Charmed by a stylish saloon

 

ROADTEST JAGUAR XF 2.2D SE:Jaguar marks it return to financial stability with a facelifted XF and a new diesel engine that’s a joy to drive, writes NEIL BRISCOE

IT’S NO coincidence that Jaguar chose Munich as the location to launch its updated XF saloon to the world’s press. It’s home to BMW, and that’s most certainly Jaguar’s target competitor as it seeks to double sales of the already-popular XF.

That the XF has sold well since its 2008 launch is more than merely pleasant news to Jaguar; it has in the most literal way saved the company. When the Indian manufacturing conglomerate Tata bought Jaguar (and its sister firm Land Rover) from Ford that year, Jaguar had primarily been making headlines for losing money and trying to entice US buyers with ill-considered “retro” models like the unlovely S-Type.

The XF put a stop to the rot in two ways. Its cutting-edge styling signalled the end of Jaguar’s tiresome raiding of its back catalogue, and its sales revenue allowed the company time to regroup, recover and reinvigorate. That Jaguar-Land Rover recently posted a €1.1 billion profit tells you all you need to know on that score.

And how refreshing it is to be driving a new Jaguar and not commenting on or worrying about the firm’s future or financial stability. And doing so in Munich, just minutes from BMW’s boardroom? Brave, almost arrogant. Good to see it.

Good too to see that the XF’s subtle rhinoplasty has finally given it the face its body always deserved. You’d never have called the 2008 model ugly, but it lacked the piercing looks of the C-XF concept car that preceded it. Now, with narrow, feline headlights (with LED daytime running lights in the shape of a stylised J), a bigger, bolder grille and detail changes to the bumpers, the XF looks a million dollars.

Yet it will cost a much more reasonable €44,995 for a basic SE model; about €10,000 cheaper than the previous basic XF. And that’s because Jaguar has introduced a four-cylinder diesel engine to the XF.

It may sound prosaic to discuss a four-pot fuel-saver when talking about a Jaguar, but the simple fact is that its rivals (the BMW 5 Series, Mercedes-Benz E-Class and Audi A6) all score their biggest sales with just such engines.

So, lifted from the Land Rover Freelander and forthcoming Range Rover Evoque, the XF’s 2.2-litre turbocharged engine gets a new oil pan and new active engine mounts, as well as a dual-layer bulkhead to keep noise to a minimum. And it works. At all but a cold start-up, the XF’s new engine is pleasingly refined, although you’re never in doubt that it is a diesel.

It is very punchy, though. With 188bhp and 450Nm of torque, shifting even the XF’s 1,745kg bulk wasn’t going to be hard. It actually has more torque than the old 2.7-litre V6 diesel, and the XF wafts along just as a Jaguar should, with real thump when the slick-shifting eight-speed ZF automatic gearbox (the only transmission option) kicks down.

It can be slow pulling out of a tight junction, though, as the engine takes a second or two to start pulling properly. But it’s frugal, and comes with a standard stop-start system that is impressive for the speed with which it kicks the engine back into life. Jaguar claims 5.4-litres per 100km on the combined fuel consumption cycle, and an early production car drove the 1,312km from the factory in the English midlands to Munich on one 64-litre tank of fuel.

Emissions are a touch high. BMW’s 520d and Audi’s A6 2.0 TDI both slot into band B for emissions, with 129g/km figures which make the Jag’s 149g/km look pretty lofty.

Adding automatic gearboxes to the BMW and Audi raises their figures to 139g/km, but that still leaves the Jaguar owner paying an extra €146 a year in road tax. Hardly a deal breaker but a serious consideration for the fleet managers that Jaguar will be courting with this model.

Perhaps it would be best to forget the figures for now and concentrate on the driving. We’ll hold back on any definitive judgment until we get some Irish tarmac under the tyres, but the XF feels wonderfully lithe and fluid to drive. Ride quality is only upset at low speeds by short-wave urban lumps and ripples. For driver enjoyment, the XF stands head and shoulders above even the mighty BMW 5 Series. Remarkable when you think that its chassis dates back to a late-1990s Lincoln.

Its cabin can’t compete, though. We love the blue mood lighting, the avant-garde rotary gear selector and the touch sensitive lights, and there’s little enough to quibble with when it comes to quality of assembly. But the main dials look cheap and uninteresting and the touch-screen infotainment system is fiddly. Space in the back is only acceptable if you’re stepping out of a 5 Series; compared to an A6 or an E-Class it’s too tight, even if the boot is reasonably generous.

You would have to be a spectacular curmudgeon not to be charmed by this car just a little bit. The new 2.2 diesel is a welcome addition to the XF range, expanding its appeal and making it noticeably more affordable to run. That it falls short of the Germans in the efficiency stakes is a shame, but that detracts not a bit from how impressive this car is to drive.

Factfile

Engine2,179cc four-cylinder turbo diesel engine putting out 188bhp at 3,500rpm and 4,50Nm of torque from 2,000rpm with an eight-speed manual transmission.

SpecificationBasic SE models come with standard automatic transmission, leather seats with seudette inserts, 7-inch touch screen, LED daytime running lights, stop-start and 17-inch alloy wheels. Luxury models add power seats, auto climate control, hard-drive music player, rear parking sensors and sport-mode gearbox. Premium luxury cars get a 1200w stereo, rain-sensing wipers, 19-inch wheels, automatic speed limiter, cooled seats, suede roof trim and heated self-dimming door mirrors.

0-100km/h8.5 secs

Bootspace540 litres (500 litres with space-saver tyre)

L/100km (mpg) urban– 6.6 (42.8); extra-urban – 4.8 (58.9); combined – 5.4 (52.3)

Emissions (motor tax)149g/km (€302)

Price€44,995