The Jaguar XF is a sublime British executive saloon. It has a tremendous interior and even greater dynamics

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The Jaguar XF has been at the heart of Jaguar's renaissance since it went on sale in March 2008, and continues to be its standard-bearer to this day.

But while the Jaguar XF gave its makers a car to be truly proud of, it has taken a long time for Jaguar to really exploit that advantage.

The XF is rightly considered to be Jaguar's standard bearer

The bigger-engined XF range has proven adept at taking on all-comers at the upper levels of the class since its introduction, with the 3.0-litre diesel available in two states of tune and 3.0 petrol attracting many plaudits, and the 5.0 V8 underneath the bonnet of the mighty Jaguar XFR stealing many headlines.

However it took until cosmetic and detail technical tweaks for the 2012 model year before the XF became available with a 2.2-litre diesel, a type of engine whose sales dominate the sector. Now in 161 and 197bhp states of tune, it rivals the ubiquitous BMW 5 Series or equivalent Mercedes E-Class.

Meanwhile, deliveries of the Jaguar XF Sportbrake - a sports estate in modern parlance - began in 2012, finally giving the XF the extended line-up it has long deserved.

All-wheel drive Jaguar XFs are sold in markets outside the UK, while the Chinese market also gets the option of a smaller petrol engine.



Jaguar XF bonnet curves

The Jaguar XF design has been modified over time, with the most significant changes being made in 2012. These styling changes give the Jaguar XF the front-end it should always have had: sleeker and more in keeping with the graceful lines that make this (by the estimation of all our testers, at least) the best-looking car in its class by some margin.

The back end and interior were tweaked, too. Rear lights have been given LEDs and redesigned so that they extend further into the boot beneath the chrome strip. This seems to balance the styling a little, even if the changes are fairly subtle.

In my estimation, the XF is the best looking car in its class

Inside, the XF got a very subtle tidy-up, improving the ergonomics but maintaining its design flair, that has always helped the car stand out from its class rivals.

Mechanically, the XF follows Jaguar tradition, with a range of front, longitudinally mounted engines and rear-wheel drive. All Jaguars now come with automatic gearboxes, regardless of your engine choice.

The range begins with the XF 2.2-litre diesel, available in two states of tune, and extends to two variants of the 3.0-litre diesel.  There is also a petrol option, in the form of a 3.0 V6. Above the volume-sellers sits the supercharged 5.0-litre V8 XFR, which is still our choice of super-saloon in the segment.

There are six Jaguar XF trim levels: SE, SE Business, Luxury, Portfolio, Premium Luxury, Sport and S. However, not all are sold in conjunction with every drivetrain option, so buyers may not have the choice they expect. Entry-level kit includes stop-start, alloys, dual-zone climate control, electric seat adjustment, rain-sensing wipers, Bluetooth connectivity and a rear-parking aid. 


Jaguar XF dashboard

The Jaguar XF cabin has always been a highlight and, mindful of that, Jaguar’s latest interior updates have been anything but radical.

There’s now a slightly different design and material specification for the steering wheel’s audio and cruise control panels, and the ventilation controls. There’s also some new leather seat designs and a few slightly different fascia trims – and that’s about all.

The cabin has always been one of the Jaguar XF's highlights

Which is good news, because the XF has, since its launch, set a high standard when it comes to appealing, contemporary style and the luxurious feel of its interior. It’s reassuring to find that’s still the case, even as the XF has come down in price with the introduction of smaller engines.

As such, the cabin remains a real treat; it is a pleasing piece of automotive theatre to settle into this cosseting cockpit, press the starter button and watch the gear selector dial rise to meet your fingertips, as the air vents rotate in their housings. Being in a BMW 5 Series, Mercedes E-Class or even the new and relatively lavishly appointed Audi A6 seems a dull and cold experience by comparison.

We can only regret that Jaguar didn't find any extra space for passengers’ knees and elbows during the XF’s refresh. This Brit still lags behind pretty much all of its rivals when it comes to the provision of sheer cabin space. Up front, it feels just the right side of cosy, but it’s more restrictive in the rear. Those with grown children, or who frequently transport taller adults, may find that a small but annoying problem. The touch screen interface isn't the most intuitive or easy system to use, either.


2.2-litre Jaguar XF diesel engine

The 2.2 diesel will account for as much as 60 percent of the Jaguar XF's sales, in either of its two guises. The lower powered, 161bhp version is tempting for its mid-range shove and decent pace - 0-60mph takes a respectable 10.4sec; however its overall economy and emissions are slightly disappointing. Consequently, more buyers will look to the 197bhp 2.2, which can achieve the 0-60mph sprint in 7.6sec — a time that, in itself, looks merely at the sharp end of competitive, until you consider that the 2.7 V6 diesel XF we tested in 2008 managed only 8.4sec. Progress is swift.

However, the 2.2's powertrain falls marginally short of the smooth delivery and response that you get with the larger-engined models in the Jaguar XF range. It is entirely well judged for the purposes of this car, which will always appeal more to the high-mileage commuter, but it can be hesitant to respond to a prod of the throttle at higher speeds. Regardless, the four-pot turbodiesel does a thorough job of ensuring that the XF feels adequately endowed with grunt, and it delivers that power in a progressive and accessible fashion.

The four-pot turbodiesel delivers adequate grunt

Elsewhere in the XF range, the 3.0-litre diesel can be had in either 237 or 271bhp forms. In isolation, both varaints make for great executive diesels offering good performance and a fine spread of power. With 443lb ft of torque, the most powerful diesel reaches 60mph in 5.7 seconds and a top speed of 155mph. In terms of efficiency, it is also competitve against rivals such as the Mercedes E-Class 350CDI with 44.8mpg and 169g/km. However, the XF appears outgunned by the twin-turbo Audi A6 BiTDI. Whilst emitting the same C02 as the Jaguar, the Audi delivers 309bhp and 479lb ft, 38bhp and 37lb ft more than the British car.

The 3.0 V6 petrol delivers a 5.7sec 0-60mph sprint and often feels livelier than the diesels, but for all that it is mostly agreeable to drive, it is not the most refined engine of its type and the associated running costs ensure that only a tiny niche of buyers will opt for it.

The XFR has nothing to fear from any other car in the class; it's a terrifically powerful and responsive drivetrain that offers blistering performance.

Regardless of the motor, the auto ’box blurs its shifts effectively in standard or sports modes and it is precise enough that the wheel-mounted paddles are rarely needed.


Jaguar XF cornering

Proof that the Jaguar XF is a proper Jaguar in all the tangible and intangible senses of that statement comes with an assessment of its ride and handling capabilities. It is the control weights – the smooth, light and precise steering, and the easily modulated brakes – that make the XF such a pleasure to drive in every situation.

It doesn't matter which variant you choose, either. The Jaguar XF is a car that steers faithfully and with enough communication to ensure that its reputation as the best driver’s car of its class extends from even the base model to the range-topper.

The Jaguar XF is our favourite car in the class to drive

If there are any niggles in this area, it is with low-speed ride over very specific road finishes, and then only in the models powered by the 2.2 diesel. The higher-powered XFs set the benchmark in such matters, but oddly the four-cylinder car communicates high-frequency undulations that other models in the range soak up effectively. Particularly at higher urban speeds, and with cornering forces involved, there is a slight patter over broken surfaces.

Still, this is one occasional flaw in a chassis set-up that otherwise remains at the top of its game, regardless of the model type. Although softer than most rivals, the XF remains a lesson in how to make a car soak up the worst of the road surface without corrupting body control: it's a trait that few manufacturers do well.

Notably, this is done without any complex interference. Most variants of the XF get adaptive dampers, which can be set-up ever so slightly more firmly for press-on driving on smooth surfaces, but most of the time their standard mode is more than adequate. Simply, it's a car well set up on dampers that suit all occasions – an ideal balance not only for the mundane duties that this car will generally be tasked with, but also one that allows for that crucial spark of entertainment that too often gets sacrificed in a car of this class.

Meanwhile, the XF steers with unerring accuracy and even a little road feel, a rarity in this class. The overall handling balance is fine, too.

It's the deftness of ride and handling and steering that leaves the Jaguar XF, to this day, our favourite car in the class to drive.


Jaguar XF 2008-2015

The price of the Jaguar XF has always been punchy, going head-to-head with German rivals rather than trying to sneak sales by pricing slightly more cheaply.

That's a reflection of the fact that Jaguar - and its customers -  believe the XF is a product worthy of taking on the others at their own game. In like-for-like spec, sometimes it is even more expensive than the alternatives.

Audi and BMW may offer cheaper running costs for company car tax buyers

Despite returning impressive real-world economy, the Jaguar XF equipped with either 2.2-litre engine emits marginally higher levels of CO2 than the automatic BMW 520d and Audi A6 2.0 TDI. That means the taxation costs are accordingly higher - and that Jaguar XF buyers facing company car tax must be wary of.

The 3.0-litre V6 diesels perform well – the low-powered model matches the BMW 530d, while the S emits only slightly more than the 535d and Audi A6 3.0 TDI.

The 3.0 V6 petrol only makes financial sense for buyers covering low miles, and even then the steep depreciation should ensure they weigh up the diesel alternatives carefully.

The Jaguar XFR, meanwhile, should never be bought by antyone who needs to keep an eye on running costs.

Jaguars have performed remarkably well in customer satisfaction surveys of late, meaning buyers can ignore some of the more historic tales of customer dissatisfaction.

Meanwhile, servicing, insurance and depreciation costs should prove competitive for the class.




4.5 star Jaguar XF

The Jaguar XF is still the king of dynamics. So if you care about such things - and as a reader of these pages, you undoubtedly do - the Jaguar XF should still be your default option in this class.

There are other class highlights on offer, too, most notably the largely (but by no means completely) fabulous cabin environment.

The intangible delights of the Jaguar set it apart

Still, it's a bit of a shame that for some buyers it won't be quite so straightforward, because there are shortcomings that need to be considered.

For instance, we can't gloss-over the fact that the 2.2D needs lower CO2 emissions to really take the fleet fight to the super-efficient BMW 5 Series 20d or Audi A6.

And for all the abundant quality, the list price of the larger diesels really does pit them against the opposition from Audi, BMW and Mercedes.

But for us - and, we'd recommend, for a good deal of you, too - the intangible delights of the Jaguar will be more than enough to offset its more quantifiable shortfalls elsewhere.

Matt Prior

Matt Prior
Title: Editor-at-large

Matt is Autocar’s lead features writer and presenter, is the main face of Autocar’s YouTube channel, presents the My Week In Cars podcast and has written his weekly column, Tester’s Notes, since 2013.

Matt is an automotive engineer who has been writing and talking about cars since 1997. He joined Autocar in 2005 as deputy road test editor, prior to which he was road test editor and world rally editor for Channel 4’s automotive website, 4Car. 

Into all things engineering and automotive from any era, Matt is as comfortable regularly contributing to sibling titles Move Electric and Classic & Sports Car as he is writing for Autocar. He has a racing licence, and some malfunctioning classic cars and motorbikes. 

Jaguar XF 2008-2015 First drives