The 2016 Jaguar XF Review: A Refined Feline That Has Earned Its Claws

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Micah Wright/Autos Cheat Sheet

Micah Wright/Autos Cheat Sheet

Emerging onto the luxury market back in 2009, the first generation of the Jaguar XF sedan saw modestly paced sales even though the economy had tanked when the British saloon hit showrooms. Boasting things like supercharged V8 options and numerous Jaguar-grade interior touches, the powerful sedan was a pretty impressive luxury machine and even by today’s standards retains a certain amount of clout among critics and consumers.

But after six years of slowly stagnating sales, it was time for a complete overhaul as Jaguar Land Rover (JLR) works on launching a major product offensive in order to become “the most changed automaker in the USA.” It’s a plan that has already been set in motion, but for the next leg of the journey it all rests on the pillars of the new XF’s redesigned aluminum architecture.

Micah Wright/Autos Cheat Sheet

Micah Wright/Autos Cheat Sheet

Featuring a frame that is the poster boy for all models to follow, the XF sedan has a chassis that is comprised of 75% aluminum, making it 28% stiffer and 11% lighter than the outgoing bare bones steel structure (it weighs less than an equally exposed Fiat 500 frame). Already the recipient of 16 international awards, this particular Jag plays a key roll in JLR’s plan to triple its global market in a short period, and after driving both the rear-wheel drive 35t R-Sport version as well as the all-wheel drive S model for almost a dozen hours in the desert, I can see how they stand a good chance of achieving these lofty goals.

The new XF is by no means a tumultuous track monster like the F-Type convertible we drove or the Nürburgring record setting Range Rover Sport SVR we fell in love with a few months back, but neither is it a complete slouch. Offering the best luxury warranty in America today via its Jaguar Elite Care program (5-year/60,000 miles of maintenance), a price tag that starts anywhere between $51,900 and $65,700, and a beautifully crafted interior, there is a strong argument in place for why someone should consider this sedan in place of something like the Cadillac CTS4 or the Infiniti Q50.

Micah Wright/Autos Cheat Sheet

Micah Wright/Autos Cheat Sheet

Exterior

Restyled to be a smaller, more agile interpretation of its former self, the sporty XF sedan is quite the looker when outfitted with Jaguar’s menu of accouterments. With its abundance of attractive alloy wheel options, clean lines, LED exterior lights, integrated Jaguar logos, and gaping front grilles, the XF is by no means an ugly vehicle, even if it a little plain looking from some angles (in the luxury market, I think that’s called “conservative”).

Micah Wright/Autos Cheat Sheet

Micah Wright/Autos Cheat Sheet

Exterior pros and cons

+ Jaguar has a multitude of well balanced wheel options for buyers to choose from, and they all look great.

+ Proportionally, this is a very balanced sedan. Nothing on it seems overly gregarious or flashy.

+ Smaller touches, like the integrated Jaguar logos in the lights, the matching red brake calipers, and that slightly tapered trunk all give owners a reason to smile when that garage door opens.

– While it may be labeled as a sport sedan, the XF does not appear super sporty. Looking nondescript may keep you off the cop’s radar, but it sure as hell doesn’t instill buyers with excitement either.

– Dual port exhausts with exposed, polished tips are a great way to say “performance.” But if the tips are about the size of British cucumbers, things look a little disproportionate out back.

– Between the chunky shark fin antenna and under-sized trunk flushmount, the proportions in the bolt-on department are a little odd.

Micah Wright/Autos Cheat Sheet

Micah Wright/Autos Cheat Sheet

Powertrain

Twin Vortech supercharged V6 engines give drivers anywhere from 340 to 380 horsepower, along with ample amounts of torque for complimenting the aforementioned aluminum chassis. With things like brake torque vectoring for faster exit speeds, pendulum dampers for smoother idling, a rear-wheel bias like what you find in the F-Type, and multiple driving modes to achieve an EPA average of 24 miles per gallon, this machine is practical and agile.

Micah Wright/Autos Cheat Sheet

Micah Wright/Autos Cheat Sheet

Powertrain pros and cons

+ While pressing that checkered flag button allows you to feel all the power that supercharged V6 has to offer, sometimes cruising along in Eco mode is far more appropriate. Either way, the drivetrain on this car will not disappoint the average sport sedan enthusiast.

+ Delivering smooth transitions between all eight gears via its paddle shifters, the German-built transmission on the new XF is silky smooth.

+ Traction-wise, neither the chain driven, all-wheel, or rear-wheel drive variations of the 2016 XF showed any considerable wheel slip, further proving that Jaguar’s Adaptive Surface Response (AdSR) system is solid on any kind of surface.

– Though it has decent MPG numbers off the floor, no alternative powertrain options — like BMW’s hybrid 5 Series — are available. If you’re trying to shop green, you’ll want to look elsewhere.

– It seems Jaguar could further bolster its MPG figures by figuring out cylinder deactivation on the V6. If the Corvette can get 29 miles per gallon…

– It’s not an XF-R. It’s very, very good at what it does, but if you’re looking for raw performance, hold out for the R. A weak con, we know, but the XF’s powertrain is stellar.

Micah Wright/Autos Cheat Sheet

Micah Wright/Autos Cheat Sheet

Interior

Adding a noticeable bump in both backseat knee and head room as well as a larger trunk space, the interior on the XF easily surpasses that of its outgoing ancestor, all while offering drivers and passengers a cabin that is well designed, practical, comfortable, and tech-centric. If enjoying a swanky leather seat is your thing and you like having every amenity at your fingertips, this car is certainly a great one to test drive.

Micah Wright/Autos Cheat Sheet

Micah Wright/Autos Cheat Sheet

Interior pros and cons

+ Heated rear seats, 14-way adjustable cooled front ones, two-tone, leather-wrapped everything, textured grey trim pieces front and back, and liberal space everywhere you look.

+ Proportions on the inside of the new XF somewhat mirror the exterior. A few of my favorites are the over-sized moonroof and the well-proportioned buttons and switches on the steering wheel and center stack, all of which feel top-notch.

+ The layout of this car for the most part is outstanding. Everything from the Jaguar-grade fit and finish to the way the bolstered seats tighten make the driver in you want to drive it just a little longer.

– Some of Jaguar’s choices around the interior are a bit odd; the obvious is the passenger airbag, lack of a leather stitched dash, the use of fishnet rear seat pockets, and the roofline door grips.

– Some of the XF’s soft touch materials really aren’t that supple, with the center arm rest receiving granite-grade comfort awards.

– While it certainly has more interior space than the outgoing model, not having ample cubbie and storage spots within the cabin is kind of annoying. The center armrest storage is pretty small, there is no secondary glovebox, and door-mounted cupholders are non-existent for some reason.

Micah Wright/Autos Cheat Sheet

Micah Wright/Autos Cheat Sheet

 Tech and safety

Allow me to bust out my soapbox for a moment here. Yes, for $67,235, the all-wheel drive S model is well equipped with all manner of modern day safety, entertainment, and accommodation-inclined technological advancement. Sure, they all work well and did not overly annoy or overwhelm me with their presence or purpose. Everything on this car, in this particular department, worked as consistently and predictably as old Big Ben.

But ask yourself this good reader: For $67,235, don’t you feel that a car should at least come with adaptive cruise control?

Micah Wright/Autos Cheat Sheet

Micah Wright/Autos Cheat Sheet

Tech pros and cons

+ It’s the winter of 2015, heated seats front and rear, a matching steering wheel to match, multiple camera modes for safety in the snow, electronic winter traction control settings, adaptive/auto headlamps, and various snazzy MID settings will help you get home safely if a blizzard should befall you this evening.

+ JLR’s infotainment systems have received a fair amount criticism, but the one equipped on the new XF was a breeze.

+ Crisp back-up cameras that love the dark, extremely app-oriented infotainment, a precise HUD display, and gauges that glow in various colors depending on what performance setting you are in all enhance the driving experience.

– Not having adaptive cruise control at this price point is bad.

– Occasionally navigation voice controls can be soothing, but not in this case. Having a disgruntled Mrs. Slocombe from Are You Being Served? tell me how to navigate a treacherous mountain pass at night is not as pleasant as you’d imagine.

– At some point, luxury automakers should start offering cooled, dual-zone rear seats too. Why not Jaguar?

Micah Wright/Autos Cheat Sheet

Micah Wright/Autos Cheat Sheet

The drive

Built around a mantra that it offers drivers “sports car fun with sedan practicality,” the 2016 XF is one of the most fantastic sedans we’ve driven. It strikes a balance between short-tempered and tranquil when pounding the pavement in the twisting mountain roads outside of Sedona, Arizona. Want instant torque, a surplus of relatively non-intrusive safety tech, and all-around amazing handling? This car has all that plus fantastic brakes, smooth paddle shifts, a well designed driver’s cockpit, Meridian audio components, and a lovely exhaust note.

Whether you’re driving 25 miles per hour in a parking lot or hauling through the winding gaps of the Rockies, the 2016 XF will reward you with a controlled, refined British experience even when we know that a good portion of its drivetrain is German. The interior was also Jaguar-grade quiet with the acoustic glass and next-level sound deadening, and the only major regret I felt from the drive was that there wasn’t any snow for me to test the winter traction settings in.

Micah Wright/Autos Cheat Sheet

Micah Wright/Autos Cheat Sheet

Wrap up and review

So should you buy a 2016 Jaguar XF over the outgoing model? If you are already a fan, and like the idea of improved safety, reliability, power, fuel economy, interior space, and styling, then yes. But for many Americans, a stigma that Jaguar is not known for its reliability still hangs around this car’s neck, and the fear of fixing one down the line still causes many to shy away even when there is commendable warranty coverage in place now.

Yes, the old rumors are still somewhat true; reliability complaints and repair costs top many of the forums and reviews from recent years. But Jaguar’s parent company, Tata Motors, has dropped over $650 million in its U.K. plant, and just by driving this machine and looking it over in person you get the feeling that this might be the car that debunks that old claim. It’s an interesting, well-constructed automobile regardless of which drivetrain you opt for, and while there was a 40-horsepower difference between the two versions I drove, the general consensus upon arrival at my destination was that the Jaguar XF was an absolutely splendid redesign, in virtually every possible aspect.

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