Jaguar XF

With the launch of the XF sedan and the deletion of the S-Type and X-Type from its U.S. lineup, Jaguar now offers cars in America powered only by V8 engines.

The XF’s hard points come from the S-Type, which it replaces. But Jaguar is using the V8 engines, suspension, subframes, six-speed transmission, propeller shaft and differential from the upmarket XJ sedan and XK sports car.

Despite all the parts scrounging, the XF has little in common with the rest of the Jaguar lineup or its predecessor. This could be the car that carries Jaguar into the modern age and out of the wood-and-leather ghetto.

Jaguar XF

The basics: The wheelbase is the same as the S-Type, but the XF is longer and skinnier. Unlike the elegant aluminum structure of the XJ and XK, the XF has a steel shell.

The 4.2-liter V8 is shared with the rest of the lineup but is slightly retuned for different driving styles. The six-speed automatic transmission from ZF Friedrichshafen is the same as in the other Jags, but gear shifts occur 15 percent faster in the XF.

The base XF’s estimated 0-to-60 time is 6.2 seconds, with a sub-15-second quarter-mile time.

Notable features: The average age of the XF engineering team was 34, and it shows. The car is more youthful in its driving stance than rivals from Lexus and Mercedes-Benz. The rev limiter holds rpm steady at redline, rather than engaging an irritating “bup-bup-bup” telling the driver to shift. The supercharged version’s “dynamic” setting is lightning-quick in acceleration and reaction time.

Jaguar is not skimping on its entry-level V8 model, either. Standard features include 18-inch wheels, leather seats, Bluetooth connectivity, a 320-watt Alpine stereo with iPod integration, and keyless entry and ignition.

The interior features a sweep of aluminum across the instrument panel, instead of the usual plank of wood. What looks like an iDrive wheel in the center console is actually the transmission shift control. All body electric functions are controlled through a 7-inch touchscreen, although basic audio and climate functions have redundant hard controls directly below the screen.

Interior backlighting steals unashamedly from the Motorola Razr cell phone, giving nighttime a cool phosphor blue hue. The glove box and interior lights are activated by merely waving one’s hand near them.

The tall rear deck makes for 17.7 cubic feet of trunk storage, compared with 15.9 cubic feet in the Mercedes E class, 14 cubic feet in the BMW 5-series sedan and 12.7 cubic feet in the Lexus GS series.

What Jaguar says: “It’s a British car, so it should have some humor in it, a sense of drama, theater and fun,” said Chris Brazendale, Jaguar North America product planning manager, at a press event in San Diego. “Our V8 is positioned where most of our competitors have their V6 cars.”

Compromises and shortcomings: There is no telephonic link such as OnStar. The transmission hump rides so high in the car that the XF is basically a four-seater. The base-model seats could use more side bolstering. A couple of journalists received “transmission fault” error codes when first engaging the gears, requiring a shutdown and restart. The XF is a bit portly, weighing a couple of hundred pounds more than the comparable V8s from Lexus, BMW and Mercedes.

The market: Jaguar already has 4,000 sold orders in hand from American buyers. That’s almost as many units as the S-Type sold in its final year. Of course, the S-Type was supposed to sell 20,000 units a year before its sales collapsed. Jaguar will not disclose how many XFs it aims to sell annually.

The skinny: Tata Motors, which paid Ford Motor Co. a king’s ransom for Jaguar and Land Rover, will be pinning its hopes for a Jag revival on the XF sedan.

If Jaguar wants to return to profit, the XF must be a sustained hit. But with an exchange rate of about $2 per British pound, how Jaguar can make a profit on the XF in America is a mystery.

Source: Autoweek by Mark Rechtin