The fancy feast
If I mention the word Jaguar do you also think of a spotted tiger and stodgy British cars? More senior readers might lean back, tug on their pipes and reminisce about Le Mans D-Types, sexy E-Types and Mark Twos but you’ll be hard-pressed to locate a fanatical S-Type or X-Type owner.
Jaguar crept through the last three decades as if their R&D department had awol’d in the 1970’s British Leyland strikes, never to return. To avoid the bearded wrath of many happy XJ and Type owners, I hasten to add that the cars were quite elegant and luxurious; they were just not of their time.
2008 is when my “of their time” criticism was brutally silenced with the arrival of the new XF. Jaguar had just been bought by the Indian TATA concern and cool people in trendy offices were also making merry with the marketing and advertising budget.
Cool? Trendy? In a tweed jacket, pipe smoking British institution? This ambiguity also overcame me when I first cast my eyes on our latest press demonstrator – a grey purple metallic Jaguar XF S on dubs. Purple metallic? Dubs? I say old chap, what in heaven’s name is going on here?
Dubs, for all you pipe enthusiasts, is a colloquial term for wheel diameters of 20 inches or more, which the XF S just meets. 265mm rubber wraps around these gigantic, studded, beautiful mags which fill the wheel arches perfectly and give the car a hefty, sporty posture.
Its face features new and old Jaguar trademarks: a pair of twin headlamps in clusters where one light is half covered and the other is fully exposed. Two fat chrome strips accentuate the front bumper while a power dome silently rises out of the radiator grill and pays tribute to great Jags of old.
A pinched window line ends in an exaggerated coupé (and Lexus GS) C-pillar while the sexy rear end features multi-layer light clusters, a shiny accent and two custom-fit exhaust pipes. I spent hours looking at the XF, often recruiting help, but not a single negative comment fell. Not one.
The interior didn’t fare as well but astonished everyone nonetheless. The cabin is a feast of luxurious leather and wood, sprinkled with science fiction gadgets. Someone bemoaned the use of two-tone chocolate brown and crème brûlée beige leather, but I simply adored it. I even licked it once but it tasted of leather.
Switches, knobs, dials, shift paddles and displays are exquisitely designed and lit with a variable cool blue. The engine start/stop button pulsates a red heart-beat until you press it, upon which the silver gear-selector knob rises out of the centre tunnel, accompanied by the delicate opening of all four main air vents.
Good Heavens. The interior lights have no buttons, they are touch-sensitive. As is the cubby hole. A full quartet of adults marvelled at the space-age tech but was in agreement that the Brit had lost none of its opulent and feel-good attributes. Seating comfort is superb all round and the front seat heaters are possibly nuclear.
Extensive road testing highlighted a superb engine, after brief hesitation the twin-turbo Diesel V6 will gladly chirp two rear tyres roughly the size of A4 paper or overtake with effortless grace. The 6-speed automatic is silky smooth and various driver aids try to keep the XF composed and accident free.
Dynamic mode, a DTC button and shift paddles make the Jag more responsive and naughty, rocketing to 100km/h in 7.3 seconds, but its core values are smooth, quiet, lavish motoring. At 130km/h it registers 1,750rpm and I was able to hold a whispered conversation with my passengers. It’s incredible.
As I’ve never piloted a Jag from “days of old” I have no reference point but can report that the dubs make for a firm ride at low speeds. It’s never uncomfortable though and in general the suspension is utterly competent and forgiving. Like a true Jag, I guess. Average fuel consumption is pinned at 6.8L/100km but I was usually hovering around 9, which is still phenomenal for our mixed driving test regime.
The navigation can only be programmed at standstill (a safety feature), the reverse camera and parking assist mutes the fantastic sound system too much and for too long, but these are irrelevant gripes in another of my favourite cars for 2011.
Warranty and service plan are 100,000km and three/five years long, while the XF range offers you four distinctive models and a choice of five engines. At N$680,045 the equivalent BMW or Mercedes cost at least N$30,000 less, but compared to the fancy new Jaguar XF S they seem so, what’s the word, obvious.
0-100m: 7.2s / 98.7km/h
0-200m: 10.2s / 125.4km/h
0-300m: 12.7s / 144.0km/h
0-400m: 15.0s / 157.0km/h
1/4mile: 15.1s @ 97.8mph (157.3km/h)
Climate Cool, overcast
Road Dry tarmac, level
Occupants Driver, no passengers
Fuel level 1/3