2014 Jaguar XF Performance

9.0
Performance

Last year, a lot changed under the hood of the Jaguar XF, as it shed a lineup of V-8s in favor of new turbo four-cylinder and supercharged V-6 alternatives (as well as some V-8s, still). And thankfully, there's still plenty of satisfying performance in the lineup, no matter which model you're considering.

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)--think 5.7 seconds to 60 mph. 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. Here, it's a juddery system that makes plain the sacrifice to the EPA gods.

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

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. We've also noted smoother stop/start in these versions.

Across all XF models, you now get 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. 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.

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 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.

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 and XFR-S feel like entirely civil cars—until you open the throttle and access their full potential. They're 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.

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