Month 12 running a Jaguar XF - final thoughts as the Jaguar leaves the CAR fleet
I didn't design this car to save the company,’ Jaguar designer Ian Callum told CAR in October 2007. ‘But if it works, it will,’ we added. At that moment Jaguar was in trouble, and for sale. Investment firms were circling, sales had slumped, and the value of the company would fall further if reaction to the new XF, unveiled at that year’s Frankfurt show, flatlined. Back then we would have given much to have a crystal ball telling us how things would pan out, and how, five years on, we would reflect on a year with the XF.
Cut to the chase: Callum’s car is brilliant. It has been a pleasure to own, to drive, to spend time in, to talk to people about. The only occasions on which I’ve even given a thought to its recent ancestors – the loathed, front-wheel-drive X-type or the portly, old-mannish S-type – have been to rejoice in their banishment. Everything else has been about the bold, fresh future.
I’m no pioneer – Tim Pollard ran a pre-facelift 2.7 V6 XF for CAR back in 2009 – but this year it’s been the new, smaller but more powerful 2.2-litre diesel engine (also seen in the Range Rover Evoque) that’s entertained us. Ours was the 187bhp version, but even since we’ve had it they’ve replaced it with a throatier 197bhp mix.
It’s a fine enough engine, with 332lb ft of torque that gets pretty punchy through the mid range, but, like Tim’s earlier car, it still lacks the sort of urge off the line that would have BMW 5-series engineers scrambling for the steroids. It’s a sublime chassis, though, with a poise and confidence that has seen the XF win every kind of group test, from April 2009’s XFR vs M5 vs E63 vs RS6 shootout, to August 2011’s diesel battle against 520d, E220 CDI and A6 2.0 TDI. You can see why – most of those rivals drive fiercely, but you really have to be ON it to stretch their legs. With the XF, fast progress is a calm, suave extension of your personality. No sweat.
This effortlessness extends to Callum’s design, too, at least on the outside. A measure of his success is that you feel unstressed about ownership, you stroll towards the car, not stride, you evolve serenely into a zen-like state of Simon Templar-spec unruffledness. The Germans can’t pull this off. British reserve translates to them as weakness.
Reserve, however, goes out of the electric window with Callum’s interior. He had in mind a ‘handshake’ moment in which the cabin welcomes you aboard by theatrically extending its gearchange dial and swivelling its airvents when you hit the ‘on’ switch. Trouble is, you don’t repeatedly shake hands with someone you meet four times day; life’s too short. It gets on your nerves half way through day one.
Then there’s Jaguar’s first crack at stop/start., (aka ‘randomly stop/eventually start’). Needs work. And the touchscreen is clumsily configured and hard to use on the move. And then there’s the eight-speed auto ’box, which exerts all its energy trying to bully you into eighth from the moment you set off. Try to hustle it and it goes nuts, thrashing and roaring until you give in. Leather seats are lovely though (despite ghastly colour – that’s our fault) and the steering is quite lovely – all touch and appropriate heft.
We had a bit of a kerfuffle over tyre wear. Last month I apparently invited a load of abuse from certain correspondents for stating that strange wear patterns on the rears were down to a tracking problem. ‘No!’ you shouted. ‘It’s the pressures, you idiot! Call yourself a journalist!?’ FYI, folks, I checked the pressures every week. It wasn’t the pressures.
Niggles don’t condemn the XF, nor even undermine it. The car is an event, like Jaguars always were, but not a liability (like Jaguars always were). It has shed all that old baggage (leaving a vast bootspace for new baggage).
So, did the XF save Jaguar? You decide, but this much we know: Jaguar IS saved.
By Greg Fountain
Month 11 running a Jaguar XF 2.2D Premium Luxury: we compare our 187bhp car with the new, more powerful XF diesel
One of the privileges of running a test car on Ben Pulman’s fleet is that he will insist on us trying as many variants of the same car as a year will allow. This month, therefore, I have driven a total of three Jaguar XFs.
Our 2.2-litre diesel in 187bhp tune displays a wonderfully languid demeanour once, like a sullen teenager, it’s hauled itself out of bed. Back in July, however, I was even more impressed with the lesser 160bhp mix of the same; it was less peaky and just as quick. Now I’ve had a bash at the more grunty 197bhp remix (the red car you can see in the picture) which replaces our version in the XF ladder.
The extra power is inconsequential, but the engine seems to have been tuned more sympathetically with the eight-speed auto ’box, the recalitrance of which has been our biggest bugbear. The result is a more coherent drive, with less unnecessary revving or premature upchanging. They’ve made it a slightly nicer car and, at £33,940 in Luxury trim, it’s £3k cheaper than our car was at birth. Don’t spec the wood, though!
The third XF? A supercharged 3.0-litre petrol. Different world!
by Greg Fountain
Month 10 running a Jaguar XF 2.2D Premium Luxury: the mystery of the bald tyres
It is, of course, all Ben Barry’s fault. You don’t have to be Hercule Poirot to figure it out or to gather everyone in the library. The plain facts of the case are these: I took the XF in for a service at 16,000 miles and it was found to have… illegal rear tyres. It might not have been Ben? No, and Homer Simpson didn’t steal the donuts.
Tyres notwithstanding, the Jaguar’s service cost £289.31 inc. VAT, for which one gets some oil, a filter to filter it through and that all-important ‘brake dust arrestor’ (£3.99). The good folk of Marshall’s of Peterborough done good, even throwing in a strangely old-fashioned circular tin of boiled sweets. Is this gift demographically targeted, I wonder? What do they give hot-hatch owners attending their Vauxhall or Honda franchises – a bag of weed?
Luckily, artificial stimulants aren’t required to enjoy the XF. The car’s a joy to drive, easy to live with, reasonably frugal and somehow better-looking with time. The touchscreen, however, remains a stroke of ungenius, as it requires you to take your eyes off the road at all times.
by Greg Fountain
Month 9 running a Jaguar XF 2.2D Premium Luxury: The key to a comfy saloon
Audi, BMW and Mercedes. These are the names that the government-approved Road Test Computer throws out when you key it to search for Jaguar XF rivals. Fair enough. The computer works on the basis of set criteria, among them size, body shape, price, performance etc. But, when the CAR long-termer fleet decamped to Wales recently for its Not Quite Annual (But Quite Often Considering) Group Test I found another rival for my XF 2.2D among our assorted cars: Tim’s Infiniti M35h.
Okay, it’s not quite comparable on price (Jag: £37,950, Infiniti: £46,845) or cubic capacity, cylinders, valves or power (Jag: 2179cc, 4cyl, 16v, 187bhp, Infiniti: 3498cc, 6cyl, 24v, 302bhp) or emissions or mpg (Jag: 149g/km, 52.3mpg, Infiniti 159g/km, 40.9mpg). But… both are lovely svelte saloons with leather chairs, four doors and a desire to seduce the middle classes and the middle-aged.
Plus, Wales was really cold and rather wet. Much time was thus spent sheltering and, if you want to shelter in groups, a comfy saloon car is the preferred refuge. Nobody sheltered in the Jag, because there’s not much room in the back and the hospital-waiting-room-spec light grey leather seats are as appealing as a hospital waiting room. 1-0 Infiniti.
Wales was also rather tiring (yes, I can sense your sympathy) and, when the fun of scalpelling around Snowdonia in the Lotus Evora or break-necking the Llanberris Pass in the M5 had worn off, the keys to comfy saloons are gold dust for the long schlepp home. Nobody chose the Infiniti. With its jiggly, floppy ride, dull steering and ‘glutinous’ dynamic character it spent two days acquiring precisely no new friends on its Facebook page, and in the process underlined something I already knew and that became readily apparent to the rest of the CAR team: the Jag’s a sweet-handling car. Beautifully sorted. Effortless.
Not a scientific twin test, perhaps, but relevant in that at least ten of us drove both cars and broadly agreed: Jaguar 2 Infiniti 1.
Incidentally, you can read about our Wales group test in the June 2012 issue of CAR Magazine on sale 16 May, as narrated/reffed by Anthony ffrench-Constant. The Road Test Computer ought to read it too – it might learn something.
By Greg Fountain
Month 8 running a Jaguar XF 2.2D Premium Luxury: Why Ben Barry doesn't like our XF
I don't particularly like our Jaguar XF 2.2 diesel, and there are two main reasons: firstly, because of the secondary ride quality. That's the bit that deals with the little imperfections in the road surface. This XF has passive dampers, where higher-spec cars use adaptive dampers to great effect, and I just think our car's ride quality is too harsh and too unyielding.
Secondly, it's the combination of small engine and eight-speed gearbox. There's nothing particularly wrong with the engine or its still-sufficient performance. It's that the gearbox is constantly, annoyingly shuffling around to deliver both economy and performance, and the worst part about this is that it's too eager to drop you into eighth gear. This means that the four-pot diesel – never the most refined of engines – is often at 1500rpm or so, at which point harsh, buzzy frequencies vibrate through the car. I end up defaulting to manual mode all the time so I can avoid that scenario.
By Ben Barry
Month 7 running a Jaguar XF 2.2D Premium Luxury: Flying and cruising in the Jag XF 2.2 D
I first drove the XF 2.2D in 2011, when we pitched it against four-cylinder oil-burning rivals from Audi, BMW and Mercedes – and when photographer John Wycherley took this rather good shot of me airborne. I loved the facelifted XF then, especially thrashing it across the Yorkshire Dales National Parks, and I was in fact so keen that OV61 MYW was originally due to be my successor to the Nissan Leaf – only the combination of an insistent Greg Fountain and a certain purple Lotus Evora S (which you can read more about tomorrow) stopped it being mine.
But the longer the XF 2.2D is on our fleet, the more I love it. Right now I’m in Vienna, on the Mazda CX-5 launch, and the XF is at Heathrow airport. I’ll land back in the midst of rush hour, and then I’ve got a slog back to Peterborough. But I know that (when I remember where I’ve parked it) I can just walk up, tug the handle and the XF will open as it registers the key in my pocket. The start button will pulsate red, when I press it the air vents will rotate and the rotary gearbox selector will rise, and as I join the madness of the M25 it’ll stop/start when I come to a standstill.
The XF's DAB radio will keep me sane, and when it goes dark outside the turquoise lighting will look so very cool. I won’t need to stop for fuel on the way home either, even though the XF is down to a quarter of a tank.
I must sound like a broken record, as I said all this a couple of months ago, but I keep using the XF for the same jobs as it keeps getting better and better at them. Great car.
By Ben Pulman
Month 6 running a Jaguar XF 2.2D Premium Luxury: How the Honda Insight taught us to love the XF diesel
A couple of years back I had the underwhelming experience of running a Honda Insight for a few months. I quite liked it but, as is often the case round here, I was heaped with opprobrium for taking the side of a car everyone else hates. My point was not that the Insight is inherently a good car, but that it makes you adjust your behaviour, tone down your driving style, become more relaxed, more eco-compatible behind the wheel. Those who hated the Insight did so because they tried to drive the rims off it as if it was an M3, and were infuriated with the paucity of reward.
What has this to do with our long-term Jaguar XF 2.2D? The principal is the same. Although the XF is no Insight, it seems to be a Jaguar without a Jaguar’s sense of hurry, being both slow and rather unemotional in its appetite for the horizon. And initially that counts against it. The expectation wrought from its adept looks and modernist interior makes the first prod of the accelerator a bigger disappointment than your first sexual encounter. And if you lose patience and try to press harder this 16-valve four-pot displays the manners of a cornered cat in resisting your advances. Nought to 60 in 8.0secs? There are Toyota Avensises capable of matching that.
But the XF, like all Jaguars (and all classy women, come to that) needs to be finessed. If you adjust your mindset, ease back on the right foot, give the engine the time it needs to rustle up its cheeky little torque number (332lb ft is plenty creamy enough, if not the full Nigella) and accept that squealing off the line isn’t going to get you there any quicker, then it works. That’s when Jaguar’s peerless qualities of fine ride, blissful cabin refinement and suave ambience make themselves known. And suddenly it all makes sense.
The Honda Insight taught me how to revel in this kind of motoring. But I’d much rather be driving an XF than an Insight.
By Greg Fountain
Month 5 running a Jaguar XF 2.2D Premium Luxury: Late nights in the XF
Spent a decent amount of time in the XF recently, predominantly for early morning or late night airport runs in the dark while the majority of the world is still sleeping. And for this it’s pretty darn good.
You never have to take the key out of your pocket and fumble with freezing fingers; instead, just walk up, tug the handle and the door opens. Then press and hold the start button (pulsing red as it waits for your touch), twist the rotary controller round to D (you can’t miss it and go straight to S by accident as it needs to be slightly depressed to do so), then the handbrake deactivates automatically and you’re away.
The heated seats really could do with a button rather than necessitating a delve into the slow touchscreen system, but your bum is soon warm, the cabin is bathed in classy turquoise light, and much to the chagrin of whoever steps into the XF after me, to keep me awake BBC 1xtra is pulsating loudly through the speakers.
When you return the XF’s easy to find, too. I never bother writing on the ticket what row I’ve parked in at the airport, trusting my youthful brain to remember. But I inevitably forget, so press a button on the XF’s key and the headlights come on. Press it again and the taillights illuminate too. Then it’s a doddle to find in the dark – and fun to freak out other weary travellers too.
And when you're home, to lock just double tap the black plastic button on the door handle, the lights flash and the mirrors fold to indicate you’re not leaving your pride and joy open to thieves, and then wander away. And definitely glance back at least once.
By Ben Pulman
Month 4 running a Jaguar XF 2.2D Premium Luxury: Comparing our Jag XF 2.2 D with our old 2.7 D
Drove our new XF 2.2 four-cylinder diesel this weekend and was impressed. I ran CAR's first XF long-termer back in 2008/09 - a Midnight black 2.7 V6 TD. It was pretty much universally admired around these parts for its fresh Jag aesthetic, modern, pampering cabin and athletic chassis.
It never felt quite quick enough, though. Jag responded by upping the 2.7 to 3.0 litres in capacity - a move which neatly answered our criticism of lethargic performance. What hope does a 2.2 TD have in a big executive car? Thankfully, the downsized four-cylinder copes more than adequately.
It was cold this weekend and there's a bit of clatter at start-up, but once underway this 2.2 is very refined. At motorway speeds, it's a very quiet car indeed. And the performance is well judged. With 190bhp/332lb ft its outputs aren't that far behind the 204bhp/320lb ft of the 2.7 V6. Which is quite amazing when you think about it. With slightly more torque at just 2000rpm, the XF 2.2 is quite responsive.
Better still, the trip computer claims 40.0mpg. We'll be monitoring the actual economy over the coming months, but this bodes well. We averaged lower thirties in our 2.7.
The best bit about our 2.2 XF? The facelift has radically improved the looks. Most cars age badly and I can't think of many facelifts that really work. You can count the XF among them though. Recapturing the C-XF's wedgy lights is brilliant, although I am not a fan of the bling day-running lights.
The new XF appears to ride more sweetly on its 18in wheels (245/45 R18 - our last XF rode on 19s), although those rims are still big enough to be a bit nuggety. And at last they've got rid of the silly proximity switch on the glovebox in favour of a normal, like, button. Gone are the days of swiping your hand endlessly, wondering why the lid won't pop open. A few good U-turns - I'm pleased to see that Jag's not too proud to ditch the flash things that didn't work.
But would you buy one of these over a similarly downsized A6, 5-series or E-class? We're about to find out. Stay tuned to read our long-term test of the Jaguar XF 2.2 D.
By Tim Pollard
Month 3 running a Jaguar XF 2.2D Premium Luxury: Our XF arrives
Back to work today and there’s a belated Christmas present in the CAR car park: a new Jaguar XF 2.2D. With lots to do I’ve not yet been out in it, but I have noticed that it’s not on winter tyres. Actually, at first I thought it was because of the small wheels, but a closer inspection revealed they're actually the standard 18in alloys fitted with Dunlop SP Sport 01s. The ride better be exemplary.
Jaguar has a winter tyre programme but as much of the Christmas and New Year break has been above 7deg (the temperature at which the softer compound of winter tyres gives you an advantage over summer tyres even when it’s not snowing) we won't be making the switch anytime soon.
There’s still January and February to get through (and knowing the UK, probably March and April too) so a few days may come when our XF struggles while the rest of the prepared CAR fleet carries on regardless.
Yet judging by how some of our more focused long-termers (1-series M and M5) and some performance-orientated press cars we’ve had in recently (SLS Roadster) feel on winter tyres, the drop-off in general traction for four to six months of the year might not be worth the sacrifice (at least in the UK) for the few days every 12 months when it actually does snow. It’s a legal requirement in some European countries, but right now you could argue the case either way in the UK.
More on the XF soon, just as soon as we've spent proper time behind the wheel.
By Ben Pulman
Month 2 running a Jaguar XF 2.2D Premium Luxury: A stint in an XJ
The XF’s not here just yet, but I’ve spent the past few days in its bigger brother, the XJ. It’s still my favourite big exec: an Audi A8 could be an A6 or A7 inside (or outside), the 7-series could be a 5-series (ditto), and the S-class is just full of plasticky wood. The XJ could never be mistaken for the XF (not that little brother lacks appeal) and while its styling might not be to everyone’s taste, there’s no denying it’s stunning to look at.
Greg Fountain’s old 7-series long-termer was great, his subsequent A8 even more so (helped by a special £13k interior option) but it was Chris Chilton’s XJs that won me over. He had two, a 5.0 LWB Supersport like the one I had, and the shorter (but cramped in the back) and more economical 3.0 SWB.
Jump between an XJ and rivals on a group test and the slow multimedia touchscreen might frustrate, but when you live with one day-to-day you’re not constantly adjusting your colleagues' seat, temperature and radio settings. Instead you thank the simple and straightforward air-con controls, the solitary Sport setting for the gearbox, and the single button to put the XJ into a Dynamic setting. It's clear and uncomplicated.
Everything you touch feels special, too. The chunky key and thin-rimmed steering wheel are unique to the XJ, and while the rotary gear selector rises out of the transmission tunnel just like on the XF, bigger brother does without the swiveling air vents. Instead two gorgeous circles sit atop the dash, glowing turquoise at night, their piano black trim reflecting the backlighting to create a second halo.
The XF doesn’t feel quite as exceptional, but it does feel more special than an A6, 5-series or E-class. Our car arrives next week and we want to know whether, with a four-cylinder diesel, it can still feel like a proper Jag. Plus, now that the XF has been around for a couple of years, can it be faultless and not be afflicted by the glitches (usually electric) that have plagued the Jaguars – and Land Rovers – that we’ve run recently? Oh, and having watched the XJ achieve 15mpg around town and 20mpg on a cruise, somewhere around forty miles per gallon would be good too.
By Ben Pulman
Month 1 running a Jaguar XF 2.2D Premium Luxury: Speccing our new Jaguar XF
It’s been just over two years since our long-term XF 2.7D went back to Jaguar – and now we’ve got another one on the way. Why? Because besides the facelift ushering in sleeker looks, a swifter-acting multimedia system and improved cabin materials, most important of all is the new four-cylinder diesel engine.
It’s the same 2.2-litre found in the Range Rover Evoque, and together with an eight-speed auto and Jag’s first ever stop/start system, it’s the company’s cleanest ever car. Emissions of 149g/km mean it’s still a little way behind the obvious German rivals, but the reduction from the 3.0D’s 169g/km CO2, reckons Jaguar, will help nearly double XF sales from 12k to 20k units a year. That alone is reason enough to run one, but we also gave it the nod over A6 2.0 TDI/520d/E220 CDI in a group test earlier this year; four-cylinder diesels dominate the executive market and this is the best one.
So, our car… The new 2.2D-only £30,950 SE does without sat-nav or a full leather interior (both of which private and company car buyers consider crucial) and the £43k Portfolio trim is preposterously expensive, which leaves the middling Luxury and Premium Luxury models. In the 3.0D there’s an equal split between the two, but besides Luxury’s electric seats, climate control, sat-nav, Bluetooth, cruise control, parking sensors and rain sensing wipers, Premium Luxury adds better leather, a better sound system, bigger wheels (18s – and they still look too small), a driver’s seat that moves in a multitude of extra ways, and heated and electric and dimming mirrors. Add most of that lot to Luxury and you may as well go for Premium Luxury – which is what we’ve done.
There are a couple of other options too, which we’ll cover when our XF arrives in a few weeks. All that’s left is for the world’s most important game of rock/paper/scissors to decide who gets to run it.
By Ben Pulman