Make no mistake, the original Jaguar XF was a genuine breakthrough car. The first Jaguar sedan designed under Ian Callum’s direction, it was a clear statement of intent in terms of establishing a fresh, modern design direction for the storied British brand. And it worked. More than 280,000 XFs have been sold worldwide since the car was launched in 2007, and in its last full year of production global sales topped 48,000. It is one of the most successful four-door Jaguars ever.
The launch of the redesigned 2016 Jaguar XF takes the company into new territory. With the smaller Jaguar XE—due to go on sale in North America next May—now positioned as Jaguar’s entry-level car, the second-generation XF can be allowed to mature into the sophisticated midsize luxury sedan it needs to be. The brief for the new XF was therefore simple, says vehicle program director Ian Hoban: “Deliver more.”
And it does, literally. Thanks to a 2.0-inch (5 cm) stretch in the wheelbase, the 2016 Jaguar XF delivers rear-seat passengers 0.5 inch (1.27 cm) more legroom, 1.0 inch (2.54 cm) more knee room, and 1.0 inch (2.54 cm) more headroom, plus a bigger trunk for their luggage. North American buyers will get more choice in terms of engines, with Jaguar offering a 340-hp version of the familiar JLR 3.0-liter, supercharged V-6 in the volume-selling XF 35t, along with a 380-hp version of the same engine for sportier XF S. And from mid-2016 the XF will be available with the first diesel engine ever offered in a Jaguar in the North America, the new 178-hp, 2.0-liter Ingenium inline-four.
But wait, there’s … er … more. Regardless of engine choice, Jaguar XF buyers will be able to choose between rear-wheel or all-wheel drive, and up to three different suspension setups. And the XF will benefit from the recently announced Jaguar Elite Care five-year, 60,000-mile warranty program that includes benefits such as maintenance and roadside assistance. Best of all, all that more will actually cost you less: Jaguar Land Rover North America CEO Joe Eberhardt says the base XF 35t will retail for $51,900 USD, or about $5,000 USD less than the outgoing model.
The 2016 XF shares Jaguar’s advanced aluminum-intensive architecture with baby brother XE, but more than 80 percent of its parts are different, says Hoban. Aluminum accounts for about 75 percent of the body-in-white, which weighs just 621 pounds (282 kg) yet is 28 percent more rigid than that of the outgoing XF. Each body side is a single aluminum stamping that weighs barely 13 pounds (6 kg). “We are working right at the limits of aluminum body technology,” says Hoban, who claims the new car is 132 pounds (60 kg) lighter in RWD spec and 265 pounds (120 kg) lighter with AWD hardware, helped by a new chain-driven transfer case that is 16 percent lighter and 10 percent more efficient.
The front suspension is an unequal length control arms setup similar to that used on the F-Type, while at the rear is Jaguar’s Integral Link independent suspension. XF S models come standard with Jaguar’s adaptive damping system, updated to react faster and now driver configurable for the first time. Base XFs will come standard with a passive damping system that uses an additional bypass valve in the shocks to deliver a softer ride at lower speeds. An optional version of the passive damping system that features stiffer, sportier shock valving will be available, and the adaptive damping system will be available as an option across the range.
Steering is by way of EPS, the same system as used in the F-Type. Also borrowed from Jaguar’s sports car is torque vectoring by braking, the system by which the inside rear wheel is gently braked on the entry into corners, helping the car rotate and thereby cutting understeer. The torque-vectoring system is used on AWD cars, as well; the AWD system has been tuned to maintain a rear-wheel-drive bias, shuffling torque to the front tires only when it senses a loss of grip.
Other electronic driver aids in the new XF include Adaptive Surface Response, a trick traction-control system that can detect the surface—dry, wet, gravel, snow, ice—and automatically modify the maps for the steering, throttle, transmission, and stability control systems accordingly. It’s standard on cars equipped with AWD and the adaptive suspension. The Adaptive Surface Response system borrows a lot from the Terrain Response systems used on Land Rovers and Range Rovers. So, too, does the XF’s All Surface Progress Control, which is designed for use in ice and snow and is best described as a hyper-sensitive low-speed launch control that unlike regular traction control senses how much power can be fed to the driving wheels before they break traction.
We had the chance the sample two quite different XFs on the fabulous, empty roads in and around Spain’s Basque country: an AWD XF S with the 380-hp V-6 under the hood, and a Euro-spec, rear-drive 20d powered by the new Ingenium diesel. And our initial take is the 2016 XF is, as a Jaguar should be, a more overtly sporty alternative to the Mercedes-Benz E-Class, BMW 5 Series, and Audi A6. The steering is nicely linear—though perhaps not quite as delightfully communicative as that of the smaller XE—and the front-end grip is impressively tenacious. Overall chassis balance is terrific—a legacy of 50/50 weight distribution—and generally good damping means the Jaguar remains unfazed by mid-corner lumps and bumps. This is a car that goes exactly where you point it, and stays resolutely on line until the tires reach the limit of adhesion.
We also had the chance to hot lap the XF S around the 2.4-mile Circuito de Navarra, an F1-approved test track 80 miles southeast of Bilbao, Spain, and found that even with AWD it corners like a rear drive car; you can adjust the attitude on both entry to and exit from corners with the throttle, and the steering remains remarkably uncorrupted. Playtime on a special wet handling track revealed astonishing levels of grip; you could sense the front wheels helping pull the XF out of the slipperiest turns, but not at the expensive of steering feel or response. This might be the nicest AWD sedan chassis in the business.
The diesel-powered 20d was fitted with the optional R Sport appearance package, and the sportier iteration of the passive suspension. The damping is very, very firm, delivering marginal ride quality even on the generally smooth Spanish roads, and certainly not the ideal choice for jittery U.S. freeways and potholed Snow Belt streets. You can have it if you want on non-S models—it will be available to special order—but in truth you’re better off spending a few extra bucks and instead ordering the adaptive suspension, which delivers a buttoned-down but acceptable ride around town and on the freeway, and plenty of body control in the twisties.
Jaguar has the measure of the Germans in terms of dynamics. There’s still some work to be done in terms of powertrain refinement, however. While pleasingly potent—Jaguar claims a 0-60-mph time of 5.0 seconds for the AWD XF S—the 3.0-liter V-6 never sounds silky smooth when being worked hard. It pleasant enough around town, though, and Jaguar claims fuel efficiency for both the 380-hp and 340-hp versions has been improved a useful 9 percent.
An all-new JLR-designed engine, made in JLR’s all-new engine plant near Wolverhampton, England, the aluminum-block Ingenium diesel growls away under acceleration, and you can feel it buzzing back through the pedals and the floor pan from the moment you fire it up. Jaguar insiders were quick to point out the cars we drove were European-spec, and that like Mercedes, BMW, and Audi do with their North American-market diesels, they’ll be fitting additional sound deadening before shipping the XF diesels across the pond next year.
The little diesel’s a willing worker, though. Jaguar claims a 0-60-mph time for Euro-spec cars of 8.1 seconds and a top speed of 136 mph, but the engine’s forte, of course, is relaxed, efficient, and economical long-distance running. The engine develops a stout 317 lb-ft or torque at just 1,750 rpm, and hums along happily at 60 mph in eighth gear turning barely 1,400 rpm. Claimed cruising range is an impressive 953 miles.
With either engine, the calibration of the eight-speed automatic is terrific. There are paddles on the steering wheel, but you’re better off switching the rotary selector dial to “S” in the twisties and letting the tranny sort it all out, especially in the diesel, where DIYing it with the paddles results surprisingly thumpy shifts. Left to its own devices the eight-speed delivers near seamless upshifts, and downshifts smoothly on the entry into turns, matching revs to keep chassis balanced, and always delivering the gear you want, when you want it.
As BMW continues to fritter away the 5 Series’ once-legendary steering and handling superiority, and Audi’s A6 remains dynamically challenged by the engine hanging out over the front wheels, the 2016 Jaguar XF is perfectly poised to become the sporty alternative to the blue-chip car in the segment, the Mercedes-Benz E-Class.
The XF’s beautifully executed, tautly surfaced exterior styling is evolutionary, but that’s deliberate, says Jaguar design boss Callum, to maintain momentum in a market segment where Jaguar still battles for recognition. “This wasn’t the time to go and reinvent Jaguar. There’s a lot of the world that still doesn’t know us.” It’s also a deceptively clever design, for despite that increase in wheelbase and rear seat room, the 2016 XF is actually marginally shorter and lower overall than the old car.
And while the interior perhaps lacks the carefully studied showmanship of an Audi A6, or the showy technology of a Benz or BMW, the standard InControl Touch infotainment system features a new, fast-reacting standard 8-inch screen with much improved graphics and functionality, including sweep and drag touch control. Standard audio is a 17-speaker, 825-watt Meridian system, and the available head-up display is a laser system that offers crisp, clear, colorful graphics.
Want impress-your-neighbor tech? Later in the year Jaguar will offer InControl Touch Pro, which features a 10.2-inch screen, and some truly impressive capability. For example, the home screen can be customized and widgets can be added to provide shortcuts to favorite features. The touchscreen also allows pinch to zoom gestures, and the nav system offers door-to-door route planning and guidance incorporating public transport options, a commute mode that learns your daily drive so that it can automatically offer alternative routes to avoid congestion using historical and real-time traffic information, and an approach mode which shows a 360-degree interactive Google Street View-style image of your destination when you’re approximately 650 feet away. You will also be able to display the map full screen on the instrumental panel, just like on Audi’s digital dashboard.
First impressions of the 2016 Jaguar XF? More. Delivered. Jaguar’s done a solid job of evolving the XF into the car that truly offers a compelling alternative to the German hegemony in the segment.