Versus the competiton:
The verdict: The redesigned 2016 Jaguar XF’s incremental changes deliver a more refined, athletic and comfortable four-door car that’s also an unlikely bargain.
Versus the competition: While its redesign doesn’t blow away competitors, this 2016 midsize sedan stands out for its light weight, steering and well-executed electronics.
Where the 2015 XF offered a turbocharged four-cylinder, supercharged V-6 and a choice of supercharged V-8s, the 2016 model year starts with only a supercharged 3.0-liter V-6. The new entry-level engine, a turbo-diesel 2.0-liter four-cylinder, will come later in the model year. (See the two model years compared.)
There are two main XF types: the XF 35t and the XF S. I drove both. The 35t’s engine produces 340 horsepower, while the XF S has 380 hp, functions of different supercharger boost pressure. The 35t comes in Premium, Prestige and R-Sport trim levels, while the XF S stands alone. Both come with an eight-speed automatic transmission and the choice of rear- or all-wheel drive.
The XF competes with the likes of the Audi A6, BMW 535i, Mercedes-Benz S-Class and Cadillac CTS (see them compared side by side).
There wasn’t much wrong with the 2015 Jaguar XF midsize sedan, which might explain the mild, evolutionary approach Jaguar took in redesigning it for 2016. Without a tutor, you probably wouldn’t recognize the differences in exterior styling. The 2016 has lost 0.1 inch in overall length, but the wheelbase is 2 inches longer for more interior space, which helps differentiate the XF from the upcoming XE compact sedan.
The current trim levels look similar, the primary difference being the S trim’s lack of the metallic-look crossbars that sit over lower trim levels’ outboard air vents in the front bumper. Standard wheels include 18-inch alloys for the Premium trim level, 19s for the middle trims and 20s for the XF S. Xenon headlights are standard; adaptive LED headlights start out optional but are included in the R-Sport and S.
The engine provides plenty of power for quick sprints off the line as well as high-speed passing. The standard eight-speed transmission is reasonably responsive. It’s unfortunate I have to describe it that way, but today’s eight- and nine-speed transmissions frequently exhibit a lot of lag and gear-hunting. The Jaguar XF’s is better than average. In passing maneuvers, the transmission did a stair-step, two-gear kickdown rather than hopping directly down a couple of gears — but at least it pulled ahead in the brief interim gear rather than bogging down completely. Was the six-speed automatic, which was abandoned in 2013, a better experience? Hell yes, but it was also less efficient.
The differences between the 340- and 380-hp versions of the engine are so small I don’t think I’d even bother marketing it. The torque ratings are the same — 332 pounds-feet at 4,500 rpm — and both engines hit peak horsepower at 6,500 rpm. Jaguar estimates zero-to-60-mph times of 5.2 and 5.1 seconds with rear-wheel drive, a difference you simply don’t feel in your butt — even if your butt is British.
Turning the rotary-knob gear selector from D to S activates a transmission Sport mode that mitigates the kickdown steps by holding on to lower gears longer. There’s a selectable Dynamic mode — along with Normal, Eco and Winter modes — that activates the transmission’s Sport mode. It also brings more aggressive throttle response, lower power-steering assist and sportier suspension settings with the optional adaptive suspension, which both cars I drove featured. Even better, a configurable menu on the touch-screen lets you select which of these attributes change when you activate Dynamic mode. In some cars, those settings are predetermined at the factory.
The cabin is pretty quiet. Under heavy acceleration, you hear some nice induction and faint supercharger sounds, but Jaguar could have done more with the exhaust note. I think the company went overboard with the F-Type’s loud exhaust, but even I feel Jaguar went too far in the other direction with the XF. When so many competitors have turbos mucking up their exhaust, the supercharged XF had a lot of potential. Opportunity lost.
With EPA-estimated mileage of 20/30/24 mpg city/highway/combined on premium gas, the 2016 XF beats the base 2015 model by 1 mpg combined and the 2015’s V-6 by 2 mpg combined (rear-drive models). The all-wheel-drive 2016’s 20/28/23 mpg beats the comparable 2015 by 3 mpg combined. The XF is now on par with the competing A6, 535i and CTS.
The brakes are strong and linear, and the handling is a high point — balanced and neutral, with excellent steering response and feedback I’d describe as above average. The A6 has never been strong in the latter department, and the 5 Series is commonly cited as evidence that BMW has gotten too soft. It’s also gotten too heavy. We won’t know how the XF’s upcoming base model will compare with the 528, but the 35t is 320 pounds lighter than a comparably equipped BMW 535i and 408 pounds less than an Audi A6 3.0T, on which all-wheel drive is standard (the all-wheel-drive Jag is 298 pounds lighter than the Audi). Thanks to more extensive use of aluminum, the rear-drive 2016 XF is 132 pounds lighter than the V-6s of 2015, and with an all-wheel-drive system that’s a claimed 16 percent lighter, that version of the 2016 is down an impressive 265 pounds. Jaguar’s new all-wheel drive system — as yet untested — is claimed to send 100 percent of torque to the rear wheels unless it’s needed in front.
You definitely feel the 2016 Jaguar XF’s lower weight, regardless of your butt’s origin. I wish I could say it’s a revelation, but until I get the car on a racetrack, I’ll call it a welcome attribute in a class that’s largely overweight and overly isolationist.
Though the Continental all-season tires (on 19- and 20-inch alloy wheels) with which my test cars were equipped exhibited admirable grip, it was clear the chassis could handle more. A set of summer performance tires probably would better show the car’s true colors. With the adaptive suspension, the dynamics didn’t come at the expense of ride comfort, even in the sportier setting. The base suspension — which I have yet to drive — has shock absorbers designed to quell high-frequency ripples without sacrificing necessary firmness when needed.
The XF’s interior is appropriately luxurious, with real metal and wood trim – though the combination didn’t look right in one of my cars. Fortunately, some of the materials are a la carte options, depending on trim level. And the purple, disco accent lighting on the center console was truly baffling (see the photo to the right). The apparent Bee Gees feature turned out to be the Configurable Interior Mood Lighting option, which, by grace, allows one to select color as well as intensity.
My cars had the standard simple but clear gauges with a color head-up display between them. In February 2016, Jaguar will offer an optional, reconfigurable all-digital instrument panel measuring 12.3 inches.
As in most of this class, the Jaguar XF’s base trim level has imitation leather upholstery and the higher ones have the real thing. (Audi is a notable exception with standard genuine leather seats.) I remained comfortable in the driver’s seat after hundreds of miles. Front legroom is up almost 3 inches for 2016, to a generous 44.4 inches. Only the CTS beats it, with 45.7 inches. The XF’s front headroom increased 0.4 inch to 37.5 inches, which is a few tenths above the A6 but about 3 inches shy of the 5 Series and CTS. It was high enough for me, at 6 feet tall, to drive with the seat raised almost all the way.
The addition of rear-quarter windows improves rearward visibility a bit versus the 2015, but the car’s high belt line doesn’t help — typical of today’s cars. A standard backup camera aids in parking maneuvers, as do optional 360-degree cameras and a Park Assist feature that sizes up parking spaces and automatically steers the car in and out of them. Those options are available only on the R-Sport and S trims.
To me, the single biggest impediment to visibility is the optional heated front windshield, which incorporates squiggly wires that I find distracting in daylight and maddening after dark, when they introduce halos around lights. I don’t know how many ice storms you’d have to encounter yearly to make this tradeoff worthwhile, but as a Chicago resident, I find conventional front defoggers are plenty good enough. Also note that electronic toll transponders usually don’t work through these windshields. Sadly, if you want the optional heated seats and steering wheel, in most cases you’re stuck with the squiggles, too.
By the numbers, the backseat benefits from the longer wheelbase. With just over a half-inch of additional legroom, the XF’s 37.2 inches is two-tenths of an inch behind the A6 and beats the BMW and Caddy by almost 2 inches. Though the spec is higher, it seems like the seat is closer to the floor than in the 2015, which results in elevated knees. The center floor hump is also very high and wide, which limits the center seat’s usefulness.
In keeping with other Jaguars, the new XF’s controls are a combination of buttons and a touch-screen rather than a display with a separate multifunction controller. Starting mid-February 2016, the XF will offer an optional, ambitious InControl Touch Pro multimedia system with a 10.2-inch touch-screen. I tested the standard InControl Touch (“Novice” implied), which has an 8-inch touch-screen flanked by buttons that are mechanical rather than the touch-sensitive panels that cheapen some of Land Rover’s vehicles. Where some Jaguar and Land Rover touch-screens are painfully slow, this base XF system is a newer version that reacts more quickly to touch. It does the job and includes InControl Apps, a smartphone interface for both Android and Apple. Though Jaguar has announced it will adopt Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, they are not currently available.
A navigation system is optional, as is Wi-Fi hot-spot functionality. We can debate how useful an in-car hot spot is, but not that 4G cellular speeds (now the norm) would be better than the XF’s 3G.
The standard Meridian audio system includes AM and FM radio, USB and analog aux-in jacks and Bluetooth streaming audio with hands-free phone support. Satellite radio (subscription required) is an option. This stereo sounds quite good, so you might be able to live without the optional Meridian surround sound system, which adds over $3,000 — and a CD player.
The XF’s trunk is rated to have a staggering 19.1 cubic feet of cargo volume — more than a cubic foot more than the 2015 and roughly 5 cubic feet more than the Audi, BMW and Cadillac. And it seems that large. It swallowed a couple of roll aboard suitcases and still left the majority of the trunk wide open. The backseat folds in a 40/20/40 split.
Interior storage is less impressive. The glove compartment and door pockets are OK, but there’s room under the center armrest for little more than the audio and 12-volt jacks found there. A phone would make it.
The 2016 Jaguar XF hadn’t been crash-tested by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety or the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration as of publication. Unfortunately, because Jaguar is a relatively low-volume brand, its cars are seldom tested.
In addition to the usual complement of airbags, the Jaguar XF offers such active-safety options as forward collision warning with autonomous braking, which operates between 3 and 50 mph and sees cars but not pedestrians (the latter will debut on the Jaguar F-Pace SUV). There’s also lane departure warning and prevention and blind spot warning with rear cross-traffic alert. The blind spot warning is uncommonly accurate, seeming to know the definition of a blind spot (not visible in the mirrors); most vehicles trigger an alert when a vehicle is anywhere behind you.
The Jaguar XF also excels in the adjustability of some of these features: Lane Keep Assist lets you choose Normal or High Sensitivity, so the feature either corrects egregious wandering out of your lane or essentially steers for you, respectively. The adaptive cruise control, which operates all the way to a stop and can then accelerate again, can be turned off, leaving conventional cruise control. Most vehicles offer only conventional or adaptive cruise.
See all the XF’s safety features listed here.
For 2016, Jaguar XF prices range from $52,895 to $66,695, including destination fee, representing a $5,275 price decrease from the 2015 V-6 version (there’s no entry-level trim to compare yet). As a price of entry, this looks like a bargain. The base V-6 CTS starts at $54,280, the base BMW 535 (a six-cylinder) is $56,845 and the V-6 Audi A6 3.0T is $58,325 with standard all-wheel drive. With all-wheel drive, the XF is still cheaper, at $55,895.
Value isn’t found only in base prices, though. In response to its poor — and certainly earned — reliability reputation, Jaguar recently introduced the most generous warranty coverage in the class, including five-year/60,000-mile basic, powertrain, roadside assistance and telematics collision notification coverage, plus complimentary scheduled maintenance for the same term. Its competitors end basic coverage at four years/50,000, though Cadillac covers powertrains and roadside assistance for six years/70,000. Audi and BMW end their roadside coverage at four years/50,000.