Describe a European luxury car with a 3.0-liter supercharged V6, all-wheel-drive, and eight-speed automatic, and one name probably comes to mind: Audi A6. But now this appealing technological combination platter also describes the Jaguar XF, and the company sure hopes it comes to mind for more than a few buyers.
You'd think the affluent pockets of the Northeast, including cities around our Connecticut track, would be a hotbed for Jaguar sales. Not so much. Thing is, most luxury cars sold here are equipped with all-wheel drive. This market requirement is not helping Hyundai with their Genesis and it has definitely hurt Jaguar, especially since the small X-Type faded away. Positioning it better to compete in the snow belt, the feline brand now runs on all four paws with both the XF and the XJ sedans. To sample this latest innovation, we paid Jaguar to drive a press car for a week to get acquainted with the updated XF.
Since we last tested the XF, there are big changes under the hood. The base XF features a Ford-sourced 240-hp, 2.0-liter turbocharged (not called EcoBoost here) four-cylinder engine aimed at price-sensitive, ad-driven lease shoppers. The most-popular engine will be the 340-hp, 3.0-liter supercharged V6 mated to the XF's only transmission choice, a new ZF eight-speed automatic. You won't miss the previous V8, since there is plenty of thrust and refinement. The V6 should also be better at the pump; I averaged 23-24 mpg over a long winter weekend.
There are other detail improvements, too. The navigation touch screen responds quicker, although some onscreen controls (especially the seat heaters) remain convoluted. Jaguar quickly fixed the hidden touch-sensitive glove box release that drove us crazy on our 2009 test car. And the company claims continued progress on the reliability front, although Jaguar ranked dead last in our latest car reliability survey based on a limited sample size. Slow sales contributed to not enough of our subscribers buying recent XFs (2011-12), so we can't confirm the promised improvement from our current reliability survey data.
Personally, I'm a fan of the big Jaguars. I put a lot of miles on our tested XK convertible, a lovely grand touring car that's on my Cars-To-Own Bucket List. Given the choice of signing out a car, say, between our Audi A8L and our Jaguar XJL, I'd grab the Jaguar's keys first. To me, these cars carve out distinct niches in the market.
But the XF poses a more difficult proposition. Shoppers who want a fun-to-drive, modest-sized upscale sedan have so many choices over such a broad price spectrum. I'd cross-shop anything from a Buick Regal GS to the A6 before buying an XF.
Jaguars always looked good, and they were known for riding well. While the XF is handsome, the German competition has grown more stylish, and they have the Jag beat for ride comfort and room. Maybe an all-wheel-drive XF with revitalized mechanicals has the potential to gain some sales, but it's facing an uphill battle—at least now it can claw with more traction.
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