Sedona, Ariz. ? Jaguar engineers and designers have come up with a winning combination that will make the luxury performance sedan shopping process more difficult ? because now there is one more outstanding car to choose from in the mid-level category.
After spending a couple of days behind the wheel of the 2016 Jaguar XF 35t and XF S on the winding mountain roads near Sedona, Ariz., I think BMW 5 Series, Mercedes E-Class and Audi A6 have some ?stiff? new competition.
Actually the stiffness is quite literal with a new body structure that is 28 percent more rigid than the previous XF. The all-new XF has an advanced, aluminum-intensive architecture which makes up to 75 percent of the body and underpinning?s weight. In a construction where ounces can make an improvement, imagine what a difference chopping 132 pounds of weight out of the rear-drive versions and 265 pounds out of the all-wheel drives can do.
The aluminum structure allowed the engineers to make a couple other important improvements, too. First, rear seat passengers get a lot more space, but for me, most notable is the improved driving dynamics.
The city of Sedona is noted for its spiritual and metaphysical awareness, but I was more impressed by its great system of roundabouts ? there must be dozens. I think they make traffic flow more efficiently, and I loved whipping around them in the Jag XF ? I?m sure I could have easily gone through them at double the posted speed limit if the traffic permitted.
The real driving test, however, was on the great roads in the nearby mountains which have abundant tight corners, sweeping turns and long straight stretches. Although, these challenging roads come with two major distractions, (1) the most spectacular and scenic rock formations in world and (2) local law enforcement agents who are adamant about speed limits. I had no problem with the later, but my driving partner got to meet one of the men who wears a star when his speed crept over the acceptable level ? but luckily for him he only got a warning!
Armed with an aluminum double wishbone front suspension (the same as is used in the F-Type sports car), sophisticated aluminum link in the rear and a near perfect 50/50 front/rear weight distribution, this car flies through the corners, staying flat and holding tightly to the road. There is also an available Adaptive Dynamics system which enhances low-speed ride comfort, handling and high speed agility by using adaptive dampers.
The new XF lets the driver adapt to driving conditions with the JaguarDrive Control? which can be adjusted to four driving modes: Normal, Winter, ECO and Dynamic. On all-wheel drive models the Adaptive Surface Response system is designed to distinguish between road surfaces and adjust the level of traction accordingly.
The 2016 Jaguar XF gets two available supercharged V-6 engine options as the car goes on sale. The Jag XF 35t is powered by a 3.0-liter, 340-hp supercharged V-6 and the XF S has a 380-hp version of the same engine. A four-cylinder diesel engine was announced for mid-2016 plus a four-cylinder turbocharged gas and a couple of 500+ horsepower supercharged V-8s will come later.
The unique Jaguar console-mounted rotary gear shift controller activates a new version of the XF eight-speed automatic transmission with manual shifts made using steering wheel-mounted shift paddles. This is one of the best transmissions in the business providing quick smooth shifts. The transmission is linked to the JaguarDrive Control which also monitors the driving style and adapts its shift pattern accordingly. The electric power assisted steering is on the light side, but feels accurate and the boost adjusts with the mode changes made by the JaguarDrive.
All versions of the XF are available with the same new chain drive all-wheel drive system that is being used in the Jaguar F-Type sports car. The system maintains a rear-wheel drive bias adding torque to the front wheels when slippage is detected.
The drivetrain combinations produce some very good 0 to 60 mph accelerations times of 5.1 seconds for the 340-hp AWD version with the RWD taking a tenth of a second longer. The 380-hp is only a tenth of a second faster in both configurations. The fuel economy for both RWD models is listed at 20 mpg city, 30 mpg highway and 24 mpg combined. Neither of these engines produce the great exhaust note of the previous V-8 engines and tended to be a bit too quiet for my taste.
The 2016 Jaguar XF is a ground up design which includes a long hood with power bulge, longer wheelbase, shorter front overhang, more vertical grille and the sweeping coupe-like roof line. It recalls the good looks of the original XF that debuted in 2009, but with better proportions and a more streamline look. Sizewise, the XF fits between the flagship XJ and the upcoming mid-size XE. It looks very much like and is built on the same platform as the upcoming mid-size XE only it?s a little larger and more opulent.
Ian Callum, Jaguar Director of Design, explains it like this, ?In creating the all-new XF, as a design team we have been driven by discipline, the discipline of simplicity. Every exterior line on the XF has a clear purpose ? nothing is superfluous. Achieving that simplicity takes time and requires great determination; it?s all too easy to add lines to a car, but much harder to add character by leaving lines out. Inside too, we have been driven by the desire to ensure the cabin of the all-new XF is as comforting as it is comfortable. New technology is combined carefully with materials that cosset and reassure. The all-new XF has a clear sense of calm and strength, both outside and inside ? and I?m proud of my team for delivering that.?
The XF advances the Jaguar technology toy box with features like the standard Jaguar InControl Touch? and optional InControl? Touch Pro?. The two infotainment systems are based around 8 and 10.2-inch touch screens respectively. The Pro is the most sophisticated system ever developed by Jaguar and I was impressed by how much faster it is than previous systems and how extensive the graphics are. It uses a quad-core processor and has a fast new navigation system. It can be customized by adding widgets and data is stored in a superfast solid-state drive.
Working seamlessly with Apple? and Android? smartphones InControl? allows the owner to control apps, remotely control and check vehicle functions and provide a menu of emergency services.
Some of the other new available technologies include autonomous emergency braking, lane departure and lane keep assist, driver drowsy monitoring, traffic sign recognition, intelligent speed limiter and laser heads-up display. There are other systems that detect rear traffic, steers in and out of parking spaces, and keep the car a fixed distance behind a vehicle ahead even in stop and go traffic.
The 2016 Jaguar XF is available in four models (35t Premium, 35t Prestige, 35t Sport and the S) each which has available all-wheel drive as a $3,000 option. Pricing ranges from $52,895, including the destination charge, for the XF 35t up to $66,695 for the XF S AWD.
The 2016 Jaguar XF has the makings to become a great car. A few fixes I?d like to see is the addition of sliding sun visors or extensions and a more aggressive sounding exhaust. On the plus side, the styling is gorgeous inside and out, performance and handling excellent, and it even has a massive trunk ? 19 cubic feet. I think Jaguar has a winner, and the upcoming XE promises to be every bit as good in a slightly smaller size. Jaguar has the best lineup ever.