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.