Jaguar's XF is a great-looking car whose styling swivels heads wherever it goes.
The XF has an aggressive nose, wide-eyed headlights and a coupelike roofline. The front fender vent and the shape of the tail mimic details found on the XK coupe.
The downside to its sweet look, however, is that the design is more Lexus than Jaguar and it lacks a connection to the previous S-Type Jaguar that it replaces, aside from the familiar logos. Expect the upcoming redesign of the XJ to capture styling cues from this car.
So what's the problem with that? Not much, except diehard Jaguar fans may wish for more of a familial connection.
The low roof does not inhibit interior space because the car's waistline rises to meet the roof rather than the roof coming down to meet the waist. The rising waist-line results in a high tail that yields good aerodynamics while allowing substantial luggage space. The coefficient of drag is 0.29.
The XF is powered by a 4.2-liter V-8 that provides 300 horsepower in normally aspirated form and 420 horsepower when supercharged. Jaguar said the normally aspirated XF will accelerate to 60 mph in 6.5 seconds while the supercharged version will do so in 5.4 seconds.
Prices begin at $49,200 for the Luxury model, $55,300 for the Premium Luxury model and $63,700 for the supercharged version. The test car was a supercharged model from Jaguar's press fleet.
In June, Tata Motors, India's largest automobile company, purchased Jaguar and Land Rover from Ford Motor Co. J.D. Power and Associates report that Jaguar moved from 10th place in 2008 to a tie for first place in the 2009 Vehicle Dependability Study.
While the supercharged engine is fun when you tromp on the throttle, most buyers will be more than happy with the regular engine and the corresponding lower price. Fuel economy for the non-supercharged engine is rated at 16 mpg in the city and 25 on the highway. Mileage of the supercharged model is 15 in the city and 23 on the highway.
The XF sports a number of technological features. A main one is a shift-by-wire automatic transmission that uses a console-mounted dial selector instead of a shift lever. The dial is not only simple and intuitive, but it also consumes less space than a shift lever, and I found it very natural to use.
The transmission can be shifted with paddles on the steering wheel, and because shifts are controlled electronically, they occur faster than they would if made by a manual linkage. The transmission has winter and dynamic settings that interact with the sensitivity of the throttle, shift points and vehicle stability control.
The XF, even with the 20-inch wheels on the high-performance model, has a smooth ride and responsive handling.
The cabin of the supercharged model had brushed aluminum trim and small sections of real wood. The air vents pivot closed when the engine is off and open when the car is started. That's a nifty idea, but hardly necessary because the vents are almost always open.
I was not fond of Jaguar's touch-screen controls for audio and navigation because the menus are not as intuitive as the menus in some competing systems.
The audio system has eight speakers. Bowers & Wilkins designed the optional audio system. Jaguar plans to offer digital audio broadcasting and Sirius satellite radio along with Bluetooth connectivity for telephones. MP3 players can also be used with the audio system and can be controlled through the audio system's touch screen.
Other available features include voice control for navigation and telephone functions, a blind spot monitor, front and rear parking aids, a rear parking camera, adaptive cruise control, electronic parking brake and automatic speed limiter.
The base price of the test car was $63,700. The sticker price was $64,010.
Four years or 50,000 miles.
2009 Jaguar XF Supercharged
Engine: 4.2-liter, 420-hp V-8
Wheelbase: 114.5 inches
Curb weight: 4,017 lbs.
Base price: $63,700
As driven: $64,010
MPG rating: 15 city, 23 hwy.
To reach Tom Strongman, send e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.