Thumbs Up: Seamless and abundant power in a comfortable and stylish wrapper.
Thumbs Down: Needs more tire.
Buy This Car If: You want a luxury sport sedan alternative to the BMW 550i.
If you think Jaguars are stuffy luxury cars, down on performance and soft of suspension, Jaguar’s midsize XF sedan will change your mind. Available in hot, hotter and hottest, even base models get the benefit of a 5.0-liter V-8, good for 385 horsepower and 380 pound-feet of torque. The entry level car will run you from 0-60 mph in 5.7 seconds, and that’s the slowest model in the XF bunch.
The XF Supercharged, as supplied for our evaluation, gets a force-fed version of the same 5.0-liter V-8, now rated at 470 horsepower and 424 pound-feet of torque, which is enough to get you from a standstill to 60 mph in 4.9 seconds. If that’s not enough to impress you, Jaguar also offers the sport-focused XFR, which ups the supercharged output of the 5.0-liter V-8 to 510 horsepower and 461 pound-feet of torque. The XFR will sprint from 0-60 mph in a scant 4.5 seconds, which is admirably quick for a luxury sedan.
The XF isn’t just fast, either. It’s exterior styling is simply beautiful from any angle, and it bears a striking resemblance to Jaguar’s XJ flagship sedan (admittedly, one of our favorite luxury cars). Introduced in 2009 to replace the Jaguar S-Type (which was, on a good day, awkwardly styled), the XF brings continuity to the Jaguar model range. Quite simply, it doesn’t look like anything else but a Jaguar, and we say that’s a good thing.
Exterior styling was mildly revised for the 2012 model year, and the changes to headlights and taillights make an already stunning design even sleeker. Up front, narrower profile headlights now omit the strange bulge of the previous generation, and fit more with current design trends to minimize headlight size. Out back, the taillights are stretched out a bit and now feature LED lighting.
Not only is the XF’s shape easy on the eyes, it’s aerodynamic, too. Jaguar used fluid dynamic modeling to develop the basic shape of the car before the automaker even transitioned into wind tunnel testing. As a result, the car has less drag than any previous production Jaguar model, including the uber-rare XJ220 supercar. The real-world benefit for the XF is reduced wind noise at speed, improved fuel efficiency and, thanks to zero lift, impressive high speed stability.
Inside, luxury abounds. The dash is a pleasing composite of stitched, soft-touch leatherette, aluminum trim and piano black. Start the car, and the air vents rotate from a closed position to open, while the gear selector knob rises from the center console. It’s a bit over-the-top in terms of presentation (and doesn’t make the XF go any faster), but passengers will be impressed. The dash center is reserved for the XF’s navigation and infotainment system, which features clear and intuitive controls.
The supple leather front seats are trimmed in contrasting leather, which goes a long way towards dressing up the interior. Seats are well bolstered for spirited driving, and even the XF’s headrests are adjustable into a position that doesn’t crane your neck forward uncomfortably, as many new cars do in the name of active safety. Since Jaguars are all about passenger comfort as well as performance, front seats are heated and cooled for year-round comfort.
Rear seats carry over the same contrasting leather design, but lack any kind of serious bolstering. Unless you regularly haul three passengers during high-performance driving events (a bad idea, by the way), this is a non-issue, especially since the rear seats offer up a decent amount of legroom. Headroom may be an issue for passengers topping six feet in height, thanks to the XF’s coupe-like roofline, so plan accordingly when doling out the seating assignments. Surprisingly, the XF’s rear seats aren’t heated.
Under the hood is the aforementioned supercharged 5.0-liter V-8, good for 470 horsepower and mated to a six speed automatic. Drivers can opt to have the XF do the shifting for them, in either a comfort-centric standard mode or a performance-centric dynamic mode, or they can row their own gears using wheel-mounted paddle shifters. Upshifts and downshifts are properly crisp, and help the XF Supercharged carry out its sport sedan mission. The penalty for this entertainment value is, of course, fuel economy, and the XF Supercharged gets an EPA estimated 15 mpg around town and 21 mpg on the highway. We saw 17.6 mpg in mostly city driving.
And driving is really what the XF is all about. Step on the gas, and forward thrust is impressive, even though it’s being carefully doled out by the car’s traction and stability control systems. While the stability control does allow just a bit of tail-out cornering, it quickly reins in the fun before things get out of control. If the XF has a weakness, it’s tires: the car simply needs wider rear tires (which won’t fit under the rear fenders) to get the power to the ground. If we had the budget for an XF, we’d probably stop at the tire dealer on the way home for a set of more performance-oriented rubber, and we can’t help but wonder how much more entertaining the car would be with a set of, say, Michelin Pilot Sport tires.
That said, most Jaguar buyers won’t come close to probing the car’s limits, even on stock tires. To sum up the XF’s handing, just check the “superb” box next to most every line item. We’d prefer a bit more weight to the steering, but don’t have a single complaint about the car’s brakes, handling or ride quality. While the XF isn’t available in all-wheel-drive, a Winter Mode dials back throttle settings to provide maximum grip, and works in harmony with the Dynamic Stability Control and the XF Supercharged’s Active Differential.
The XF gives Jaguar a legitimate contender for midsize, luxury sport sedan supremacy. If you’ve only thought of shopping the German and Japanese brands, we’d strongly encourage you to take the XF Supercharged for a spin. It’s style and quality will impress you, and we’re pretty sure its performance will amaze you.
Jaguar supplied the 2012 XF Supercharged for our evaluation. Base price on the car was $68,975, including a destination charge of $875. Option on our press-fleet tester included the $790 Piano Black Veneer, the $525 Jet Headliner (black faux suede), the $2,300 Bowers & Wilkins Audio System and the $475 Electric Rear Window Sunshade, for a total sticker price of $73,065.
For comparison, a similarly equipped BMW 550i would sticker at $75,745, while a comparable (but AWD) Mercedes-Benz E550 Sport 4Matic would list for $74,570.