2012 Jaguar XF Review

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Marty Padgett Marty Padgett Editorial Director
February 20, 2012

Scorching acceleration, nimble handling, and true luxury-car refinement complement style and fashion to swoon over in the 2012 Jaguar XF; backseat space remains its only reality check.

With the introduction of the XF lineup a few years ago—and reverberated by the new full-size XJ sedan last year—Jaguar has made a clean break from the overtly traditional shapes of the past, moving from ornate to rakish. Now for 2012, Jaguar has given the XF what amounts to a mid-cycle refresh, gently finessing the design to more closely resemble the original C-XF design concept that had inspired it—as well as the flagship XJ sedan.

Fortunately, Jaguar has kept to a light retouch of the XF; the sedan already stood out as an instant classic, with all its catlike curves and classic sport-sedan proportions. A revised front-end look, with a larger, more upright grille, slim headlights alongside light strips, and a lower hoodline with a power bulge give the XF a wide-looking, more purposeful stance, while tail lamps get LED lighting and a new chrome blade. Inside, the XF still looks like its design spirit is in line with a chic London hotel; thankfully, Jaguar has only added a new steering wheel, new nav and infotainment screens, redesigned seats, and a few new trim pieces. There remains nothing heavy-handed or retro about the look, and especially in top-performance XFR the look and feel could be taken as that of an Aston Martin. This year, XFR sedans now get better differentiated from base XF models, with a more complete sporty bodykit, redesigned 20-inch wheels, and a subtle rear diffuser.

The 2012 Jaguar XF models remain offered with three different powertrains, called out with XF, XF Supercharged, and XFR high-performance models. Last year the XF got a very substantial 85-hp boost, with a new standard 5.0-liter V-8 replacing the previous 4.2-liter one. The result is stunning, confident performance, even from the base car, with a brawly, baritone exhaust note that's assertive but doesn't get in the way. High-performance XFR and XF Supercharged models both get a 5.0-liter supercharged V-8—making 470 hp in the Supercharged and 510 hp in the XFR. All three engines send power to the rear wheels via a six-speed automatic transmission with paddle shifters, rocketing the XFR to 60 mph in just 4.7 seconds, while even the standard XF can get to 60 in 5.5 seconds.

Review continues below

Throughout the lineup, the XF delivers tactile satisfaction and has an understated, graceful feel from behind the wheel that will often have you thinking you're not moving as quickly as you are. During normal driving, shifts are smooth and perfectly muted, but the personality changes during enthusiastic driving and the attitude sharpens. Well-weighted, direct steering and capable brakes add up to a joyful driving experience. 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 lighter sedans in its class.

If we had to pick a single weakness for the XF, it's that the swoopy roofline and profile has a price—and that's an especially small back seat. The 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. If that isn't a deal-breaker, there's lots to swoon over, with lavish materials that, like the new XJ, set a new high-water mark for Jaguar. The seat design itself is new for 2012, with dash buttons and switchgear getting a black-paint finish, but the distinctive puck-shaped shifter knob (which rises from the center console on startup) and vents that rotate outward at startup, remain. No matter where you're sitting you're surrounded by high-grade leather and other warm, soft materials.

In the same way that it delivers its refined performance, the Jaguar XF is a sport sedan, yet surrounds you with serious luxury-car features. Audio systems have been completely revamped for 2012 and include an all-new 1200-watt surround sound system from Bowers & Wilkins at the top. All models have two USB ports, Bluetooth connectivity, and built-in music storage. The XF also gets Interactive Voice control, and a new full-color TFT information display.

Standard equipment in the 2012 XF includes a sunroof; automatic climate control; a keyless entry and ignition system; an electronic parking brake; leather upholstery and walnut trim; a heated steering wheel; and active cruise control.

9

2012 Jaguar XF

Styling

The Jaguar XF's suave sheetmetal looks even better in person--and it's matched by a beautiful cabin.

Jaguar's axed its old retro-dominated designs for extravagance and ultramodernity--and it's a rollicking success, nowhere more convincingly than in the XF sedan.

Benchmarked against cars like the new Audi A7 and the Mercedes CLS, the XF's still the stunning styling leader, an instant classic, with the curves and catlike cues that connote the brand and the reinvention Jaguar's pulling off, car by car. The grille is still mesh, the proportions are still classically influenced, but little else bears any resemblance to the cars Jaguar sold for the two decades before the XF was introduced in 2009. It's almost the ne plus ultra evolution of Infiniti, all essence and sophistication--or is it an affordable Aston? That gives you a better sense of context for its looks than anything save for a firsthand look.

If possible, 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. At the same time, 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.
9

2012 Jaguar XF

Performance

There's nothing stodgy about the XF's performance--it opens at 385 horsepower, and raises the ante all the way to 510 hp.

Three V-8 engines are listed on the Jaguar XF's performance report card, and every one of them gets an A. For extra credit, it tosses on a supercharger on two of them and scores a pair of A pluses.

It's grippy and stealthy in the way it gathers speed, though there's no mistaking its eight-cylinder exhaust note. The base version belts out 385 horsepower from the common 5.0-liter engine block; a Supercharged model rattles off 470 hp, and the ultimate XF, the XFR, tops the range at 510 hp. All that power moves to the rear wheels through a six-speed, paddle-shifted automatic transmission with quick reflexes. Jaguar quotes 0-60 mph times of between 5.5 and 4.7 seconds; top speed is limited to 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.

Ride quality in the XF is quite impressive; the suspension is tuned to be somewhat soft in standard XF models especially, but there's no floatiness or bounciness and the body always feels under control.

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2012 Jaguar XF

Comfort & Quality

Fit and finish are dazzling, but the XF's almost a four-door coupe, with its skimpy rear seat room.

Sacrifices are routinely made to style, and in the Jaguar XF, rear-seat room is cut down to enable its sleek, sexy roofline.

It's immediately obvious how the packaging of the XF takes a back seat to the look. All seats are low to the floor, and in front the leg and head room are adequate enough to allow taller drivers to find a normal driving position, even with the sunroof in place.

In back, the rear seats are limited to small adults and children: the door openings are small, the leg room is on the skimpy side and head room is quite lacking. The rear buckets themselves are shapely, for those who can fit in them. It's a good thing they fold forward to expand the already large trunk--that feature increases the car's utility.

Once they're inside, passengers will be dazzled by the XF's cabin. 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.

That said, 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.

8

2012 Jaguar XF

Safety

Safety features abound, but the Jaguar XF hasn't been crash-tested.

Neither the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) nor the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) has crash-tested the Jaguar XF, which makes judging its safety more difficult. We're giving credit here to its extensive set of safety features, with a nod to the four-star rating it earned in similar European crash tests.

Six airbags are standard in the XF, along with anti-lock brakes and stability control, active front headrests, and electronic assistants like a rearview camera. Supercharged and XFR models get a blind-spot monitor, and adaptive cruise control with a collision warning system is available.

Unlike other sedans in its class, the XF doesn't offer an all-wheel-drive option, which in some climates could be considered a vital safety feature for less experienced drivers.

8

2012 Jaguar XF

Features

High-end features are par for the Jaguar XF course; we'd listen to the 1200-watt Bowers & Wilkins audio system any day.

Part luxury sedan, part performance four-door, the Jaguar XF has all the features expected of a car in its price bracket, save for the arguable omission of all-wheel drive.

All XF sedans come with power features; cruise control; automatic climate control; a sunroof; leather upholstery; walnut trim; keyless ignition; satellite radio; Bluetooth; steering-wheel controls; heated front seats; and a navigation system.

The nav, audio and most climate functions are controlled via a large LCD touchscreen on the dash. The XF's navigation system also incorporates iPod/iPhone control for music. A tap on the touch screen and you're controlling the flow of tunes through a target on the display; however some drivers will be disappointed to see that many of the climate controls have been moved to screen-only positions as well.

Moving into higher trim levels brings ventilated front seats, upgraded leather, and a choice of ebony trim. XFR sedans also stock standard 20-inch wheels; adaptive cruise control; a Bowers & Wilkins audio system with HD radio; and a heated steering wheel.

Optional equipment includes a heated steering wheel and active cruise control. The 1200-watt Bowers & Wilkins system, available on non-XFR sedans, is one of the best-sounding audio setups the editors have heard in any vehicle, cost no object.
5

2012 Jaguar XF

Fuel Economy

Gorgeous looks always come with a pricetag, and with the Jaguar XF, you'll pay half of the bill at the gas station.

With its powerful new V-8 engine lineup, the Jaguar XF's gas mileage isn't outrageous, considering its performance capabilities. It's also not far off the marks of its rival high-performance sedans.

But when it's compared with the field of new cars, the XF lineup is one of the more fuel-hungry vehicles for sale today.

Fuel economy numbers dropped somewhat in 2011, when Jaguar upped the displacement of the XF's engine from 4.2 liters to 5.0 liters. Standard XF models are rated 16 mpg city, 23 highway, while the Supercharged and Jaguar XFR models check in with a 15/21 mpg rating.

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8.4
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Styling 9.0
Performance 9.0
Comfort & Quality 8.0
Safety 8.0
Features 8.0
Fuel Economy 5.0
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