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car review

The 2021 Jaguar XF.Jeremy Sinek/The Globe and Mail

If you’ve always fancied yourself at the wheel of a lovely Jaguar sedan, now might be a good time to make it real. The long-time maker of some of history’s most beautiful fast sedans – Jaguar’s old “Grace, Space and Pace” slogan was a rare example of truth in advertising – is close to exiting the car business.

Even more than its European rivals, Jaguar is hanging its hat on crossovers, all of which will eventually be electric. Already in 2019 (the last normal year with a full lineup) Jaguar Canada sold almost five times as many crossovers as passenger cars. Since then, the terrific but underappreciated XE compact sedan has been discontinued here, as has the full-size XJ (its all-electric replacement has been shelved just months before it was due to debut).

That leaves the XF, Jaguar’s mid-size player in the Euro-lux sedan segment, as the sole Jaguar sedan in Canada. The current second-generation design was originally launched in 2015 and has been freshened for 2021. A resculpted face is dominated by slim LED headlamps, while new interior décor is centre-pieced by an 11.4-inch touch screen with new-generation PiVi infotainment. Much effort went into the detailing and materials of the cockpit, though the most obvious alteration is a more conventional toggle-action shifter handle replacing the previous auto-retracting rotary dial; in like vein, the automatically hiding air vents are no more.

The model menu for Canada has been pared to just one trim, labelled SE 300 R-Dynamic and propelled by the more powerful 296-horsepower version of Jaguar’s 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder engine. The former 2-litre diesel four-cylinder and 3.0-litre supercharged V6 are long gone.

Jaguar is hanging its hat on crossovers, all of which will eventually be electric.Jeremy Sinek/The Globe and Mail

The good news is that the price of entry has come down, presumably with a view to retaining some of the customers who might otherwise have bought the smaller XE. Obvious rivals like the BMW 5 Series and Mercedes E-Class start several thousand dollars above the XF’s $60,570 price of entry, and tend to be less well equipped. The XF “is positioned as a ‘loaded luxury value’ – all the bells and whistles one would expect in that segment at a solid entry price to the Jaguar brand,” said Jaguar Canada marketing and public relations director John Lindo.

You can also up-spec the Jaguar selectively, with relatively affordable stand-alone options – among them, an electrically heated front windscreen – instead of having to shell out for expensive packages that may force you to take features you don’t want, to get the ones you do.

If you even have an XF on your radar, you may already be a Jaguar loyalist. In which case you’ve already learned to accept less-than-Lexus levels of reliability. You’re probably also somewhat of a non-conformist to be still eyeing a sedan at all, especially when the rest of the market is flocking to crossovers and SUVs.

The XF’s claimed 6.1-second 0-100-km/h time ranks it among the category’s pacesetters.Jeremy Sinek/The Globe and Mail

But isn’t that the irony of status symbols – everybody wanting the same ones? Surely there’s more status in exclusivity than in driving the same luxury SUVs as everyone else. Even among the shrinking population of luxury sedans, the XF is a rarity, accounting for less than one per cent of sales in its category sales. If that’s not exclusivity, what is?

If those thoughts mesh with your own find-your-own-road mindset and you can see yourself in a fast, beautiful, luxurious sedan, get an XF while you still can.

Tech specs

2021 Jaguar XF

Price, base/as tested: Base $60,570/$66,965

Engine: 2.0-litre turbo four-cylinder, 296 horsepower

Transmission/drive: 8-speed automatic/AWD

Fuel consumption, L/100 km: 10.6 city/7.6 hwy.

Alternatives: Audi A6, BMW 530, Cadillac CT5, Genesis G80, Infiniti Q50, Lexus ES350, Mercedes E350, Volvo S90.

Looks

The XF, Jaguar’s mid-size player in the Euro-lux sedan segment, is the sole Jaguar sedan in Canada.Jeremy Sinek/The Globe and Mail

Jaguar’s goal was to achieve beauty through the shape itself, without the need for ornamentation or stylistic detailing. In a subtle sort of way, we think it succeeds admirably. The test sample’s black wheels and black exterior accents are options.

Interior

For this driver’s mid-size male tastes, the XF enables a near-perfect driving position, sportily laid-back yet still offering decent visibility. Those with sturdier thighs than mine, however, may have clearance issues with the steering wheel.

I never had issues with the previous rotary-knob gear selector, but the new JaguarDrive handle works fine too, and I dare say has less potential for things-gone-wrong. The new touch-screen looks lovely, likewise the digital gauge cluster, but the main screen is still sometimes slow to respond, and it seems odd that what look like touch-sensitive buttons for the climate control actually need quite an assertive push to get a response.

Rear-seat space is about what you’d expect for the class and my frame appreciated the robust thigh support provided by the ramped seat cushion; however that might be a negative for little people.

Performance

A turbocharged 2.0-litre four-cylinder base engine is standard operating procedure in luxury sedans these days, and the XF’s claimed 6.1-second 0-100-km/h time ranks it among the category’s pacesetters (although several rivals seem to equal that benchmark with less power). In drag-strip mode, initial launch is somewhat leisurely, but boost builds linearly, and the subjective performance feel in routine driving is fine: the engine is smooth and sounds well-bred while the eight-speed transmission is an intuitive partner that helps mask any turbo lag.

Despite its shallowness, the trunk’s claimed volume of 14 cubic feet is respectable among its peers.Jeremy Sinek/The Globe and Mail

Historically the XF’s dynamic highlight has been its handling, and that’s largely still true. The steering did feel a bit “dumbed down” on this sample, though; I suspect its unambitious H-rated tires were chosen more for comfort than speed. Still, overall the XF has a gratifyingly natural, analogue feel at a time when electronic nannies and automated assistants leave many cars feeling artificial and robotic.

Technology

Apart from adaptive cruise control being a $1,200 option, most of the expected driver-assist mod cons are standard – and the base cruise control does include automatic speed adjustment for changing speed limits. Also standard are SiriusXM and HD radio, wireless phone charging, Wi-Fi capability, and intelligent navigation with real-time traffic information.

Cargo

Despite its shallowness the trunk’s claimed volume of 14 cubic feet is respectable among its peers. And get this: the XF has a tow rating – 750 kg unbraked or 1,900 kg braked.

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