comes in carefully measured doses; changes of direction are free of this “let me help you” artificiality that ruins so many modern electrically assisted racks. Some drivers might not like such communicative steering, as it also telegraphs potholes, grooves, and ridges to your fingertips.
The other trade-off is ride quality, a traditional strength for Jaguar. Although the S-model features adaptive dampers, their settings seem to vary from taut to brittle. Could we please have more compliance in Comfort? The 20-inch footwear certainly doesn’t help. Neither is this car as isolated as one might expect of a large English sedan. Wind noise and road noise post clear acoustic warnings even before you venture into triple-digit territory, although the car feels planted as a Mercedes-Benz.
For budget reasons, smaller automakers often struggle to stay ahead of the wave of electronics features that are revolutionizing cars. But Jaguar has become a fast follower. The 2016 Jaguar XF still lacks the very latest wizardries like semi-autonomous driving, but all the essential assistance systems — like adaptive cruise control and a birds-eye camera view — are available. The touchscreen in the cabin is, at last, up to scratch and can be augmented by a head-up display.
Jaguar has never had any trouble upholstering a cabin, and the XF’s is again second to none. There are 11 types of cabin decor and five grades of leather. That’s matched on the outside by 17 paint colors and 11 choices for wheels. This should help the Jag stand apart from the crowd of BMW 5 Series and Audi A6s, even if the overall design is conservative.
The bad news for Jaguar is that all three German sedans are due to be replaced within the next 12 months, and they will fully expose the XF’s aged V-6s and less-than-stellar ride — those Ingenium engines better not be delayed. But in a segment that is creeping toward dullness, the fun-to-drive 2016 Jaguar XF should carve itself a slice of the market — the slice that, like Jaguar management, used to be loyal to BMW.
2016 Jaguar XF Specifications
|Engine:||3.0L supercharged DOHC 24-valve V-6/340-380 hp @ 6,500 rpm, 332 lb-ft @ 45,00 rpm|
|Layout:||4-door, 5-passenger, front-engine, RWD or AWD sedan|
|Suspension F/R:||Control arms, coil springs/Multilink, coil springs|
|Tires:||245/45R18 Goodyear Eagle Sport AS (XF); 255/35R20 Pirelli P7 Cinturato AS (XF S)|
|L x W x H:||195.0 x 74.0 x 57.4 in|
|Headroom F/R:||37.5-39.0/38.2 in|
|Legroom F/R:||44.4/37.2 in|
|Shoulder Room F/R:||57.1/54.9 in|
|Cargo Room N/A:||19.1 cu ft|
|Weight:||3,770/3,880 lb (RWD/AWD)|
|Weight Dist. F/R:||N/A|
|0-60 MPH:||5.1-5.2 sec (RWD) 5.0-5.1 sec (AWD)|
|Top Speed:||155 mph|