By Andy Enright
The Jaguar XF is one of those cars that quietly goes about its business, doing very well for its manufacturer, seemingly content to let other big executive cars hog the limelight. No, it doesn't sell in anything like the numbers of a BMW 5 Series or a Mercedes E-Class and while Jaguar would like it to, they're secretly delighted at the reception it's got here and abroad. The original XF wowed the crowds when it was launched back in 2007 at the Frankfurt Motor Show. Well, it wowed about 90% of the crowds, the other 10% grumbling that it looked like a big Mondeo. Getting away from a hidebound design language was kind of the point of that original XF. It could look like anything vaguely good-looking as long as there was nothing of the old-school about it. If you couldn't picture Arthur Daley sitting in one, it was a winner. Here's what to look for when buying one of the post-2011 facelift models.
The XF had a facelift? Who knew? Perhaps Jaguar could have been a bit more effusive about the changes to the XF, but they were probably getting a bit giddy about getting ready to launch their F-TYPE sports car and perhaps overlooked this big seller as a result. Nevertheless, in September 2011 we got the restyled Jag XF, with a new bonnet, front and rear lights and bumpers, front wings and improvements to the interior switchgear, the navigation system and seats.
Not long afterwards, in January 2012, Jaguar launched an entry-level diesel version, the 163PS 2.2-litre model offering a more affordable gateway to XF ownership than its 190PS siblings. In September of that year, there was some more fine-tuning of the range, with the XFR Sport Pack derivative being announced. A more significant entrant was the Sportbrake estate model, which added much-needed breadth to the XF line-up. The monster XFR-S was announced in 2013, with the Sportbrake version arriving in Spring 2014.
Jaguar announced a run-out special in the shape of the R-Sport Black model at the start of 2015. This featured 20" Black Kalimnos alloy wheels and a 770w Meridian Surround Sound system, the brand claiming that the R-Sport Black offered an additional £8,770 worth of value over standard R-Sport models for just a £2,100 increase to its price. The successor to the XF was first teased in 2014, with an official unveiling at the 2015 New York Show.
What You Get
The original XF was a beautiful piece of styling, a shape you'd be frightened to aesthetically fiddle with. But Jaguar Design Director Ian Callum wasn't and somehow, the improvements made to this revised version manage to create a far more eye-catching interpretation of the 2007 C-XF concept car - the model that the whole XF concept was originally based upon. Post-2011 facelifted XFs got the kind of front end many owners might like to have seen from the beginning, with a redesigned grille, a sculpted bonnet, streamlined wings and, most notably, bi-function HID xenon headlamps resembling those of the larger XJ saloon, complete with jewel-like LED daytime running lights arranged in a 'J' pattern. Wander past the Aston Martin-style side vents in the wings and you'll find that there are LEDs at the rear too, these extending further into the bootlid beneath the signature chrome strip.
Inside, not much being wrong with the original design of this car, there wasn't a great deal for the facelifted version to fix. The auto gear selector still rises into the palm of your hand on start up as the dashboard airvents acrobatically turn into position to greet you as you fire the ignition. Only those very familiar with the original model will recognise the more supportive seats, the smarter satin-feel switches and the classier graphics on the central 7-inch touch screen that looks after most of the main dashboard functions. Relax inside an XF and from the stitched leather dashboard and door cappings to the aluminium and wood furnishings, it really does feel special. The craftsmanship, materials and attention to detail all impress. Jaguar's designers have sought to find more interesting ways to say 'luxury', and largely, their efforts have worked. The lines are clean and pure, the materials are familiar, but with a very modern flavour - from soft-grained leathers to real wood veneers with a bold, contemporary spin. Even the phosphor blue interior lighting has its own mood.
Unfortunately, it would have taken more than a mid-life facelift to free up any extra space at the rear. The coupe-like styling tells here. Once you get inside though, there's slightly more space than the flowing exterior lines might lead you to expect, even if boxier rivals can do better. The prominent transmission tunnel means that there's only really room for two adults but headroom might be a slight problem for the tallest occupants. Jaguar is unapologetic on this front, pointing out the undeniable fact that for most potential owners, as long as rear seat room is adequate, then luggage space and sporty styling represent higher priorities.
Just as well then, that there is a reasonable amount of boot space at 500-litres, even if that figure can't quite match that offered by obvious rivals. If it isn't enough, then you can at least push forward the rear seat backs to extend the luggage bay out to 923-litres.
What to Look For
In contrast to earlier generations of Jaguar cars which had their fair share of niggling faults, the XF has suffered no major problems, which is great news for used buyers. The usual cautions still apply though: stick to main dealers or reputable specialists and don't be tempted by a potential bargain car that doesn't have its service history present and correct. The XF's wheels are rather prone to kerbing, so check that they haven't been too badly scuffed and check for stone chipping especially on models that have covered higher miles.
(approx based on a 2009 Jaguar XFR) A full exhaust system (without catalyst) is around £850. Front shock absorbers are about £200 a pair. An alternator is about £300 and a starter motor around £300. Front brake pads are around £120.
On the Road
Executive sector customers often buy their cars based on their balance sheet performance. Few though, will select an XF that way. Here's a car you choose for the way it makes you feel at the wheel - before indeed you've even gone anywhere. If you haven't tried one before, join us for a taste of the Jaguar experience.
You get in and on entry, the start button pulses red, like a heartbeat. Prod it to start and the JaguarDrive auto gearbox selector rises into the palm of your hand while rotating air conditioning vents somersault into action. It's quite a performance - and you never tire of admiring it.
At the same time though, as you first set off, there's a nagging doubt of style over substance. Most used examples you'll come across will feature a 2.2-litre diesel beneath the bonnet, an engine introduced as the key change with the 2011 XF facelift. This PSA Group/Ford-derived unit had previously been more commonly seen in cars from the next class down - Ford Mondeos, Citroen C5s and Peugeot 508s. Could it really ever be classy enough to power such a quintessential Jaguar? And could it properly propel a 1.7-tonne executive saloon? Jaguar always maintained that this unit was well up to the task - and emphasised the point with this facelifted model via a considerable programme of re-fettling which included low friction pistons, a new camshaft and a water-cooled turbo, plus copious soundproofing to try and achieve the kind of silent running that customers of the Coventry brand will expect.
The 190PS result is quite something. A car as fast - and as quiet - as the original 2.7-litre V6 XF diesel, yet capable of running 15 further miles on every gallon and with CO2 figures in a different league. At no point on the move in this Jaguar does it occur to you that there are only four cylinders under the bonnet. Which means that the price of progress here has a very pleasant ring to it indeed. Twist the gear selector to 'S' for a more dynamic demeanour and sixty from rest in this 2.2D model occupies eight seconds dead on the way to a top speed of 140mph, drive through the rear wheels being via a ZF automatic gearbox (the only transmission option) with steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters controlling no fewer than eight speeds.
Are all those ratios really necessary in a car with a prodigious 450Nm of torque? Probably not, and there are times, when accelerating hard with the engine labouring under the weight of the heavy bodyshell, that the gearbox swaps cogs a little more frequently than you'd like for really relaxed progress. So seamless and silky-smooth are the changes though, that most won't really mind. The few that do still have the option to select either of the 3.0-litre V6 diesels that were carried forward from the pre-facelift version of this car, these developing either 240 or 270PS. In the faster of the two, sixty from rest will detain you for just 5.9s on the way to a top speed that has to be artificially limited at 155mph. Which makes it hard to understand why anyone would want to opt for the rare normally aspirated 385PS 5.0-litre petrol V8 XF derivative, even if they couldn't be bothered with Benefit-in-Kind taxation.
Where this big V8 does make some sort of sense is in the flagship XFR super-saloon where a supercharger boosts its output to 510PS to take on such as BMW's M5 and Mercedes' E63 AMG. These cars are faster, but they don't have this Jaguar's brilliant balance of sharp handling and cosseting ride. No other car in the Executive sector does and it's an attribute just as evident in the 2.2-litre diesel. Actually, come to think of it, this variant is even better in that respect. Because it gets the smallest and lightest XF engine, the front end is lighter too - which makes this particular model feel especially agile on twistier roads. There's optional adaptive damping but you don't really need it: you're as comfortable in this car pushing on in a B-road blast as you will be soaking up the motorway miles.
The Jaguar XF is one of the more interesting choices in the executive car sector and it seems much more appealing in post-2011 facelifted guise. One look at used prices will demonstrate the esteem the trade holds these cars in, so if you're expecting a car with all the handling of a BMW 5 Series for Ford Mondeo money, you might come away a bit crestfallen. The 2.2-litre diesels will be the default pick for most people but the XF-R and XFR-S models could be where the bargain hunters look first.