Despite being written off by critics time and again, Jaguar is still very much alive. Quite frankly, the famous British marque is getting better, catching up with its competitors in build quality, performance and desirability.
Whereas the BMW 5-Series is all about athleticism, the Audi A6 a technological tour de force, and the Merc E-Class finally finding its regal elegance, the Jaguar XF finally finds its own identity, carefully straddling the territories of agility, tenacious mechanical grip and effortlessness in covering large quantities of mileage, be it straight or curvaceous. While the BMW pounds the ground to submission, the Audi levitates and the Merc simply floats unperturbed, the XF gamely follows the contours and undulations of the road in a manner best described as velvety and crucially, organic.
The latest XF (internally codenamed the X260) is the second generation model, with 83% consisting of new parts from its predecessor, gifted with an 8-speed automatic ZF8HP transmission and a 2.0 turbocharged petrol form the Ingenium family of engines powering all modern Jaguar and Land Rover vehicles for our local market. It’s an aluminum intensive architecture, with the side body panels consisting of a single machined aluminum pressing, an impressive feat considering how well-defined the character lines are. In comparison, many modern car body panels are pressed two to four times to achieve a sharp crease for better definition and character. We get the R-Sport variant which gets the more stylish and aggressive-looking front and rear bumpers, side skirts and R-Sport badging. The R-Sport suspension is a traditional gas-charged hydraulic system without any form of electronic assistance. Thankfully the boffins at Jaguar judged the damping and spring rate settings perfectly, blessing the lithe cat with a ride that is smooth, stable and composed yet crucially, controlled and confident; just how one expects a Jaguar to be. The XF feels solid, ready for anything and highly capable, just like the HMS Queen Elizabeth, a sign of Britain’s pride, legacy and technological prowess in naval warfare.
The electric power steering is on the light side of sporty. It feels decently light at low speeds, aiding maneuverability and general ease of use. But the tiller weighs up gamely on the highway as speeds and g-forces load up the chassis, coaxing you to go faster and faster than what is prudent. Yet the Jaguar soaks it all up in a cool, composed and calm manner. The brakes are firm, offer good feel and feedback, with a progressive feel that allows you to experiment just how hard you can stand on them before inducing the ABS system to kick in. Yes, as you can see, I thoroughly enjoyed my drives in the XF on the highway and going up and down the winding roads of Tagaytay. The modest 200hp and 300 Newton-Meters of torque felt just right. Put in more power and torque and the chassis risks falling off its delightfully delicate balance of grunt and grip. Kudos as well for the 18-inch wheels and 245/45R18 tires. They might fall a wee bit short on the looks department when competitors are going 19 and 20 inches in size, but the thick sidewalls deliver the compliance one demands on a challenging piece of road that is less than baby bottom smooth. Adaptive LED headlights and partial LED tail lights give an eerie, cat-like stare at night which blesses you, as a driver with night-vision akin to a sixth sense: you’re confident to press on harder, faster, and brake later as traffic dies down.
Inside, soft supple and perforated dark brown Taurus leather, matched in black and satin aluminum accents liven up a chic cabin. It’s comfortable and stylish inside, with a 12-way power adjustable driver’s seat and tilt / telescopic steering ensuring that you find the perfect driving position for you. The piano black trim leads itself to stylish simplicity, although the knob-type gear selector is a gimmick I remain unconvinced. Thankfully, paddle shifters behind the R-Sport steering wheel allow you more control when you want to play and distract you from the large knob on the center console. The audio system is decent, but I am quite disappointed that it doesn’t come with Apple CarPlay or Android Auto mobile phone integration. Hopefully future models in the Philippines will have it. The 10-inch LCD screen for the infotainment system is useful but the overall operability isn’t as intuitive as I’d like. Still, this is nitpicking in what is overall a well-sorted and well-built car with excellent fit and finish coupled with stellar driving dynamics.
As a Jaguar fan, I hope the brand succeeds and flourishes and finally takes the fight to the Germans who remain to be the gold standard in the mid-size executive sedan class. It feels refreshingly different and though it still somewhat trails behind in perceived image and desirability behind the Teutons, Jaguar have bridged the gap even closer than before. Perhaps this British Cat has more than nine lives.
A car enthusiast through and through, Botchi Santos believes that different people have different needs. He tries to find the best car for a specific audience, and spruces things up by delving into car culture, helping make the local car community vibrant and enjoyable for all. His passion for motoring is built around a belief that cars are among the top three life purchases.