My Happy Place
2014 Jaguar XF Supercharged
Jaguar is a brand with a long and storied history. It was Jaguar, for instance, that gave us what Enzo Ferrari called “the most beautiful car ever made”, the original E-Type. When it was introduced at the Geneva Auto Show in 1961, it became an instant icon of 1960s motoring. Jaguar also gave us the best getaway car ever made, the Mk. II, which was used by every robber in Britain who could get their hands on one, mainly because the police had nothing that could catch it.
Which reminds me to tell my American friends that Jaguar is not pronounced “JAG-wahr”. It is pronounced “JAG-u-er”. A brand like this deserves to be called by its proper name.
During the nationalization of the British car industry, Jaguar fell into the clutches of British Leyland. They came within an ace of renaming it “Large Car Division”. Happily sanity prevailed, and Jags kept their name, but, like everything else the British communists at Leyland made in the 1970s, it was extremely unreliable. Somehow it managed to remain alive and struggling after British Leyland was scrapped, until Ford bought the company in 1989. Jaguar lived through the cost-cutting influence of Ford—despite unfortunate models like the X-Type, which was essentially a Ford Mondeo with an XJ’s nose—until 2008 when India’s Tata Motors bought both Jag and Land Rover, to form Jaguar Land Rover.
Jag immediately scrapped their entire model line and started over from scratch. One of the new models to come out of that rejuvenation was the Jaguar XF sedan. There is a borderline insane XF-R specification if you’re really into hard-core performance, but that’s a bit too aggressive for what is really a Grand Tourer. For a car to drive every day, you really want the XF Supercharged.
How it looks
Jaguar cut their ties with the pre-2008 design language for Jaguar—and it’s a good thing, too, as the main elements of it had been around since the 1980s. The new Jaguar has a very fresh, modern, and classy design. There are no aggressively acute angles; no hyper-testosterone stance. There is an implementation of the unified grille concept at the nose, but Jaguar’s done it absolutely correctly, and it’s beautiful, in precisely the way a Lexus isn’t.
The bodylines curve cleanly and gracefully down the hood and side panels, while the front fenders are set off with attractive vents, accented with chrome badges. There’s nothing gaudy or flashy about it. The XF’s simple and elegant design is a study in contrast to, say, the Cadillac CTS-V, which is all about getting in your face, and screaming, “Look at me!” In short, the XF is a gentleman, while the CTS-V is what the Brits call a “chav”. Not really our sort of chap at all.
The contrast between the two continues in the interior. Where the CTS-V has too much plastic pretending to be something else, the interior designers at Jaguar decided that nothing would pretend to be anything. If it looks like metal, wood, or leather, that’s exactly what it is. It’s all really quite refreshing to see a car manufacturer decide to accept no substitutes. The dashboard is padded leather, as are the seats and steering wheel cover. The metal trim in the dashboard fascia is brushed aluminum, and is nicely set off by the burled, dark ebony trim.
A color touch-screen dominates the center dash, and it gives you full control over the various stereo, satellite radio and navigation functions, as well as Bluetooth pairing. For most things, if you don’t want to dirty the screen with your fingerprints, voice control—using natural language—is available at any time.
The fully adjustable steering wheel also contains just the right number of buttons to answer your phone and activate the built in hands-free telephone functionality, set the adaptive cruise control, or change stations on the stereo. It also contains the brushed aluminum paddles for manual shifting, should you desire to advance the gearing yourself.
If it’s unseasonably warm or cool, a flick of a button sends air of the desired temperature through the perforated leather seats. It’s hard to describe how good that feels. But it feels right knowing that you’ll never have the working-class physical sensation of a sweaty back, like some coal miner from Liverpool.
Not only are the seats air-conditioned, they’re also firm and comfortable, though not aggressively bolstered, which means that if you get carried away with spirited driving, you’ll get tossed about a bit in the corners. If that happens, you’ll be expected to keep a stiff upper lip and carry on, of course.
Naturally, the XF has loads of technology. Quite apart from the multiple USB connections, Bluetooth, SiriusXM, and sat-nav, you also have adaptive cruise control, so the XF will automatically slow down or speed up with the traffic around you. The XF will also park itself, because a gentleman of quality doesn’t spin the wheel and reverse into a parallel parking spot himself, like some Labour johnny from the Midlands.
There’s a UV protected sunroof, with a retractable shade, just in case you want to enjoy a bit of sun, just like our lads in the colonies used to do. Everyone in the XF will enjoy plenty of leg and headroom, and, of course, everyone has their own climate control, as well. Lots of space in the boot, too. Oh, I’m sorry, you chaps call it a “trunk” over here, don’t you? Anyway, you can get quite a lot of stuff in in it, and the rear seats fold down for a full pass-through, as well.
All of this does come at a cost, however. This is a luxury car, and if you doubted that for any reason after looking at, and sitting in, the XF, you will not doubt it when you see the sticker price, which, with the usual options, will be $72,300. This is essentially the same price as the Cadillac CTS-V, by the way, but, unlike the CTS-V, just sitting in the Jaguar XF makes you happy. It also makes you wonder why the GM product has a noticeably cheaper interior at the same price. Just like you notice about every GM product.
How it drives
When you press the start button—no proper gentleman would use a plebian device like a key—the hidden air conditioning vents swivel open, while the transmission dial rises majestically from the dashboard. This presents you with the first choice of the day, which is choosing whether to turn the dial to “D”, and let the XF control the transmission and suspension, or turn it one more click to the “S” position, giving you manual control over the 8-speed transmission, while the suspension tightens up for a more sporty ride.
I suggest the “S”.
Either way, though, this car is blindingly fast for a full-sized sedan. The 5.0L supercharged V8 under the bonnet—oh, sorry, “hood”—will hit 60 MPH in under 5 seconds, and won’t stop until it hits the electronically governed 155 MPH top speed. Despite the 8-speed gearbox, fuel economy is about what you’d expect from a motor with 470 HP and 424 lb.-ft. of torque pushing a 4,134 lbs. sedan, which is 15 MPG in the city and 23 MPG on the freeway. Happily, though, this is just good enough to avoid the Gas Guzzler tax.
Strangely, the engine isn’t the first thing you notice in the XF Supercharged. There are no plebian, shouty engine noises, nor has Jag piped in some artificial engine noises through the stereo, like the Jerries have done with BMW and Mercedes. It’s quiet as a church in there. (A real COE church, of course, not one of those newfangled evangelical churches with their demonstrative displays of emotion.) This means that you may not notice that you’re blazing through a school zone at 80 MPH, as there’s nothing from the engine compartment to interfere with the sweet strains of Elgar coming from the excellent audio system.
No, the first thing you notice is the ride. The XF supercharged rides exactly the way a car should ride. The frame is as stiff as can be, giving the XF a noticeable sense of solidity and firmness. At the same time, the suspension is working overtime to prevent imperfections in the road from jarring you, and perhaps causing you to spill your cup of Earl Grey.
This is where Jerry has got it all wrong. Powerful German cars tend to have far stiffer suspensions, which completely spoils the ride, and transmits bumps and cracks directly to your spine. I’ve said it before, but it’s worth repeating: If you’ve got the chassis sorted, you don’t need a suspension made of basalt and pig iron. Germans also do their testing on the Nürburgring, shooting for a sub-eight-minute lap time. But that’s not how you drive every day. Jaguar has set up their cars to navigate Britain’s network of desultorily maintained and bumpy B roads, where people do drive every day, and the difference in ride quality shows clearly.
If you’ve taken my advice, and used the sporty “S” setting on the transmission, you’ll be shifting with the flappy paddles on the steering wheel. The XF Supercharged will not coddle you when you do this. You’ve told the XF that you’ll be taking on the shifting duties, so the XF will let you get on with it. If you bump up against the rev limiter because you forgot to shift, or you stall out because you didn’t downshift from 8th gear at a stoplight, that’s your lookout. Manual shifting is also pretty quick. The XF has a marvelously responsive transmission in manual mode. You press the paddle and the transmission shifts immediately. It’s one of the best systems I’ve ever used. Having said that, the XF is faster if you let it take care of the shifting duties. The automatic system is really good.
Jag has the braking sorted, too. Stopping distance from 60 MPH is 113 ft., which is pretty impressive for a two-ton sedan. That’s about the same distance that is clocked by a Subaru WRX STi, which is pretty much a street-legal rally car. It’s also drama-free, with no ABS juddering or fishtailing under hard braking. Nor is there any noticeable brake fade under hard use.
There are a few things you can’t do in the XF Supercharged. While the XF does have a track mode, the electronic stability control is never truly turned off, so you won’t be doing any drifting or power slides. In regular drive mode the traction control is pretty aggressive, too, which puts the kibosh on any enthusiastic driving you may want to do.
Honestly, though, I don’t see this as a problem. Two-ton sedans aren’t really track cars in any real sense. The purpose of the XF is Grand Touring, not Formula 1 driving. For real-world performance on public roads, it’s hard to get much better than the XF Supercharged’s mix of performance, comfort, and ride quality. If you want a track car, buy a Mitsubishi Evolution. Good luck living with that on a daily basis, though.
What’s good about it
Well, almost everything, really. The interior is absolutely first class. I can’t think of a single thing I’d change about it. The performance is impressive, and the ride quality is top notch. It’s beautiful outside as well, being understated and elegant.
What’s bad about it
It costs quite a lot of money. Even a five year-old XF Supercharged will cost you north of $30,000. At $72,300, a new one is well out of most people’s reach. Reliability is just average, and it should be better for a car this expensive. Repairs will be costly, too. Basically, anything that goes wrong will cost at least $1,000.
The Jaguar XF Supercharged is everything a car should be. Luxurious, fun, and powerful. Just being inside it makes you happy. You would make up excuses for driving it, if you had one. “Honey, I used the last of the turmeric making dinner.” “I’ll go to the store and buy some, right now! I’ll be back in four hours.”
Still, it’s hard to get around the cost of the thing. I mean, we’re talking about a $1,000 per month car payment. It’s worth every penny of it, but it’s just not doable for most people. So, I’d suggest you sell your house and buy the Jag. You won’t regret it.