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Now in SA: Jaguar XF

2008-04-17 12:06

Hailey Philander

He's 38, is planning to throw a life-sized image of a Jaguar Series 1 XJ on his kitchen wall and describes himself as a bit of a scruff, yet Wayne Burgess and his team of designers has managed to create what is arguably the most exquisite sports sedan - the new XF.

Essentially a replacement for the S-Type, XF looks completely different, for one. It is an all-new car and meant to join the equally exquisite XK in ushering in a new era for the traditionally British marque.

And while it may not look like any Jaguar you've ever seen, Burgess, in addressing media at the local launch, noted that in designing the XF his team tapped into the "golden era of Jaguar design", or the 60s.

Elements from the E-Type, Mk 2 and XJ Series 1 have all been allowed to blend into the XF's design, which on closer inspection remains wholly Jaguar.

It incorporates the traditional quad lights into a smart headlight cluster with signature fluting extending from the lights over the bonnet. It also has Jaguar-specific bonnet creases.

Those are some of the things that make the XF really special - it's thoroughly modern, yet there has been a concerted effort to incorporate elements from its illustrious past into present creations.

Simple, inside and out

But XF's most endearing design feature is probably its uncomplicated styling with simple, flowing lines and soft, floaty curves.

This simplicity is perpetuated in the cabin, where occupants are enveloped in a mix of the softest soft-grain leather, wood and genuine aluminium. And while the interior is cosseting and sumptuous, it's thoroughly modern too - Burgess cited studying how we interact with our iPods and cellphones for inspiration.

And this cabin is like nothing you've seen or experienced before. This car is meant to engage its driver. Using sensor technology, they call it Jaguar Sense, functions like activating the cabin lights and opening the glovebox require a subtle touch or even just a swooping hand motion. Incidentally, the touch screen for vehicle functions ranging from cooling and heating to Bluetooth operation, probably needed the greatest amount of prodding...

XF is very animated. Its pulsing start/stop button which, when punched initiates the rising gear selector (they call it "the handshake") and swivels the air vents, while running the risk of appearing gimmicky also shows minute attention to detail.

In this car you definitely get the sense that the cabin is more than just a place to plonk your bum as you scoot between points A, B and C. Driving XF is more than that.

Four-door XK

Benchmarked as it is against its own sibling, the XK, XF was developed around musings of a four-door XK. It uses a tuned version of the XK's suspension and the transmission has been tweaked further for its application in XF.

It is not a supercar, but the driving position - low down in cocooning seats - mimics this. And while XF is seemingly is happy to amble along at pedestrian speeds, this car comes alive with the prod of the accelerator.

And its six-speed JaguarDrive automatic transmission is magical. With multiple modes, including a Dynamic setting, and three DSC modes, it adapts to most driving situations. This gearbox effects the slickest changes in regular mode and furthers that with the super-quick changes through the steering wheel-mounted paddleshifts.

This, and a multitude of new and proven bits, contributes to a driving experience that is thoroughly engaging.

This car is not small - it has a wheelbase of close to three metres and its total length is 4.9m - but you never feel it from the cabin. Jaguar claims this car is the most rigid in its class, a claim one is inclined to believe given XF's apparent inability to wallow through corners or surprise with equally unwanted behaviour.

Its great steering feel, of course, is helpful here too. So too is the suspension, which is sprung just right and allows XF to glide across most road imperfections without transferring any jarring to the passengers. It serves a weight-saving function too - the front wishbone comprises aluminium components.

The range-topping SV8 also uses Jaguar's Computer Adaptive Technology Suspension (CATS) with electronically-controlled, two-stage, adaptive dampers that adjust "within milliseconds" to differing road conditions and driver inputs.

Given its rear-wheel drive configuration, you do sense the car's latent desire to get tail-happy through tighter swoops, but the overwhelming sensation from behind the steering wheel is the car's calmness. Oh, and the sound quality, either from the in-dash system or the sports-tuned SV8's exhaust, is spine-tingling.

Four models at launch

Journalists present at the launch even were allowed to sample the two petrol V8 versions - a naturally aspirated 4.2-litre motor along with a supercharged version.

Claimed key figures for both models read well. For starters, the normally aspirated V8 produces 219 kW at 6 000 r/min and its peak torque of 411 Nm at 4 100 r/min. Jaguar reports a 0 - 100 km/h time of 6.5 seconds.

The range-topping supercharged V8 produces 306 kW at 6 250 r/min and has a peak torque figure of 560 Nm at only 3 500 r/min. This model has a supercar-crunching 0-100 km/h time of 5.1 seconds.

Both V8s are limited to a top end of 250 km/h. Quoted fuel consumption on a 69.5-litre tank is 11.1 l/100 km for the normally aspirated, and 12.6 l/100 km for the supercharged version.

A 175-kW three-litre V6 is also available at launch, while a turbodiesel 2.7-litre V6 joins the range from June.

At first glance, the XF is a giant leap forward for Jaguar - if you'll excuse the pun. XF's interior and exterior styling shifts the boundaries in a spectacular way and its ride quality is class-leading. It is possible to argue that there are several ways in which this car can get it wrong, but XF is a complete car.

It has desirable styling, a painstakingly detailed cabin and offers performance and offers a ride quality that can barely be faulted. It may not sell in its thousands, but those who will have the chance to experience the car will be party to something truly special.

But Jaguar has warned us to look out for something even more special within the next few months. I, for one, can't wait.

3.0 V6 Luxury - R499 000
2.7 V6 Diesel Luxury - R509 000
3.0 V6 Premium Luxury - R543 000
2.7 V6 Diesel Premium Luxury - R553 000
4.2 V8 Premium Luxury - R605 510
4.2 V8 Supercharged SV8 - R783 850

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