I was definitely an XF ‘early adopter’. My S-Type had been reliable, relaxing transport with excellent ergonomics but the styling teetered nervously on the border between distinguished and frumpy. Then I saw the C-XF concept and was blown away with Ian Callum’s sleek, aggressively modern design.
I put a deposit down pretty much straightaway and toward the end of 2007 saw the XF in the flesh for the first time at a customer day at the factory. I really fancied a V8 but sanity prevailed and I opted for the 2.7 diesel in silver and with the 19-inch Carelia wheels [the same as CAR's long-termer – Ed]. When it was delivered on 1 March 2008 it looked gorgeous, all the way from that distinctive nose back to the Aston-esque tail.
Much has already been said about the radical interior design, which always gives a sense of occasion, but thankfully the intuitive ergonomics were still there, clearly borrowing heavily from the XK. I was often looking for opportunities to drive at night just to enjoy that subtle blue mood lighting. The only thing I still don’t understand is why the fog light switch is put out of sight by your right knee and right next to the identical boot release button. Some ex-Alfa person hiding in the design team maybe?
The Jag XF on the road
To drive, the XF was significantly improved on the S-Type in all areas. The ride was firmer, but nowhere near as hard as German rivals and the pay-off in body control was well worth it. Refinement was also improved with the engine effectively inaudible for 90% of the time. The only downsides were performance and economy. Once underway the car was brisk enough but setting off from rest, perhaps at a busy junction, uncovered worrying initial lethargy.
Also, I was only getting around 31 to the gallon, despite the trip computer showing around 3mpg more. Worse, some areas of build quality were not up to scratch, with several problems caused by faulty electrical connectors. If the rear screen heater stops working until you wiggle the fuse around, or Messrs Bowers and Wilkins are interrupted by a rattle, it’s annoying. If the engine goes into limp-home mode while overtaking up a hill in lane three of the motorway it’s something else!
My dealer and Jaguar Cars were helpful though, and eventually all was put right. However, by then I had been spoiled by having driven many miles in the new 3.0-litre diesel and diesel S as loan cars. The 2.7 has now therefore been supplanted by a 2010-model DS Portfolio, still in silver but with 20in alloys and the new R-inspired ivory and piano black interior. How do they compare? Well, it’s a helluva car.
The new 3.0-litre D
Everything you could take issue with in the old model is sorted. The handling is as good as ever and having put in a lap of Castle Combe that might give a 1990s Ferrari something to think about, I can confirm that the performance is now more than adequate. In particular that yawning wait when setting off from rest is effectively gone and in Sport-Dynamic mode the throttle response borders on brutal. At the same time the trip computer is averaging 34.5 mpg and when I fill up it is actually accurate. A lot more performance for 10% less fuel!
I was worried that the (even) bigger wheels would harm the ride, but they don’t. The tyres have gone from 245/40 to 255/35 so in fact the sidewall has not shrunk that much. It’s sufficiently good that I wouldn’t bother with the optional electronically adjustable set-up. There are other improvements too. The mirrors have been re-styled and you can see down between them and the top of the door. It sounds trivial but it allows you to see the centre white line or the kerb on a roundabout and place the car much more confidently on the road as a result. Of course, the big side bolsters on the new seats also help keep you in place if you want to take advantage of all that grip. Also, touch wood, nothing has gone wrong.
What do I think of the Jaguar XF then? It’s distinctive, some bits of the design are quite beautiful and it certainly stands out from its normal rivals. The new 5-series is clever but desperately boring. The Audis are beautifully assembled but raise as much excitement as Miele dishwasher and I cannot understand why anyone puts up with Mercedes’ ergonomics. Having driven XK, XF and the new XJ I think Jaguar is heading for a brilliant future with a unique mix of style, performance and quality. I can see Setright in a current Jaguar and there is no greater praise!