After boldly reasserting itself at the top end of the luxury saloon market with the radical XJ, Jaguar is now stretching in the other direction with this, the XF 2.2 D, the first four-cylinder XF. We slid behind the wheel of a prototype covered in disguise to hide the facelifted bodywork that’ll accompany the new engine when it lands in showrooms later this year.
If the market is so important, why has it taken Jag so long to drop a four cylinder diesel into the XF?
Apart from the fact that it was trying to reassert itself as a luxury brand while brushing the X-type under the carpet, Jag just didn’t have access to an engine that offered enough refinement and performance to be passed off in a large premium saloon bearing the Jaguar badge – or trying to compete with BMW’s superb 520d.
Is this an all-new engine? It’s going to have to produce some strong numbers if it’s going to topple that pesky BMW.
The engine’s a Ford unit, a derivative of the unit found in top of the range Mondeos plus the Land Rover Freelander and new Range Rover Evoque. Derivative because all of those cars have transverse-mounted motors. Being rear-drive though, the XF’s sits 90deg round so there was some major engineering work involved in making it fit.
As for numbers, it produces 188bhp and 332lb ft of torque, making it significantly gruntier than the 184bhp/280lb ft 520d. Strange then, that the BMW beats the XF soundly in every major performance comparison: 0-62mph (8.1sec v 8.5sec), top speed (141mph v 140mph), mpg (54.3 v 52.3) and CO2 emissions (137 v 149).
Okay, so the BMW wins the numbers game. But those performance figures don’t sound a million miles away from those of the original (and now defunct) XF 2.7 diesel...
Well spotted. The 2.7 D put out 207bhp and 320lb ft of torque, weighed 1771kg and had only six gears to work with. To be fair, the 2.7 was a couple of tenths quicker to 62mph, but check out the mpg figures: the 2.7 couldn’t crack 38mpg but the 2.2 can top 50.
And because the four-pot motor places less mass over the nose and benefits from some detail improvements to the suspension tuning that come with the facelift, it’s tangibly more fun to drive.
BMW’s 520d is a mightily impressive car but it doesn’t offer the same sense of connectedness with the road as the XF. The Jag’s steering is light, responsive and full of feel and the chassis balance superb, with an even greater willingness to change direction than its V6 brothers. Show it a decent road and you’ll soon be rowing it along with such enthusiasm that you’ll completely forget that this is Jag’s poverty model and powered by a mere 2.2 four.
In fact, slightly German-feeling ride comfort apart, the only demerit is that the chassis is so competent, it makes light work of the 2.2’s performance. Give Superchips six months and they’ll no doubt be able to prescribe something to alleviate that problem, even if Jaguar won’t.
What about refinement though? Will the soundtrack be a constant reminder that I was too tight to stretch to the 3.0 D?
At start-up and when really gunning the thing to the limiter when overtaking, it's obvious that the engine is two cylinders short of the ideal. But it’s such a good installation and the engine itself so refined that it’s never a deal breaker. And for the other 90% of your driving, yes, you could mistake it for a six, it’s that quiet, that smooth.
If this is the entry-level car, it must be the first XF to have a manual gearbox...
It would be if it did, but it doesn’t. It gets the latest ZF eight-speed auto instead, as already seen in a BMW near you. It’s smooth, fast and best left in D or S because there are now simply too many gears for meaningful manual operation. Tap the (still cheap plastic) shift paddle a couple of times to prime for an overtake and you’re still in a gear too high for the job.
Anyway, the rest of the kit list is generous too. You still get leather and satellite navigation as standard, yet Jaguar plans to price the baby XF at a fraction under £30k, making it a good £5k cheaper than the current entry-level 3.0 diesel. As with that engine, 2.2 buyers will be offered a range of trim levels too.
There’s no doubt that Jag needs a four-cylinder diesel XF, but is this the right car for the job? Engine wise it has to give best to its BMW rival, but it’s close enough to make fleet buyers give it serious thought, particularly if they care about driving. The XF is starting to feel a little dated and it’s not the roomiest car in its class, but you won’t have more fun in anything comparable.
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