Carmakers are always updating their products; one day, a car offers the latest and greatest styling and amenities. Then, as time passes, it slides toward the back of the pack. So it is with Jaguar and its XF.
The 2015 Jaguar XF is a luxury car that looks good at a distance, but up close even its strong engine and transmission can't overshadow the fact that it's been left behind as its competitors have improved.
The XF is being redesigned for 2016, and the new version is expected to hit dealerships in the winter of 2015. For now, 2015 models remain available. Learn more about the 2016 version here.
The Jaguar XF competes with midsize luxury sedans like the Audi A6, BMW 5 Series and Mercedes-Benz E-Class. Compare them here.
We tested a 2015 Jaguar XF 3.0 Portfolio with all-wheel drive. This model is one step above the base model in the XF lineup.
Exterior & Styling
The Jaguar XF is a collection of curves and rounded edges that looks muscular and remarkably fresh for a car that's kept largely the same look since its debut in 2009. (Its front end was restyled in 2012.)
Unlike sedans that are more angular and upright, the Jaguar XF is stretched out, which is best seen from the rear angle.
Based on what we saw at the 2015 New York International Auto Show, the 2016 model seems to preserve this look despite having its dimensions shifted around. Styling, then, isn't as likely to swing shoppers toward one generation or another as it might have with a radical change.
How It Drives
The Jaguar XF is at its best on the highway, where the combination of its 340-horsepower, supercharged 3.0-liter V-6 engine, transmission, all-wheel drive and supple ride work together for a good luxury-car experience.
That's far from the only choice Jaguar shoppers have as far as XF engines go. In addition to the 3.0-liter V-6 we tested, there's also a 240-hp, turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder; a 510-hp, supercharged 5.0-liter V-8; and a 550-hp, supercharged 5.0-liter V-8 in the XFR-S.
With the V-6 we tested, you don't feel like you need to rush. When you decide to pass, though, the XF is able to get up and do it without a ton of warning. The steering is light, so you're not getting a workout, but I still felt some connection to the road at high speeds. That's a good thing.
Around town, the XF deserves praise for how well the transmission behaves. Unlike some other transmissions with more than five speeds, the XF's doesn't hunt for gears or upshift too quickly, preventing darting moves. There's a small area around 40 mph where I consistently found the XF to be in too high of a gear, but overall I think the transmission is pretty well-sorted-out.
The 2016 XF will be powered by one of two supercharged V-6 engines, with the choice of a 340-hp base model and a 380-hp XF S. Both will pair with an eight-speed automatic, though XF models with rear-wheel drive will get a lighter, more compact transmission than all-wheel-drive models.
Handling is good for a luxury car. When pressed, the Jaguar felt heavy and a bit too soft for really serious action, but it never felt like it was wallowing around. Jaguar also sells two higher-performance versions of the XF — the XFR and the XFR-S — for people who really want screaming performance. The XF we tested wouldn't compete with those fire-breathers, and having that clear delineation between the models is nice.
That's not to say the XF is only able to putter along as a luxury cruiser. It features Sport and Dynamic modes that both sharpen the transmission, letting it hold onto gears longer before upshifting and generally making the XF much more responsive. In addition, the XF with the supercharged 3.0-liter engine, as well as XFR and XFR-S models, have an adaptive suspension with electronic dampers to better adjust to the road. Dynamic mode alters suspension response in those cars.
Those are the high points. The XF, like more and more cars these days, has stop-start technology to shut off the engine when the car is at a stop to save fuel. There are two things to note with the Jaguar system: First, the system locks the steering wheel (other systems let you turn the steering wheel, even if that necessitates the engine starting up again), and second, the system is obtrusive. You'll really notice the engine shutting off and turning back on. Others in this class do it better, and it's something Jaguar should improve in the 2016 model.
Finally, as far as mileage is concerned, the XF is estimated to get 17/27/20 mpg city/highway/combined with the 3.0-liter V-6 we tested. That model is the only XF with all-wheel drive. With the 2.0-liter four-cylinder and rear-wheel drive, the XF is rated 19/30/23 mpg city/highway/combined. The 510-hp, 5.0 liter V-8 engine is rated 15/23/18 mpg, while the XFR-S' 550-hp V-8 has not been tested by the EPA.
Here's where I think the XF starts to show it needs an update, or at least some attention. Right off the bat, my eyes spotted two pieces of aluminum trim that didn't line up. That shouldn't happen in any car, but especially not in one that costs more than $61,000 as equipped.
Also, Jaguar says the wood trim is a veneer of real wood. A different approach might be warranted. It's not just that I'm not a fan of wood trim, it's that the veneer is so thin that when you tap it or touch it, it doesn't feel like wood. I thought it was painted metal, and that's not good.
Jaguar uses a rotary gear selector that rises from the center console when the car is started. Likewise, the climate control vents aren't visible in the dash until the car is started. They rotate into view as the gear selector rises. Some people may like all that motion when they enter the car, but the effect was wasted on me.
The XF is fairly roomy up front; I didn't feel cramped when I was driving. The backseat is a different story. The seatback's angle forced me into a reclining position that wasn't particularly comfortable. Also, my knees were raised fairly high, so the overall impression was of a place I could ride in a pinch, but not a place I wanted to be for more than half an hour or so. For 2016, the XF will bump out slightly in every direction for the rear seat, and I'll be curious to see if Jaguar is able to change the angle of the rear seatback to my liking.
Visibility in the XF is mixed. On the highway I noticed no discernible blind spots, and that's nice. Around town, however, visibility out front is compromised by both the windshield pillars and the location of the side mirrors. I never felt confident driving the XF around pedestrians because of it.
Ergonomics & Electronics
The multimedia system/climate control touch-screen is where Jaguar has the most work to do in order to haul the XF up to the rest of its class. The screen itself is small and has disappointing graphics, and because it's small the buttons by which you input destinations into the nav or adjust climate settings are hard to use.
Further, the system requires too many inputs to make changes, and the inputs are not intuitive. The best example is turning on the heated/ventilated seats. You can either press a button on the dash, bringing up a menu that allows you to select either heating or ventilating, or you can press the climate menu on the screen, select "seats" from that menu, then select whether you want heat or ventilating. I think I could drive from our offices in downtown Chicago to Wrigley Field in less time than it would take me to use either method to adjust the seat temperature.
To that end, the system lags, meaning you press the screen … there's a pause … then the system reacts. That's unacceptable, and Jaguar must do better.
The rest of the XF's ergonomics are in the decent-to-good range. Most other controls fall where you'd expect them to and largely work well.
The rotary gear selection deserves special praise. It's the best I've used, as it feels substantial and the gear selections are noted with a very distinct click. Also, to shift from the normal Drive mode to Sport, you must press the gear selector down and then rotate. Jaguar's system does this very well, giving you a clear sense of when you've pushed the selector down far enough to select Sport. (I still remain un-wowed by the rising-from-the-console bit.)
Cargo & Storage
There's little that's remarkable about the XF in this area. There's a decent-sized center console, which is large enough for the larger smartphones permeating the market. The cupholders are on the smaller size, but carried my average-sized travel mug well.
The trunk does well carrying luggage and groceries, but it's an odd shape, so it's not as accommodating as others in the class.
The Jaguar XF has not been crash-tested by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety or the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
Apart from six airbags and required safety features, the XF we drove came only with a blind spot monitoring system that indicated a car in the blind spot only with a light in the side mirror, not both a light and an audible chime or vibration alert.
There are also few advanced safety options available for the 2015 XF, but Jaguar aims to rectify this with the 2016 redesign. Autonomous Emergency Braking, lane departure warning, lane keeping assist and a drowsy driver monitor are planned for the 2016 model year.
You can browse the 2015 Jaguar XF's safety features here.
Value in Its Class
The XF is an old car in need of an update to keep up with the rest of its class. So, as you might expect, if you want the latest and greatest technology — especially safety features — waiting for the 2016 XF is the prudent choice.
Overall, the 2015 XF has its charms. It's got a strong drivetrain, and it's nice to drive on long highway trips. But from the cramped rear seat to the paucity of safety options — and the price — there are many reasons buyers would be wise to wait until they can at least sit in and test drive a 2016 model before committing to buy the last of the 2015 XFs.
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