2013 Jaguar XF Performance

9.0
Performance

The Jaguar XF has been with us since 2009, but for the entire time, it's lacked a few things to broaden its appeal: an engine with fewer than eight cylinders, better fuel economy, and all-wheel drive. All of those make their way into the 2013 XF, and then some.

For starters, not only does the XF have a new V-6 engine--it also has a new turbocharged four-cylinder engine in its base model. The 240-horsepower four is kin to the one in the Range Rover Evoque, and if you look very closely, to the one in a few Ford products, not by coincidence. With direct injection and peak torque of 251 pound-feet that comes on as soon as 2000 rpm, the four-cylinder's pegged with a 0-60 mph time of 7.5 seconds--and at 30 mpg highway. We haven't been able to drive this version yet, so we'll update this review when we can.

Still among the best balanced luxury sedans, the XF has new forced-induction engines, and they're mostly fine companion pieces.

We've spent plenty of time in the new six-cylinder XF, in sunny and dry weather and through a snowy day of driving school in Quebec's Laurentian mountains. It's an excellent replacement for the former naturally aspirated V-8. At 380 horsepower, the direct-injected, 3.0-liter V-6 gives up only 5 hp to the V-8, and delivers its peak 332 lb-ft of torque at the middle of its powerband. It's flexible and powerful enough to generate 0-60 mph times of 5.7 seconds, a couple of tenths slower than the outgoing V-8, but it's not as velvety or aurally muscular as the eight-cylinder. It actually sounds more British, if you associate supercharger whine with a particular nationality like some of us do, and that sound's mixed with some typical V-6 buzzes. With a substantial uptick in gas mileage, we'd say it's worth the swapout--but we'd add that the stop/start system standard on the XF 3.0 is one of the less refined of those systems we've driven, with a kickstart vibration you can feel through the wheel and the seat.

The V-6 is the only XF to offer Jaguar's new all-wheel-drive system. It's set up with a 30:70 torque split in ordinary driving, but the power can be split evenly to the front and back when traction needs arise--or, when sport mode is dialed up, it can be tuned to a 10:90 split for something even closer to the rear-drive experience. It also sends some torque to the front wheels after every stop for a smoother launch, resetting its torque split when the traction-control and yaw sensors signal the ok. With the added weight of the AWD system, the XF 3.0's 0-60 mph time rises to 6.1 seconds, Jaguar says.

With either supercharged V-8, the XF turns in its most brilliant performance. There's no mistaking its eight-cylinder exhaust note, and the XF belts out either 470 hp in the Supercharged model or 510 hp as an XFR. The 0-60 mph times drop to 4.9 and 4.7 seconds, respectively, and top speed climbs to 155 mph--or 174 mph if the Sport or Speed packs are selected.

All XF sedans engineer brilliantly quick and mostly smooth shifts through an eight-speed, paddle-shifted automatic transmission with quick reflexes. Selecting Drive through the rotary shift knob used to be a one-of-a-kind act, but it's no more--not now that the Ram 1500 has adopted the same transmission control. The XF also has JaguarDrive, which lets drivers choose how quickly the car shifts and responds to throttle inputs; all but the four-cylinder models also come with an additional Winter mode for second-gear starts and slower throttle progression.

The XF simply gets better with each step up the performance ladder. Despite an almost supercar-like thrust on tap with the V-8s, the XF is deceptively smooth. Even the XFR feels like an entirely civil car—until you open the throttle and access its full potential. It's grippy and stealthy in the way it gathers speed, even with new electric-assisted steering. It's just firm enough in corners, and has good weight. Couple that light, direct steering to capable brakes and it all adds up to a joyful driving experience.

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. Even when shod with 20-inch tires, summer tires, and electronic systems like Active Differential Control and Adaptive Dynamics shuffling power between the rear wheels and adjusting suspension and steering firmness, the roughly 4,000-pound Jaguar XFR out-nimbles some of the less weighty sedans in its class.

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