SEDONA, ARIZONA—The big and powerful Jaguar XF is to be a flagship sedan for the company in North America. “It’s incredibly important,” said spokesman Nathan Hoyt.
As usual, we’re late to the party—the XF has been on sale for six months in Europe. The previews say that, with a lot of top Jaguar management coming over from Germany (especially BMW), this is a Euro driver’s car par excellence.
Actually, the 2016 XF is part of a family, since the smaller XE, built on the same platform, and coming in the spring. Add to that Jaguar’s first SUV, the $40,990 F-Pace, taking on big guns like the BMW X5, which I first saw at the Frankfurt show last summer. Here in Arizona, one sat outside our lunch stop, but we could only sit behind the wheel and make vroom-vroom noises. I expect the F-Pace, as unlikely as it is from a company with Jaguar’s history, to be a bestseller. Jaguar expects 60 percent of its sales to be from the F-Pace and XE.
But the XF is here now, and we were able to take it on some quick blasts through the countryside around Sedona, stopping at picturesque small towns like railroad depot Williams and played-out mining community Jerome. The XF was a rare bird in those settings, but the mountain roads (elevation up to 7,000 feet) were prime driving grounds.
The XF starts at $51,900. According to program manager Steve Boulton, the XF it’s replacing (introduced in 2007) is on a bit of a roll, having sold 48,000 in 2014, and 280,000 since its introduction. This, the first XF under superstar stylist Ian Callum, is completely new and (as with sister Range Rovers) making a big bet on aluminum.
Seventy-five percent of the XF’s structure is aluminum, which translates to 28 percent more stiffness and 11 percent reduced weight compared to the previous model. As an example, the side of the car is one aluminum pressing, weighing just 13 pounds. Up to 265 pounds of weight savings is possible.
So when a lightened car is translated to a supercharged V-6 making either 340- or 380-horsepower, coupled to an eight-speed automatic, the result is vroom-vroom indeed. And up to 30 mpg on the highway.
Jaguar was suffering from not having all-wheel drive in its lineup for the U.S., but it’s committed to that now, and it’s optional on the XF. There are four drive modes, and a cool standard feature is All-Surface Progress Control, which controls your takeoff on snow and ice.
Is the XF fun to drive? Need you ask. It’s one of those cars that can loaf along on the highway, doing its best imitation of a Taurus, but then take off like a 747 (with all attendant noises) when your right foot goes down. Under strictly controlled circumstances, I logged 123 miles per hour in the beast. Odd, because it’s supposed to be speed-limited at 121.
The hairpin mountain roads around Jerome were absolutely perfect for flinging the XF. It’s got double wishbone suspension up front and an integral link system in back, and remained composed through anything I was able to throw at it.
Consider the XF to be slotted between the XJ and the F-Type. It’s got the luxury and refinement of the latter, with the Big Cat roar of the F-Type. Here's a brief look on video: