2015 Jaguar XF 3.0 AWD: Against The Wind
There are two common luxury strategies out there in the automotive world. The first is that you can try to one-up an established class leader by amplifying the specific characteristics that make that particular model so popular, in effect creating a steroidal clone of another brand's product.
Or, you can do what Jaguar did with the 2015 Jaguar XF and embrace your unique heritage to build a genuine alternative to the status quo. Why fire up the photocopier when you can instead pen a stylish premium sedan that appeals to shoppers tired of following the herd across the Channel? The XF might not be the perfect ubermensch designed to conquer all luxury demographics, but that's a distinct part of its draw, and a refreshing counterpoint to the more clinical approach adopted by other upscale marques.
Not For The Meek
Talk about knowing your market. The 2015 Jaguar XF's flowing muscular lines, ultra-long hood, sneering muzzle, and long roofline suck the eyeballs out of pedestrians and passers-by, and during my week with the sedan I regularly fielded questions and compliments from total strangers on the car's extroverted looks. If you're a Jaguar customer then you've already decided to walk a different path than the middle manager who parks his BMW beside you in the office lot, so you most likely won't be perturbed by all of the extra attention. Call it 'profiling in advance' on the part of the British automaker's styling team.
As sizzling as the mesh-grilled XF's sheet metal is, I found the mid-size car's cabin accoutrements to be even more impressive. My tester featured the Luxury trim level's 'London Tan' leather seats and panel trim, along with a 'Warm Charcoal' dash and suede headliner. The quality of the hides was outstanding, and the not-too-light colour struck the perfect balance between classy and practical. The leather combined with the metal trim to form one of the most attractive and comfortable passenger compartments in the XF's class.
Unfortunately for the Jaguar XF, the vehicle's interior also plays host to a few reminders that the current model is riding on an aging platform. In particular, the XF's touchscreen infotainment system feels dated, with menus that are needlessly complex and slow to respond to finger pressure. The driver's gauges also come across as a bit old school, especially the centre information display's basic LCD functionality. Finally, the Jaguar lacks any advanced safety equipment on the options list aside from a blind spot monitoring system, which puts it at a disadvantage on an increasingly tech-focused luxury landscape. It's perhaps not fair to pick on the XF for these digital shortcomings as there's an all-new model coming for 2016, but if you can't wait that long then you should know what you're in for with this final year of production sedan.
The 2015 Jaguar XF comes with three engine options, starting out with a modest 240 horsepower, 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder unit and finishing with both 470 and 510 horsepower versions of the same 5.0-litre, supercharged V8. The vehicle I drove for a week was outfitted with the XF's mid-tier motivator, a 3.0-litre supercharged V6 good for 340 ponies and 332 lb-ft twist. As with all versions of the Jaguar sedan, it was matched with an eight-speed automatic transmission, but unique to the 3.0-litre was its standard all-wheel drive system.
All-wheel drive is both a blessing and a curse for the XF. The additional traction provided by the system is of course helpful during the winter months, especially in our northern clime, but despite its rearward bias it also has the effect of somewhat numbing the car's handling when hustled. Still, I understand completely why an all-wheel drive version of the XF had to exist, as Jaguar's prior lack of four-wheel traction had seen its sales numbers marginalized by the clever marketing campaigns of its AWD luxury rivals.
Given its curb weight of nearly 2,000 kilos, it would be a stretch to expect the 340 horsepower XF to provide an athletic driving experience. Nevertheless I was satisfied with the supercharged V6's strong mid-range acceleration as well as its smooth highway operation, and I was more than willing to exchange a second or so on the sprint to 100 km/h in the bargain. A dynamic driving mode is available to add extra sharpness to the excellent ZF transmission's shift habits, and there's a further Sport mode accessible via the shift dial on the centre console that locks out higher gears.
Choose Something Different
The 2015 Jaguar XF 3.0 AWD is an exceptionally comfortable automobile that delivers a sleekly styled alternative to the current stable of mid-size luxury go-tos. Throw in the availability of a leather-rich interior that rises above the ranks of many of its German competitors and the end result is a compelling premium package that lets you express your individuality in the face of overwhelming pressure to join the ranks of BMW, Mercedes-Benz, or Audi owners. The Jaguar XF won't be for everyone, but that's exactly the point: by not walking in lock-step with its segment-mates, the British brand has been able to build something worthy of a second look.