- Standout exterior
- High-tech, high-fashion dash
- Steamy performance across the range
- Quiet, refined interior
- Minuscule rear seats
- Lacks all-wheel-drive option
- Too rakish for the market?
The 2011 Jaguar XF offers a compelling combination of fast, nimble performance and a classy, refined, and seductive interior; the only thing lacking is backseat space.
Introduced two years ago, the Jaguar XF lineup started a clean break from the overtly traditional Jaguar shapes of the past. At the same time Jaguar changed hands itself—from Ford to India's Tata—the very essence of the cars shifted as well. And that design direction has continued this past year with the introduction of an all-new XJ.
Last year, new XF Supercharged and XFR high-performance models were added to the lineup; now for 2011 the XF gets a very substantial 85-hp boost, with a new standard 5.0-liter V-8 replacing the previous 4.2-liter one. There have also been a number of feature and trim refinements.
Overall, there's nothing heavy-handed or retro about the look of the 2011 Jaguar XF. Even two years in, it stands out as an extraordinarily modern interpretation yet also an instant classic, with all the catlike cues and curves that should have been in Jaguar's styling notebook for the past decade. There still are mesh grilles and classic proportions, but you almost expect to see the Jaguar XF in an Infiniti showroom with its softly sculptured roofline, faceted hood, and smartly irregular headlamps. From the back, it's as close to an Aston Martin as any sedan comes (apart from Aston's own Rapide). XFR sedans get stronger chins, four tailpipes, and bigger wheels, along with a new black grille. And inside, the XF's cabin delights drivers even more than the exterior. It seems to have been lifted from the front desk at a chic London hotel. There's aluminum and wood trim, to be sure—burl walnut trim is now standard—as well as a groovy puck-shaped shifter knob that rises to attention when the ignition button's pressed (and reminds us of high-end audio systems. Vents roll open to life, and ambient lighting begins to glow. Jaguar considers it the car's "heartbeat," and it's a clever wake-up call to the reinvigorated design all around.
Stealthy, gripping performance is the XF's calling card. That said, the XF's powertrain itself is sneaky. This year even the base-model 2011 Jaguar XF gets a 385-horsepower, 5.0-liter V-8, while the high-performance XFR and XF Supercharged models get a 5.0-liter supercharged V-8—making 470 hp in the Supercharged and 510 hp in the XFR. A sole six-speed automatic transmission with paddle shifters works with all three engines, rocketing the XFR to 60 mph in just 4.7 seconds, while even the standard XF can get to 60 in 5.5 seconds. Both of the supercharged models top out at 155 mph.
The rear-drive XF simply gets better with each step up the performance ladder. Despite an almost supercar-like thrust on tap, powertrains are deceptively smooth; the Jaguar XFR feels like an entirely civil car—until you open the throttle and access its full potential. The six-speed automatic transmission that's offered throughout the lineup—operated through a unique dial on the center console, and with steering-wheel paddle-shifters—offers smooth, perfectly muted shifts during relaxed driving but changes personality on full throttle, seemingly making the most of the engine's powerband. Light, direct steering and capable brakes add up to a joyful driving experience, and with 20-inch tires and electronic systems like Active Differential Control and Adaptive Dynamics shuffling power between the rear wheels and adjusting suspension and steering firmness, the 5,000-pound Jaguar XF out-nimbles some of the less weighty sedans in its class. The steering feels just firm enough in corners—and is weighted perfectly.
The 2011 Jaguar XF is packaged more like a four-door coupe than a family sedan, which limits backseat space, but the trunk is large for the class, and the rear seats fold down for access to the trunk. But the lavish materials inside set a new high-water mark for Jaguar. Leather trim is double-stitched, and LED lighting mixes with choice wood and metallic trim to turn the cabin into a most atmospheric space. The console and doors have enough small-item storage, too, even a deep cup holder. No matter where you're sitting you're surrounded by high-grade leather and other warm, soft materials. Look around, and the instrument panel and center console are appointed in aluminum finishes and wood veneers, along with contrast stitching.
The Jaguar XF is a sport sedan, with all the features of a luxury sedan. Standard equipment on the XF Luxury includes a sunroof; automatic climate control; a keyless entry and ignition system; an electronic parking brake; leather upholstery and walnut trim; heated front seats; Sirius Satellite Radio, a six-CD changer, and a navigation system all controlled via a large LCD touch screen in the dash or by voice commands; and Bluetooth connectivity. Optional equipment includes a heated steering wheel and active cruise control, while the available 525-watt Bowers & Wilkins system is one of the best-sounding audio setups the editors have heard in any vehicle, cost no object.