There’s really nothing like a Jaguar these days, which is, I think, exactly what JLR our counting on. Sure, there are other luxury brands, some of them with British motoring heritage. But driving a Jag taps into something both refined and, primal, at least when they do a good job of it. Sure, there were some bad years, but the present and future have been looking quite bright for some time now, and I was reminded of this as I piloted the XF around ever-changing Dubai.
The XF arrived with 9,800 km on the clock, and I returned it with around 14,850 km, making more than a few runs between Abu Dhabi and Dubai for work few times, as well as Al Wathba Cycling park early morning in the weekends, and to Yas Marina circuit during the weekdays for cycling. One minor complaint— my bike didn’t quite fit in the boot.
As per the spec minions at Jag, the XF offers best in class interior at the behest of JLR’s novel aluminium-leaning architecture. The car sheds 190kg over its antecedent, increasing torsional stiffness by the same stroke. Granted, it’s not an apples to apples comparo, as the new car is 7.0mm shorter and 3.0mm lower than the outgoing XF, while boasting 51mm longer wheelbase.
With JLR chuffed about its innovative Ingenium family of four-cylinder engines, it’s no surprise that the Coventry based carmaker is eager to point out the cars improved efficiency. If you read our review of the smaller XE, this will be a familiar theme. The four-banger will do 340bhp, or if you’re feeling more ambitious Jag’s 3.0-litre supercharged V6 is good for 380bhp with their eight-speed automatic box.
The fuel tank is 66 litres, and with 120 AED worth of 98 octane I found I could consistently get about 600 km out of it on a highway— or even more if you cruise at 120km/h or less. The ZF-sourced 8-speed automatic transmission will make you faster, have no doubt, as this impressive bit of tech all but obsoletes its own paddles, except perhaps when you just have to push it all the way to redline.
The gearbox is not the smoothest out there, with a noticeable lag of nearly 1.5 sec when you open the throttle, and feels a bit aggressive for daily driving. With the V6, peak torque is available at 4,500rpm and peak power hits up around 5,500rpm. That means you’re in for a serenade when you pour it on, and this kitty purrs properly, especially in sport mode. The car has plenty of push, and the power supply is linear and vital throughout the gears.
The supercharged V6 makes quite a good first impression— it’s quick, responsive and pairs well with this sporty saloon. We’d hazard to declare that it’s actually an improvement on the old 5.0-litre V8. The engine is so powerful, you can feel it on the highway when restarting the cruise control from 80kph to 140kph, the car runs back up to speed so smoothly, without downshifting and spriting like many cars would.
With it’s largely aluminium structure, utilizing 75 percent of the light stuff to achieve (very nearly) 50:50 front-to-rear weight distribution. You can option their adaptive suspension system, which sets the dampers dynamically along the spectrum of comfort and sportiness. Jaguar Configurable Dynamics, which was introduced with the mighty F-type, tuning the chassis, steering, engine and transmission to the driver’s pleasure.
Steering is propped up by a new fully electric, power-assisted setup that offers a variety of driving assistance functions, improved efficiency, and the ability to irritate luddite purists.
The car has 4 driving modes, snow or multi surface mode, ECO, Normal, and Dynamic mode, with the console lights changing from green to red when you select Dynamic. We drove the car 99% of time in ECO mode which was already quick enough. In fact, we found all the modes so similar that we wondered why not just make Eco the default and do away with normal— who wants a normal Jaguar anyway?
This car is meant to be Jag’s 5-Series slayer— an appealing contemporary alternative to the dominating Teutonic execu-sled. Like that storied German car, the XF does a good job being all things to all drivers: the rear-drive chassis is well balanced, the steering has decent feel and the suspension’s ability to mitigate a rutted Sharjah road without getting too aggressive is very pleasing. The ride might be a tad rigid, but it’s more than acceptable overall.
The interior is on the cool, sophisticated end of the spectrum— it’s not flashy, or all that colourful, but it’s also quite easy on the eyes. The cabin ties in nicely with the current litter of Jags, and comes packed with new features like the new Connected Car multi-media system, an eight-inch hi-def touchscreen with updated mobile syncing capabilities, in-car mobile wi-fi, voice control, optional head-up display and much more.
The XF makes you feel like driving the car is an event— the vents turn to open when you fire up the car, the gear selector ascends from the dash to meet your grip— stepping into the car, as soon as you open the rather solid-feeling door, you will notice the remarkable curve of the car surrounding you at every angle, giving you the feeling of a refined embrace. And sure, there could be more headroom in the rear seats, but even if you’re a tall person stuffed back there you’ll notice the interior fit and finish is first rate, with none of the clapped together quality that plagued the Ford era cars.
Jaguar hadn’t been earning a lot of points for its old infotainment system, so nerds everywhere rejoiced when the InControl Touch Pro system rolled out with its 10.2in touchscreen. The system features Dual View ala Range Rover, which means your passenger can watch Survivor on their side without subjecting you to a bunch of sweaty people in their bathing suits (although you may still wish to vote your neighbour out of the car.) Our car had the narrower screen, and we found the the multimedia system quite easy to use, if a bit unreliable. The Meridian sound system offer powerful and pure sound, and the phone to it automatically connects via bluetooth quite quickly, making just about every other system we can think of seem slow.
Like any Jag, this car is meant to balance luxury with drivers appeal, so the XF manages to both soothe or titillate, depending on your mood. It’s quiet enough for long commutes, and very stable at speed, but there’s excitement there when you want it. And yes, this is a worthy rival for the 5 series, and the many other excellent cars in the consideration set.
And yet, there is nothing quite like driving a red Jaguar— S Class pilots in their muted tones, and Lexus lovers deked in white will turn and look at your crimson chariot, they can’t actually help it. You’ll even start dressing the part, making sure your outfit goes with the car. The XF starts near the top of the pricing pyramid, but it delivers quite a lot on its value proposition. So the real question is, could a luxury car buyer fall head over heels with the XF? Because that’s the kind of emotion that should be requisite at the price point. Our answer? Love is in the air, baby— love is in the air.
Photos: Malek Fayoumi