2018 Jaguar XF Prestige 25t gets the job done with quiet efficiency
The engine won't dazzle, but the XF's crisp handling is where it truly shines
What the Jaguar car company may lack in size, it makes up in sizzle. Launching new models with media-baiting PR stunts has been a hallmark of the brand since as far back as 1949, when the then-new XK120 sports car claimed the official fastest-production-car title with a 213- kilometre-an-hour run on a Belgian autoroute.
By 1949 standards, that was a speed as stunning as the XK120's voluptuous styling. So was the advanced engine that powered it, the XK DOHC inline six that would remain in production until 1992.
The now-legendary six-cylinder XK was originally intended to have a four-cylinder sibling, but the latter never made it into a production car.
Which brings us to the 2018 XF – our first exposure to Jaguar's first, all-its-own-work four-cylinder gasoline engine (yes, there were four-cylinder Jaguars in the recent past, but that engine was supplied by Ford).
Now, Jaguar has its own-brand " Ingenium" engine family. A 2.0-litre diesel version launched first in Canada, as the base engine on some 2017 models; for 2018, the gasoline version crossed the pond to join it. A brawny 3.0-litre supercharged V-6 remains on the menu, resulting in a convoluted lineup that mixes and matches five trim grades with a choice of 180-horsepower diesel "four" or 380-hp V-6, or the new four-cylinder gas engine in either of two strengths – 247 hp or 296 hp. (Jaguar is widely expected, incidentally, to add inline six-cylinder versions of the Ingenium engine, which would be a rather apt circle-back to the original XK).
Besides the new engines, a minor do-over for 2018 added more driver-assist features, a "gesture" operated trunk lid and optional dual-view 10-inch touch screen on which driver and passenger can view different content simultaneously.
Our XF test sample was the one-up-from-base Prestige, with a 25t badge on its trunk lid indicating it had the 247-hp four-pot engine. MSRPs for the XF start at $58,900, with the Prestige starting at $63,700 (before options, of which there are many).
To recap, the XF is Jaguar's mid-size, mid-price sedan, now in its second generation and built mostly from aluminum. Aiming to draw attention to its low mass, Jaguar's launch stunt for the Gen-2 XF back in 2015 involved a record high-wire drive across the River Thames in London. Who knew there even was a record for that? Who cared?
It seems the stunt didn't exactly "break the internet." And to some extent, that's been true of the XF itself, which has been overshadowed by Jaguar recently launching its first SUV, the World Car of the Year F-Pace, as well as returning to the compact sedan category with the XE.
Mid-size sedans don't generate much sizzle these days, but if you do still prefer your luxury in a medium-sized car-shaped wrapper, don't overlook the XF.
Its architecture and powertrains are largely shared with the XE (and F-Pace) so it has the same engaging dynamics, plus more rear-seat room than the XE, and, if its look isn't exactly flashy – well, that's the way mid-luxury buyers often prefer it.
And while its modest sales numbers may be a mild concern for Jaguar, those who do buy one get the bonus of exclusivity – which tends to have more staying power than sizzle.
- Price: $63,700 (base)/$72,700 (as tested)
- Engine: 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo
- Transmission/drive: Eight-speed automatic/AWD
- Fuel consumption: 10.1 city/7.2 hwy
- Alternatives: Acura RLX, Audi A6, BMW 5 Series, Cadillac XTS, Genesis G80, Lexus GS, Infiniti Q70, Mercedes E-Class, Volvo S90
Jaguar design chief Ian Callum says the XF was shaped with "the discipline of simplicity" – a conscious effort to avoid superfluous lines or gratuitous sculpting. The result is undeniably attractive, with a strong "face," but perhaps a little bland and generic from the side and rear.
The clean, simple aesthetic continues inside. The rotary-knob shifter retreats into the centre console with the car shut down and the vent louvres rotate out of sight for a clean look, rising to a sense of occasion when they all reappear upon startup. Gimmicks aside, comfort at the wheel is fine, though front-three-quarter visibility could be better and the ergonomics rely too much on the touch screen. The rear seat is as roomy as it is comfortable.
For engaged drivers, the XF's forte is still its handling. Even in January, with its dynamic edge blunted by winter tires and frigid, salt-dusted pavement, the clean, crisp steering and taut, balanced cornering shine through. And the new engine? The 25t is fine, but it didn't leave me awestruck. It's appropriately smooth for a luxury car, exhibits minimal turbo lag, its claimed 6.6-sec 0-100 time (5.8 for the 296-hp engine) is at least competitive and its fuel economy is among the best in class (or even better with the available diesel). Only the somewhat ho-hum engine vocals left me less than enthralled.
Interfaced through a wide-but-shallow touch-screen screen, the XF has the infotainment, telematic and connectivity bases well covered. It doesn't go as far as some rivals in terms of pro-active semi-autonomous driving (not that that's a bad thing) but the usual reactive driver-assist nannies, such as lane-keeping assist, automatic braking and adaptive cruise, are standard or optional, depending on the model.
The trunk looks rather shallow, but perhaps its front-to-back length makes up for that, as the claimed cargo room (540 litres by European measurements) is spot on with key rivals.
No flash, no fuss: Jaguar's mid-size luxury-sport sedan gets the job done with quiet efficiency and exclusivity.