Jaguar, the Cat from Coventry (UK) with that big Tata (India) bankroll, is furiously banging on the luxury car gates. Few can resist the lines and moves of the XK-R-S near-exotic. There are raves abound for the upcoming F-type twin-seat sports coupe.
So why hasn't the marque's "top selling" XF executive saloon, despite some seriously pouncing skin and power, been able to set the sales charts ablaze in the way of the BMW 5-series and Mercedes-Benz E-class?
Since the Ford debacle of the Jaguar X-typed Mondeo, there are no buyers seeking to upgrade from a spartan entry-level model. Then, there has been but one power-plant configuration with eight reciprocating pistons in V-formation available to Americans. Not very environmentally friendly, that.
No, Jeeves. The big news at Jaguar USA this year isn't the ballyhooed newly-available all-wheel drive and intermediate supercharged V6 engine in the XF.
For 2013 the base Jaguar XF gets a $5K price shave to $47,000. But blimey. To start there your grunt comes from a bloody 2.0L inline-4. With chain driven DOHC. And a single-scroll turbocharger. Dual VVT thrown in. Runs on petrol.
Advantages "Blown Inline Four":
- "The Real Biggest Loser": Lopping-off four cylinders has netted the aluminum-intensive XF a weight savings of 300-hefty pounds. Tiptoeing at 3600-lbs makes this Brit saloon 200-lbs more svelte than Bimmer's 528i.
- Frugal on Fuel: Or so Jaguar says to the EPA, with an estimated combined driving figure of 23 miles-per-gallon. Lots of our seat-time in the XF was spent in the supra- 4000 hash-mark on the tachometer, the better to hear this four-banger's surprisingly mellifluous melody. Therefore the 18.4-mpg returned is atypically low. Had we battered a supercharged 5.0L V8 model in the same manner some 14 mpg would have been the likely outcome.
- A Pittance for Such Luxury: Who wouldn't appreciate a price break. On a Jaguar. Nicely-equipped with the likes of HDD navigation, highly adjustable seats, and blind spot warning the XF can be had for well under $60,000. Expect more XF's to prowl into more garages.
"De-Clawed" being Relative:
- Admittedly it's hard to mistake 250-pound-feet @ 2000 rpm available from a turbo'd four-banger for nearly twice the twist in the ripping fast 5.0-Liter supercharged V8 model. There is a brush with lag under 2500 rpm. The 240-horespower comes into its own above 3500 rpm. However, this XF "lite" manages to keep up with most traffic, even passing some, registering 7 second 0-60-mph times. That's less than a second slower than the retired 4.2-liter naturally aspirated V8 XF, which developed just 60 more horses.
- Eight Forward Gears, One Reverse: With the top three being strictly overdrive this ZF slushbox shifts lightning fast, with minimal jerking. The unit includes a de rigeur Sport mode, always helpful to raise shift points. Steering-wheel mounted paddle shifters cast in magnesium are wonderful to touch, but slow to react. We suspect fuel economy would have suffered by at least 5% (if anyone is counting) with a "more conventional" six speed unit.
"Nearly Too Light on Its Toes":
- Steering is neutral on-center, although we found another version of electric which is slow to react in abrupt freeway lane changes. All may be forgiven once hands wrap around the exquisite wood veneer trimmed, power tilting and telescoping steering wheel.
- A front upper-and-lower A-arm / rear multi-link suspension, loaded with less mass, manages a magical ride which would produce nary a ripple in your morning demitasse. Traipse across much rougher stuff and there is the occasional compression crashing. Our pre-production tester developed some interior panel creaks from a body whose fit otherwise competed with granite.
- Some Claws Intact: Low profile Continental ContiPro all-season gumballs, wraps 18" of al-alloys. Stability and traction control can be completely turned-off. Whence the tail can get out from behind and be brought back into line with a bit of throttle. Four wheel disc brakes sweep significant area on the large vented rotors, keeping fade at bay. The kind of powerful initial bite, which makes believers out of disbelievers, was conspicuously absent.
- Behold as motorized air vents and be-jeweled rotary shift knob, rise to the occasion. View one's reflection in genuine rosewood veneers. Inhale the aroma of the vast expanse of satin-finish leather, last wafting through the streets of Florence. Slide the Grenson oxfords across the shag floor mats. Touch the alcantra headliner to remind you of hard-earned cash well spent. Your senses aren't yet stimulated? Better check those vitals.
- The electroluminescent gauge cluster relies on darkness for its luster. Just when some thought Ford's My Sync Touch multimedia control screen was too intense, Jaguar squeezes just as much into a one inch smaller display. Meridian, a high-end British hi-fi maker noted for simple design, fits the 2013 Jaguar XF with an audio conundrum. Count 'em. There are three distinct surround sound configurations. And only one - the Meridian matrix mode - propels shivers.
- Suitably completing 12-way adjustments to the front thrones can be haphazard. Memory settings are a godsend.
- Taller folk will hunch forward in the "friendly confines" of the rear seat. A cavernous 17 cubic foot trunk is hampered by a narrow aperture. That a ski bag unfolds from the rear armrest is a sign the center seat position is best reserved...well...to Rossignols!
Sure the 2013 Jaguar XF 2.0L is a more adept prowler than pouncer. Civilized as the Savoy without the stuffiness. For the partially de-clawed feline can be the more rational choice.
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