Test Drive: 2016 Jaguar XF S

When the Jaguar XF bowed late 2007, it heralded in a new era of Jaguar design. Under the stewardship of design chief Ian Callum, the XF sedan broke the chains that had been binding Jaguar design to its past. No more round headlights and retro grills. Hello swoopy coupe-like profile and modern detailing. Yes, the XF was still identifiable as a Jag – Callum will always bless his cats with taut, sinuous surfaces and powerful haunches – but this saloon looked forward, not in the rearview mirror.

Being a tad lower and wider, and sporting a longer wheelbase with shorter overhangs, the new XF sits on the ground with decided purpose.

For 2016 we get an all new XF, built on fresh all-aluminum architecture that is shared with the smaller XE. The old XF’s underpinnings dated back to the Ford era, so with this 2016 model, every Jaguar vehicle can now brag aluminum-intensive construction.

The design is evolutionary – even a little less daring, but certainly muscular and elegant. Callum and his team have imbued this cat with more maturity. Being a tad lower and wider, and sporting a longer wheelbase with shorter overhangs, the new XF sits on the ground with decided purpose. It’s a handsome thing that flows elegantly from its prominent upright grill to the longer rear deck lid. Out back we see taillights that echo those of the legendary E-Type sports car. It cuts through the air better too, bragging a drag coefficient of 0.26 vs 0.29. Sprucing up this tester are 20-inch Labyrinth dark grey diamond-turned alloys ($700).

That said, the 2016 XF packs more visual punch in lighter shades. This Ammonite Grey ($600) tones it down to the point of near anonymity.

All Canadian XF models get all-wheel-drive and a ZF-sourced eight-speed manumatic. Tested here is the top cat (for now) – the XF S with a starting price of $72,900. All four corners claw at the tarmac courtesy of Jag’s 380-hp 3.0L direct-injected supercharged V6. Below the XF S sit the R-Sport ($69,900), the Prestige ($66,400) and the Premium ($61,400) – these three are powered by a 340 hp version of the same engine.

This S gets standard LED adaptive headlights, S exterior styling, reverse traffic detection, blind spot monitor with closing speed warning, auto high beam, lane keeping assist, driver condition monitoring, sport seats, SiriusXM radio and adaptive damping.

Inside we’re treated to the same bit of theatre the outgoing XF delivered on start up – the dash vents open like mini garage doors and the rotary gear selector rises phoenix-like from the console. The vertical dash panel theme is retained as well, but as would be expected everything looks richer and is built to a higher standard. The front seats are on the firm side yet offer fine lateral support and good long distance comfort.

As with all Jags, the cabin feels intimate. A design feature borrowed from big brother XJ is the Riva Hoop - a narrow architectural detail that sweeps across the top of the dash and flows into the door panels. The centre console is deliberately high to increase the cossetting factor. Says Callum, “You sit in a Jaguar, not on it.”

The 2016 XF has a high beltline, low roofline and thick A-pillars so there’s a slight impression of sitting in a bunker. A very nice bunker mind you, but great outward visibility is not one of this car’s virtues. With a wheelbase increase of 51 mm (2 in), the rear seat passengers enjoy a tad more legroom (0.6 in). The little sculpted rear quarter windows give those riders a better view.

The standard 380W 11-speaker Meridian audio is excellent, making the XF experience that much more pleasant.

An area where Jaguar has lagged is in its infotainment interfaces. The XF gets the new generation InControl Touch with an 8-inch touchscreen that is certainly an improvement over the creaky old predecessor. It’s faster, the graphics are better and it responds to “swipe” and “drag” gestures. However, as there is only a volume knob (no tuning knob or preset buttons), negotiating radio functions requires too much distracting screen poking.

Available (but not fitted to this tester), is the Technology Pack ($3,100) that adds a 10.2-inch touchscreen, a configurable main instrument TFT screen with pinpoint sharp graphics, and 825-watt Meridian audio.

InControl Connect App ($700) bestows remote start, shows where the car is parked and allows you to pre-heat or cool-it. Not sure if you locked the XF? Check your phone.

The nav will sync with other phones so loved-ones can know of your progress, where you are, and when you’ll arrive. Also available is a feature that throws up a panoramic city view of your destination when within 200 meters, and it will help you find a place to park too.

Jaguar has partnered with numerous specialists and suppliers to get in the connectivity game big time.

So let’s get to the driving part. Presumably, those kicking the XF’s tires have an interest in the pleasurable act of driving a car, because, well… this is a cornerstone of the Jaguar ethos. The marque trades on an engaging balance of ride and handling, and the 2016 XF S does not disappoint.

A lighter and 28 percent stuffer structure provides a good starting point. Interestingly, the XF’s door skins and boot lid are steel to help arrive at a near 50/50 weight distribution. With the S getting standard Adaptive Dynamic damping, the sedan maintains a reasonably compliant ride over rough stuff and firms up when pressed. A Dynamic setting calls up firmer damping, better throttle response, a more lenient ESC program and more weight in the helm. Select S with the rotary shift selector and the eight-speed transmission goes all racy on us.

The drive train is a delight. Here at Autos.ca we love the JLR supercharged engines for their sharp throttle response and linear power delivery. While the 380-hp 3.0 V6 in this XF S doesn’t bark, blat and gargle like those fitted in the F-Type sports car (nor should it), its muted growl with a dusting of supercharger whine on top makes for a uniquely purposeful soundtrack. And the XF S has nary a problem getting out of its own way. Jag claims it blows past 100 km/h in 5.3 seconds.

The new electric steering is good but not class leading – there is a slight on-centre vagueness that makes itself known mostly on the highway. (The 2016 Jaguar XJ I drove right after the XF, with its lovely hydraulic steering, felt so much better.) Ah, but that is a small niggle. Get the XF up on its toes on a winding back road and it cuts a mighty fine path. The steering weights up nicely in the bends and the car charges with poise and confidence. The engine is strong and the transmission bangs off paddles requests with silken alacrity.

As a luxury sport sedan, the XF S delivers. But things about to get a whole lot tougher out there in this selective marketplace. A new BMW 5 Series and Mercedes-Benz E-Class are about to enter the arena, and you know these Germans will be bristling with enough technology and computing power to dim the lights at NASA. That said, the beauty of this Jaguar is its resolution to be different – to play on the enduring aesthetics of the brand. It’s a lovely car to behold, feel and to drive, and we must tip our hats to Tata, the man and his Indian conglomerate, whose stewardship of Jaguar Land Rover provides the funds and the smarts to let these British marques do what they do best.

Warranty:
4 years/100,000 km; 6 years/110,000 km powertrain; 7 years/unlimited distance corrosion perforation; 4 years/100,000 km roadside assistance

Competitors:
Acura RLX
Audi A6
Cadillac XTS
Chrysler 300
BMW 5 Series
Hyundai Genesis Ultimate / Genesis G80
Lexus GS
Mercedes E-Class

2016 Jaguar XF S
2016 Jaguar XF S
Base Price $72,900
Optional Equipment InControl Protect + CONNECT Pack $1,150; Comfort and Convenience Pack $2,000; 20-inch Labyrinth alloys $700; heated front windscreen $350; navigation system (SD card) $600; metallic paint (Ammonite Grey) $600
A/C Tax $100
Destination Fee $1,475
Price as Tested $79,775
Optional Equipment
10 0
Scoring breakdowns 7.6
8 Exterior Styling
8 Performance
8 Interior
7 Comfort
7 Fuel Economy