- Gorgeous exterior
- Fabulous, luxurious cabin
- Strong acceleration
- Refined ride
- Drives light and lean
- Compromised backseat headroom (and legroom)
- V-6 isn't as mellow as the V-8s
- Stop/start system needs some taming (four and V-6)
- Is America ready for a four-cylinder Jag?
With backseat space as the one caveat, the 2014 Jaguar XF lineup can at once be refined, nimble, and a scorcher of a performer in XFR or exclusive XFR-S guise.
The mid-size luxury segment is full of talented players--cars like the brilliant new Cadillac CTS, the stalwart BMW 5-Series and Mercedes E-Class, and the lithe Audi A6 and A7. Now it also includes the Jaguar XF, which has been continually massaged since its 2009 introduction with new features and new powertrains, which now include a turbocharged four-cylinder and all-wheel drive at the low end, and a raucous supercharged V-8 at the top.Even into its seventh model year, with its look only mildly smoothed over, the 2014 Jaguar XF still looks sleek, modern, and spirited. With relatively few cutlines and a catlike stance, it plays off the brand name beautifully. Jaguar found a new direction with the knockout interior as well; it's not derivative of any other model, while remaining uniquely British, quite glitzy, and a showcase of the brand's legendary attention to materials and trims. With the rotary shift knob, and vents that wake up when the pushbutton start is tapped, there are aesthetically pleasing touches and lots of 'wow' details throughout.
Last year Jaguar introduced a new lineup of engines--effectively supplementing the V-8s that the XF had offered all along with new turbo four-cylinder and supercharged V-6 alternatives. The turbo four-cylinder has 240 horsepower and moves the 2014 XF quickly enough for comfort-oriented buyers (albeit without quite as much refinement), while the supercharged V-6 makes 380 horsepower and is more a direct replacement for the V-8 (albeit with better fuel economy). We like this engine for its more classically British engine note, complete with supercharger whine. It's also equipped with stop/start to increase fuel economy, and it's a juddery system that makes plain the sacrifice to the EPA gods.
If you don't mind dipping deeper into your coffers both at the dealership and at the pump, the supercharged V-8 bring the most driving enjoyment. Whether you go for the 470-horsepower XF Supercharged or the 510-hp XFR, count on stunning, confident performance, with a brawly baritone exhaust note and 0-60 mph times of 4.9 seconds or less. All versions have a paddle-shifted eight-speed automatic, but only the V-6 offers Jaguar's new all-wheel-drive system, a traction (not performance) oriented system that should prove appealing to those in the Snow Belt.
New this year is the Jaguar XFR-S, a special high-performance edition that truly chases the likes of the BMW M5, Mercedes-Benz E63 AMG, and Audi RS6. With 550 horsepower and 502 lb-ft of torque, plus a sharpened Quickshift transmission logic, a stiffer suspension than the XFR, and a special staggered Pirelli performance tire setup--in addition to various aerodynamic improvements and an available big, functional rear wing, the 2014 Jaguar XFR-S can get to 186 mph and to 60 mph in just 4.4 seconds.
Across the entire lineup, the XF feels understated and graceful behind the wheel, with well-weighted steering, capable brakes, and smooth, muted shifts. Electronic systems like Active Differential Control and Adaptive Dynamics systems shuffle power between the rear wheels and adjust suspension and steering firmness, making this 4,200-pound sedan feel remarkably nimble.
The most significant weakness of the XF is that the swoopy roofline does cut headroom in back. With packaging that's closer to a four-door coupe than a family sedan, there's still plenty to swoon over, and those rear seatbacks do fold down for access to the trunk. The seats are supple and well-contoured, and no matter where you're sitting, you're surrounded by rich leather and other snazzy materials, from walnut to aluminum. And lavish materials in the 2014 XF continue to impress--especially against the more sterile appointments in some of its class rivals.
While some versions of the 2014 XJ are full-fledged sport sedans, all variants surround passengers with serious luxury-car features. Two USB ports, Bluetooth connectivity, and built-in music storage are included even in the base XF 2.0 sedans. Navigation, satellite and HD radio, and a rearview camera are among the options on those cars. Move up the model line, and more exclusive materials like the Warm Charcoal leather trim and contrast-color micro-piping are the real lure--not the infotainment interfaces and onboard technology.