First drive: 2016 Jaguar XF

With the XF, Jaguar finally shakes Ford's failures and finds a fresh future

When the history of Jaguar is written, its liberation from Ford will be noted as the moment when Britain’s sport-luxury brand got its groove back.

When the history of Jaguar is written, its liberation from the Ford Motor Company in 2008 will be noted as the pivotal moment when Britain’s sport-luxury brand got its groove back.  At the time, people wondered out loud what the Indian-based Tata Group would do with Jag, and the answer seems to be that they “let Jaguar be Jaguar.” That was smart, because Jag is rocking the world these days, and the all-new 2016 XF sport-luxury sedan is certainly part of that.

The XF was originally launched for the 2008 model year, replacing the aging Jaguar S-Type sedan. Where the S-type had retro styling, the XF was a modern, forward-looking design, befitting the era. Yet the XF was still a product of Ford’s Premier Automotive Group, and shared a substantial amount of DNA with the S-type and some Ford models. A facelift for the 2011 model year gave us a clue of what Jaguar had in mind, but the full flower of the XF had to wait for this year to blossom.

Coming of Age

Jaguar has been on a roll with new cars over the past few years, with the F-Type providing the halo and the design language that’s rolling through the brand. In addition to the all-new XF, we’re going to see the smaller XE sedan and the beautiful F-Pace crossover join the line in 2016. Jaguar expects to nearly triple its global sales volume primarily on the strength of these three related models. So it’s fair to take a deep look at the XF to see what Jag is bringing to market.

It starts with the new chassis. Like all automakers, Jaguar needs to keep things light to meet increasingly stringent fuel economy standards and the performance demands of its customer base. With the launch of the new XF, Jaguar’s entire line is now made primarily of aluminum. There’s still some high-strength steel in there, but only where it needs to be to provide a rigid chassis. That’s in the rear longitudinal chassis support members and the B-pillar rollover structure.

The bulk of the unibody chassis is made from aluminum alloy stampings mated to extruded or die-cast chunks of aluminum and magnesium. These are welded, riveted, and sealed together to result in a complete structure that is 28 percent stiffer than the outgoing XF. Getting back to lightness, the one-piece side skin panels weigh just 13.2 pounds apiece. The result is a mid-large luxury sedan that weighs in at 3,770 pounds, where the last generation XF often weighed in at over 4,000 pounds.

The Heart of a Jag

Advanced aluminum chassis and bodywork is great, but you can get that in a pickup truck these days. The real beating heart of a Jaguar has always been, and always should be, the engine. Jag is moving with the times, dropping both the entry-level four-cylinder and the old 5.0-liter supercharged V8 in favor of a pair of 3.0-liter supercharged V6 engines shared with the F-Type. The basic XF engine now delivers 340 horsepower and 332 pound-feet of torque, while the upgrade XF S engine boosts you to 380 horsepower and the same 332 pound-feet of torque.

Jaguar needed to keep things light to meet increasingly stringent fuel economy standards.

Uh, say that again?

If there was one real head-scratcher about the new XF, this is it. Why bother creating an upgrade engine that isn’t really much of an upgrade? The base rear-drive XF gets you from 0 to 60 mph in a quick 5.2 seconds, and the XF S engine shaves only 0.1 seconds off that time. The AWD XF is a little better, with the base engine doing the 0 to 60 test at 5.1 seconds and the XF S engine making 5.0 seconds. But 0 to 62 times are identical across all the models at 5.3 seconds. Top speed is also the same, governed to 155 mph.

You get the same eight-speed automatic transmission in all XF models, and the same fuel economy of 20 mpg in the city and 30 mpg on the highway for the rear-drive models. AWD fuel economy has not yet been rated.

Let’s be clear – the engine in the XF is fantastic. It’s a great unit with all kinds of get-up-and-go. You’ve got power off the line, power to pass, and plenty of great engine sounds. It’s just that the XF S engine doesn’t give you appreciably more than the base unit. So why would anyone choose the more expensive XF S? It’s a $10,000 premium over the base model XF, and still a $2,000 premium over the top R-Sport trim. The XF S provides only a few benefits over the R-Sport, mainly the Adaptive Dynamics active ride control shock absorbers and some trim pieces. The R-Sport gets you LED headlights, blind spot monitoring, lane keep assist, driver condition monitoring, and reverse traffic monitoring. So there are a lot of great features to be had, but the extra power of the XF S engine isn’t really one of them.

Luxury is as Luxury Does

Here’s another great truth: Jag buyers want it all. Engine power is a given for all modern luxury cars, but Jag owners demand great handling as well as an unmatched interior experience. The XF delivers on all counts, but maybe a bit too much for some luxury shoppers. Admittedly, I like dialing the transmission over into sport mode and punching the little button with a checkered flag on it to put the XF into its most aggressive mode, but dialing everything down into soft mode still yields a sports car driving experience that might be too firm for a discerning luxury car buyer. But if the XF is too sporty for you, there’s always the full-size XJ line.

Inside the new XF, Jaguar has done their homework. The cabin and controls are modern – but not pulled from some sci-fi design. You get plenty of real buttons along with a well-designed touchscreen interface in the center stack, and real gauges for tach and speed surrounding a small information display. You get a heads-up display on the windshield, though if you’re wearing polarized sunglasses you’re likely to miss that feature until night falls.

One feature I like is real controls for the climate system. We’ve all experienced automatic climate control that never quite gives you what you want. Sometimes you want more than just a static 68 degrees – you want a good airflow of warm or cool air right now. The XF gives you a full set of controls that allow you to tailor not only the temperature, but how and where the system gives it to you. You also get heated and cooled front seats, which is a little bit of heaven.

The front seats are completely power-adjustable – eight ways, in fact. The bolsters might be a little tight for larger individuals, but they’re adjustable to fit the broadest possible range of American sizes. The thing to notice about the XF’s interior is that it manages to pack the features in while remaining clean and uncluttered. The 8-inch standard touchscreen offers eight useful buttons that get you most of the way to the controls you want to use for the stereo, navigation, and phone services. The 10.2-inch upgrade touchscreen has no buttons – it’s all on the screen.

The touchscreen and its systems are known as Jaguar InControl Touch, and that system is what Jaguar is offering instead of Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, at least for now. It’s got voice control, and will read your text messages out loud to you. The screen also supports standard tablet gestures like pinch-to-zoom and swipes, and you can choose what app icons are displayed. There’s even a phone app that allows you some remote control over the car. You can pre-condition the XF to a temperature, check fuel level, get alarm warnings, and it will even use GPS to lead you back to where you parked your car.

On the road the XF is quiet, but not too quiet. This is no Rolls Royce you’re driving, so you want some engine noise, and the Jag delivers that when you romp on the throttle. But it’s not so loud that you can’t hold a civilized conversation, or enjoy the truly excellent Meridian sound system.

Conclusion

The 2016 Jaguar XF starts at $52,895, including destination fees. For that money you get a rear-wheel-drive sports luxury sedan with 340 horsepower and Xenon HID headlights. You also get the Meridian stereo, the base InControl system, backup camera, and a bunch of other features. This is no loss-leader, and probably the best value of the line.

Moving up to the Prestige trim, you start at $57,545, and that buys you heated leather seats and wheel, navigation, and both front and rear parking cameras. The R-Sport trim gives you a body kit, LED headlights, some driver safety features (lane keeping, reverse traffic, driver condition, and blind spot) and it starts at $61,645. The top XF S trim gets you the 380 horsepower engine, adaptive suspension, and 14-way adjustable seats. Plus red brake calipers for woo factor. The XF S starts at $63,695.

You can expect to add $3,000 to any XF model for all-wheel-drive. That’s worth the expense for most people in North America.

The bottom line on the 2016 Jaguar XF is that it’s everything you expect from a Jag, and it’s reasonably priced for what you get. This car will compete strongly against the Germans, the Swedes, the top-level Japanese cars, and Cadillac. If you’re shopping in that market, you should test drive the XF and make your own short list.

Highs

  • Jaguar luxury
  • Great new engine
  • Available AWD

Lows

  • Ride may be too firm for some luxury buyers
  • No support for Apple CarPlay or Android Auto
  • Small horsepower increase with the premium engine
Product Review

By adding features, tech, and all-wheel drive, Mazda puts the 3 in a class of one

Since its introduction in 2003, Mazda’s compact Mazda3 has been a mainstay of the brand’s driver-oriented strategy. Mazda now plans to move upmarket, and the all-new 2019 Mazda3 offers some clues about how that’s going to work.
Product Review

2019 Volkswagen Jetta offers German refinement and tech at an affordable price

With enough tech to make villains jealous, the Volkswagen Jetta punches above its class as a forward-thinking sedan. Spacious, comfortable, and efficient, the Jetta is a refined offering. German refinement comes with a serious attitude.
Product Review

Who needs a Range Rover? BMW’s X7 has better tech and just as much luxury

The 2019 BMW X7 is the German automaker’s long-overdue entry into the full-size luxury SUV segment. Packing three rows of seats and plenty of tech, can the new BMW take on Mercedes-Benz and Land Rover?
Cars

FWD vs. RWD vs. AWD: How the wheels that turn change the way you drive

Let's face it, you've likely heard front-, rear-, and all-wheel drive mentioned before in some context or another. But what do these terms mean, especially in terms of performance? We’ve got the answers.
Cars

The 2019 Toyota C-HR gains a popular tech feature as its price comes down

Toyota has updated the C-HR, its entry-level crossover, by adding an entry-level trim level to the lineup. Every model regardless of price also comes standard with an 8.0-inch touchscreen compatible with Apple CarPlay.
Cars

The 2020 Porsche Cayenne Coupe is an exercise in form-over-function design

Porsche expanded its lineup of SUVs with a swoopier evolution of the Cayenne named Cayenne Coupe. Don't let the name fool you: it still has four doors. It stands out with a fastback-like roofline that's lower than the Cayenne's.
Cars

Formula 1 is putting data in the driver’s seat, and not all racers are happy

After a single weekend of racing, a Formula 1 pit crew typically pulls around 2TB of data from the car. Everything, from tire pressure to the temperature of the track, is recorded and analyzed in the name of boosting performance -- and not…
Product Review

Chris is the virtual co-pilot phone-obsessives need in their car

Driving while using your phone is dangerous, and often illegal. Meet Chris, the digital assistant for your car that wants to help keep your hands off your phone, and your eyes on the road.
Cars

Protect yourself and your ride with our favorite dash cams

Dashboard cameras can assist drivers in car accident claims, settle speeding ticket disputes, and even catch glimpses of incoming meteors, among other things. Here, we've compiled a list of the most noteworthy offerings available.
Cars

Tesla revives its referral program with chances to win a Roadster

Tesla has revived its referral program that ended in February because of cost pressures. This time around the perks aren't quite as diverse, though it does offer regular chances to win a Roadster or Model Y.
Cars

Tesla ends scheduled servicing because electric cars need less maintenance

Tesla will longer offer scheduled maintenance plans, switching to an "as needed" model. This reflects the fact that electric cars need less regular maintenance than gasoline or diesel cars.
Cars

The go kart-like Mini Cooper will soon add zero emissions to its resume

Mini is in the final stages of developing an electric version of the Cooper. The 2020 Cooper SE will receive powertrain components from the BMW i3, including a 181-horsepower electric motor and battery technology.
Emerging Tech

Awesome Tech You Can’t Buy Yet: Robotic companions and computer-aided karaoke

Check out our roundup of the best new crowdfunding projects and product announcements that hit the web this week. You may not be able to buy this stuff yet, but it's fun to gawk!
Cars

Tesla Model 3 vulnerability exposed at Pwn2Own; hackers take home the car

A Tesla Model 3 vulnerability was exposed at the Pwn2Own hacking competition. The hackers, who were able to display a message on the electric vehicle's internet browser, won $35,000 and took home the car.