Since Jaguar Cars Limited was recently purchased by Indian automaker Tata, the Coventry (UK)-based manufacturer (and local distributor Jaguar Philippines) can breathe a temporary sigh of relief as much needed funding goes into its global operations.
However, a crucial part of its worldwide functions hinges on the brand's ability to sell cars. With that in mind, Jaguar Philippines recently launched the Jaguar XF premium luxury sports sedan in an effort to create a new image for the brand – a mix of sports car style and performance with luxury saloon refinement, space and sophistication.
Jaguar is hoping that the sporting luxury branding of the XF will attract potential buyers, and the XF itself shows that it's more muscle than marketing gimmick. Chief XF designer Ian Callum mixed inspiration from the big book of historic Jaguar design cues (especially the 1959 Jaguar Mk. II) with current enthusiasm for a sedan adapted to a coupe roof line. You can see the XF's modernity in its profile, the way the front overhang is pulled back, the wheelbase stretched and the roof arc adapted to very fast angles (identical to the XK Coupe) for the windshield and backlight. There's a dint of the Lexus GS sedan series in the XF's overall graphic, but its detailing makes the difference between beauty and abstraction, and you can see it in the hood design and the side windows' chrome surround. According to Callum in an interview during the car's 2007 Frankfurt Auto Show release, "Jaguars should be perceived as cool cars, and cool cars attract interesting, edgy people."
Inside, the orthodox cockpit-type sport sedan layout was traded for an environment that envelops you in leather, aluminum and real wood veneer. The driver seat comes up to support you like a fine armchair, right down to the high, softly upholstered armrests. Yet the cowl ahead of you is very low to foster both a sense of interior spaciousness and the kind of down-the-road visibility you need at high speed.
It's the fit between the human software and the machine-made hardware that makes the XF so unique, inviting you to be part of the experience. You see this in the much-discussed start button on the center console that pulses red in the lub-dub rhythm of a heartbeat when you enter the car, and then follows the way the unique rotary dial (which Jaguar Philippines chairman Wellington Soong bills as the "Jaguar handshake") that controls the transmission rises out of the center console and into your right hand once the engine comes to life.
There's a touchscreen interface for the audio and climate control systems, so no console mouse is required. The buttons and switches for such things as the glovebox operate with proximity sensors. Despite the low coupe roof line, the rear doors open wide for good access and you can comfortable fit in three people at the back, with a fistful of room to spare per person between their respective knees and the front backrests.
Power and torque come in naturally aspirated 3.0L 24-valve V6 (P 4.5 million or P 5.35 million, 235 hp/293 NM) and 4.2L 32-valve V8 (P 5.8 million, 294 hp/411 NM) flavors. But for those who crave more, one can also order the P 7.8 million 4.2L supercharged 32-valve V8 (410 hp/560 NM) variant. All engines have a DOHC camshaft configuration, and are mated to a six-speed a/t, with a manual mode that uses paddles behind the steering wheel.
The suspension and mountings are the same as that used on the XK. Sound and vibration insulation is provided by the adding of a special underbody tray and engine mounts, a tuned exhaust system, and a double bulkhead between the engine bay and occupant compartment. And when you dig into the brakes, there's enough anti-dive dialed into the front suspension geometry in order to make the car provide a smooth transition into corner apex and exit.
The Jaguar XF makes different choices than most sport saloons, balancing response with smoothness, agility with comfort and reward with refinement. It has the unenviable task of saving the brand, but given all that has, it is very much up to the challenge.