Finally, a Jaguar that looks to its future instead of its past.
The 2009 Jaguar XF is a bold effort by the famous British automaker to regain its relevance against such hot competition as BMW, Mercedes, Audi, Infiniti and Cadillac. In bringing its new sedan up to date, Jaguar dropped many of the touch points of its previous heritage-bound design in favor of modernistic forms and function.
Gone is the ovoid grille of the S-Type that XF replaces and the body shape that evoked Jaguar sedans of the 1960s. Instead, XF gets a sleek and muscular treatment that rivals the competitors' performance sedans, along with such brand identifiers as the vertical gills in the front fenders. The interior is a symphony of refinement, with well-integrated features and the long-overdue replacement of the traditional J-gate gear selector with a unique dial arrangement.
Based on the XK coupe and convertible, XF is a pivotal product for Jaguar coming at a critical time. The economy is a mess, which has pounded luxury-vehicle sales in the United States so that XF must compete in a slimmer market.
And Ford just sold off Jaguar, along with Land Rover, to become the jewel in the crown of India's Tata Group. How that plays out remains to be seen, although Tata is a wealthy automaker that could finance a brighter future for both brands. On the negative side, the sale could be seen as Ford getting rid of a foundering brand.
Hopefully past are the misguided attempts to bring Jaguar down market with the bland X-Type and midrange S-Type, and Jaguar can resume its role as a prestige brand with a singular niche of pedigreed performance.
XF is a good start, perhaps not as dramatically styled as it might have been, though with luxury and finesse that is right up with the competition.
Vehicle type: Five-passenger four-door sedan, rear-wheel drive.
Engine: 4.2-liter V-8, 300 horsepower at 6,000 rpm, 310 pound-feet of torque at 4,100 rpm.
Transmission: Six-speed automatic.
Wheelbase: 114.5 inches
Overall length: 195.3 inches.
Curb weight: 4,017 pounds.
EPA rating: 16 city, 25 highway.
HIGHS: Lush interior, sleek styling, agile handling.
LOWS: Suspension harshness, poor fuel mileage, needs more dramatic styling.
PERFORMANCE: The 300-horsepower V-8 has decent pull for this 2-ton sedan, and there is a 420-horsepower supercharged version if you crave more. Fuel mileage is paltry.
DRIVABILITY: XF is agile and handles nimbly, although there is not much temptation to throw this heavyweight into corners as you might a BMW 5-series. The suspension seems stiff, even for a performance sedan, with harshness on poor surfaces.
The steering is about perfect, firm and precise. Electronic lifesavers, such as dynamic stability control and four-wheel discs brakes with antilock, come standard.
STYLING: Some mixed feelings here. Although the XF is certainly an attractive sedan, with a solid stance and good proportions, it seems that Jaguar could have used this occasion to make a strong design statement that would have set it apart. As it is, it looks as good as or better than the competition but not all that different.
INTERIOR: Gorgeous. This has to be one of the best sedan interiors ever, comfortable, well-integrated and sophisticated.
Before you press the "start" button, it pulses with a red glow, like a heartbeat. When you turn on the ignition, air-vent covers rise, looking as if the car is opening its eyelids. The rotating-dial transmission-gear selector also rises from the console. Over the top? Maybe, but quite effective.
The new dial shifter works well and could prompt a similar feature by copycats.
BOTTOM LINE: The Luxury Performance XFl tested here was pricey at $55,200 but in line with similar performance sedans.
Base price: $55,200
Price as tested: $55,975.
The Premium Luxury version of XF includes a full range of luxury, safety and performance features, including navigation, a 320-watt Alpine audio system with full connectivity, leather and burl-walnut trim and 19-inch alloy wheels.
Cars.com Expert Reviews
|Joe Wiesenfelder||Cars.com National||June 2, 2008|
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|Tom Strongman||KansasCity.com||May 21, 2009|
|Scott Burgess||The Detroit Newspapers||November 29, 2008|
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|Jim Mateja||chicagotribune.com||June 15, 2008|
|Bob Golfen||AZCentral.com||June 5, 2008|
|Steven Cole Smith||Orlando Sentinel||May 24, 2008|
|Warren Brown||washingtonpost.com||April 27, 2008|
|Dan Neil||Los Angeles Times||April 9, 2008|
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