- Beautiful exterior
- Boutique-quality interior
- Strong performance, even with the base engine
- Cramped rear seats
- Too rakish for some tastes
- Lacks all-wheel-drive option
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.
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.