Jaguar XF Loses Two Cylinders, Keeps its Claws

CHESHIRE GRIN: The front clip of the XF has a menacing look, but we’re ready to follow it down the rabbit hole.
CHESHIRE GRIN: The front clip of the XF has a menacing look, but we’re ready to follow it down the rabbit hole.
GEORGE KENNEDY

This is not your father’s Jaguar. Heck, this isn’t even your older brother’s Jag. Ownership of the British marque has changed hands many times throughout the years, but under Tata, the Indian automaker, the brand is poised to flourish. Though some may scoff at the historical and iconic Jaguar brand under control of the same company that makes the cheapest car in the world, the Tata Nano, one must remember that when it comes to business ventures, what chairman emeritus Ratan Tata touches turns to gold. The Jaguar XF is no different.

Development of the Jaguar XF was already underway when Tata took over Jaguar in 2008, but in subsequent years, the car has been updated and modified to take on the performance/luxury establishment. In 2011, Jaguar revealed a face-lifted XF, with smoothed out head and tail lights. Performance variants, such as the XFR and white-knuckle XFR-S have also been unleashed.

The most important improvement came more recently, in the form of smaller engines. With impending Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) regulations, automakers must embrace technologies like supercharging and turbocharging, which allow sports cars to create more power with fewer cylinders.

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

This V6 Jag we’re driving today will probably be updated again in the next few years, but right now, it’s upping its mileage numbers with a supercharged 3.0-liter V6 engine. It boasts 340 horsepower and 332 lb./ft. of torque. That’s 40 horsepower less, and 48 lb.-ft. less than the output of the naturally aspirated V8, but the power is delivered in a better torque curve. That means you get the same performance with better fuel economy. The Jaguar XF 3.0 will get from 0 to 60 in just 5.7 seconds, same as the V8.

Power is sent through an 8-speed automatic to all-wheel-drive. The combination of the smaller engine with the rev-optimizing automatic yields an EPA rated 16 miles per gallon city, 26 highway. In a week of mixed driving, we experienced combined fuel economy of 20.1 mpg.

Our Jaguar XF 3.0 AWD started at $53,000. There is a rear-wheel-drive version that starts for less, at $50,050. The base model is the 2.0T, which starts at $46,975, and has a small turbocharged inline-4. For that model, you’d be trading performance for efficiency. With the 3.0, there is no need to give up either.

The XF typically has a sinister outward appearance, but the impression was somewhat lessened by my car’s “Osmium Blue Metallic” paint. In overcast conditions the car looks gray, but in direct sunlight, the blue shines through. It is a fascinating feature, even as it dials down the XF’s visual bite.

The cabin of the XF is as accommodating as the first year it debuted. The technology might be new, but the fit and finish are the links that connects Jaguars of old to their modern counterparts.

Press the start button in the center console and the rotary style shifter rises elegantly from its resting place. Turn the dial one notch past “D” to find the “S” sport mode. It quickens throttle response and raises shift points, turning the XF from sedate luxury sedan to menacing performance saloon.

The Sport mode has great shifting for hard acceleration, but those who enjoy an enthusiastic back road drive know it is important to get in a downshift or two before approaching a hard curve. For that, the XF has paddle shifters, providing extremely quick shifts.

The XF is decidedly a driver’s car, and as a result, the focus is on the front seat occupants. The rear seats are a little cramped, especially if you’re trying to sit behind this driver’s six-foot-three frame.

One area where the Jag will have to improve in the next generation is the technological front. The center touch screen was revolutionary for a Jaguar in 2008, but by 2014, it is diminutive and low-tech compared to systems available in more commonplace cars. In our modern, tech-driven car market, large automakers, like Toyota, have the advantage of mass resources to apply to tech. Smaller automakers, where hand assembly and small production scale were once points of pride, are now forced to play catch-up.

But the style, power, efficiency, and general presence of a car like the XF far outweigh any technological issues. It is a vehicle that announces its arrival with a throaty exhaust note, then impresses with its grandiose appearance. The kind of impression that an XF makes typically is found in far more expensive vehicles. At the end of the day, it’s a JAG.

The XF was the first vehicle to usher in the modern era for Jaguar, but it is already starting to show signs of age. Jag has done well to update her, with a new engine, new transmission, and other refinements. The supercharged V6 is a terrific engine to underpin the majority of the lineup moving into the future. The 3.0-liter engine is a perfect symbol for the XF moving forward, a smart and small engine replacing the big and brutish V8.