Jaguar XF: Sex on Wheels
... a review by mgescuro ...
I have been attempting to test drive the XF for the past 3 weeks to no avail. Finally today, I had absolutely nothing to do, so off I went into the City -- apparently the only Jaguar dealership in my area now. British Motors of San Francisco has been there for as long as I can remember. (In fact, the Olympic Torch detour began just a few blocks from British Motors.) Anyways, I walk into the beautiful dealership and make a beeline towards a silver XF sitting on the floor, next to an XKR and an LR3.
This is simply one splendid car. It will make a big splash in this market, once word gets out.
It's exterior, though toned down from the striking concept, is a combination of elegance and muscular athleticism, just as a Jaguar should be. In person, its true beauty becomes more apparent than any photo in any magazine or brochure. It is stylish, svelte, engaging, and every bit a Jaguar.
The grille's mesh is solid. The chrome where the foglights should be are a nice touch. But I still wonder about the missing foglights. The chrome bar on the rear is a nice touch and doesn't interfere with the overall flow of the rear car, as it does with many other cars that attempt this accent; it blends quite nicely with the taillights.
The headlights are huge and make quite a statement.
The exhausts are quite striking in bright chrome, and they're BIG!
My biggest concern was being able to fit properly in the cockpit of the car. Jaguars aren't exactly well known for their roominess. Once I opened the doors and slid into the drivers seat, it was a perfect fit. I'm 6'3, with very broad shoulders (I wear a 48L jacket), with long legs. And I still had baout 2-3 inches of head room left, with a little seat adjustment. OK, it was a bit tight in the rear, but it's certainly adjustable, and I'd still be comfortable in the front.
Ergonomics were easy to figure out. In fact, it took me about 2 minutes to really get the feel for it all. Simplicity with all the technology is not an easy feat to say the least.
One of the first things I do in a new car is put my arms on the wheel in the 2 and 11 positions and see how my body fits. And I must say, the car fit like a glove. The armrest was the perfect height and position. The long center console is very reminiscent of the Audi A8. The cupholders are impressive, with a bottom of brushed alimunum. There are 3 cupholders -- 2 regular sized and 1 Big Gulp. The cupholder panels glide open smoothly and silently. No rolltop cover, as is usually seen in cars these days. It adds a touch of class and dignity to the car.
The XF's wood trim is probably some of the highest in this class. It is thick and robust with rich grains. The wood accents on the doors are a bit flat though, which is something I wouldn't expect, but the grain is still very distinct and high quality.
Use of the silver accents on the dash buttons and window controls is an interesting touch. I wasn't too sure I'd like it at first, but it's definitely something I could get used to. It's very similar to Lincoln's implementation of the silver color in Navigator. Though, with sunglasses on, I couldn't make out some of the iconography on a few lower placed buttons behind the steering wheel.
The turquoise blue accent lighting is impressive. The glow is soft and subtle but bright enough to illuminate the expansive dash, as well as the door handles. I have no problems reading the text in the cluster or on the panels.
The Nav screen seems small in pictures, but is more that sufficient and quite readable in direct sunlight and with sunglasses on. the touch screen interface is also quite easy to use and most controls have actual buttons, so you're not fiddling with the interface too much. I found it fairly intuitive. It also doubles as a video display for the rear backup camera and warning alerts, if you order the Vision Package. It would take a little getting used to, backing up with the screen like that, but I'm sure it's fine.
The feel of the steering wheel is very high quality. It isn't as thick as a Lexus, but you can tell it is a high quality leather wraparound on the wheel.
The shift paddles reside behind the wheel and are actually on the wheel, not mounted on the column.
The trunk is fairly large. It looks to be able to hold 3 sets of golf clubs comfortably. And the felt of the trunk lining was so soft too.
The Drive: A Tour of San Francisco's Pacific Heights and Presidio
(Click on the links to see where I drove the XF!)
I drove the base XF; it had a whopping 300HP. It doesn't sound like a whole lot of power, but it is more than sufficient. In fact, it felt and performed like a 380HP engine.
The salesman took the wheel of the XF first. He pushed the pulsing Start Button and the dash really came alive. Do people really get tired of the car coming alive like it does?? I don't think I could get tired of it. It's quite a technological ballet. Putting the car in reverse, the rear back up camera came up and the wide and rear warning lights activated. Starting off in Sport mode in stead of Drive, we exited the garage and he floored it up the hill, making a quick turn on Franklin Street, and then flooring it again. You can hear the V8 come to life. It was a sustained rumble. But it wasn't hoarse or unrefined. It is adequately muted, but there's enough a hint of growl to show you that the cat is ready to run when asked. We continued going straight down the road and eventually started going down hill.
He made a left turn onto Broadway -- the Pacific Heights District of San Francisco -- where the average cost of a house can be well over $3.5M. It's quite a fitting area for a new Jaguar. It was right at home.
This is where I took control of the XF. Taking the wheel for the first time, I explored the strange shifter. Push down on the brake, and turn the wheel to D. He suggested S. Ok. Push down on the wheel and turn it one detent more to S. You don't feel the transmission engage. I signal left and pull out of the curb... and the car lurches forward. I barely touched the pedal!! What a touchy accelerator. Not really. That's Sport Mode for you. All that power at your command. It took me a couple minutes to get used to the accelerator in Sport mode. It took me even longer to get used to the very very touchy brakes. But you can feel the brakes are ready to haul the car down to a dead stop whenever you want. That's a confidence one needs in a sport sedan.
I know the Pacific Heights Area well. I went to school in this area. In fact, I drove by my grammar school on my test drive!! I continued going straight down Broadway into the heart of Pacific Heights' Gold Coast. I started going up and down the hills of the area, the further I drove, the homes and houses became the historic mansions. (I know Nancy Pelosi lives here somewhere...) I noticed a few rubber neckers along the way. I guess the XF is still too new to be recognized? We take a turn at the end of the street and go up another hill. At the end of the block, I make a right and go straight down. The road is entirely made of brick, and it is not the smoothest ride. in fact, it is murder on sport suspensions; however, the XF is heavily insulated, and the suspensions absorbed much of the road imperfections. And of course, we admired the new mansion that's being built.
I make a right turn at the end of the block and enter the Presidio. The historic military base proves a good place to test out the XF's precise turning ability, as the Presidio has many hills and many winding roads!! The car grips those corners. I purposely hit the curves more aggressively to get a feeling of what the potential limits are. I can confidently say, I didn't come close. The are was completely composed.So I continue down through the Presidio and eventually drive past LucasArts. I exit the Presidio's Lombard Gates, and make a right turn and make my way back up into Pacific Heights.
I make a left and continue down Green Street and enjoy the neighborhood a bit, and tackling the tight roads and the ups and downs of the hills. I make a left turn onto Laguna and a fairly steep hill. No problem for the XF at all. Continuing up Laguna, I drove past Lafayette Park, and that's where my problems began. Some woman in a Buick Park Avenue blew out of her garage like a bat out of hell. Neither I or the salesguy saw it coming until it was almost too late. I put the XF through some avoidance maneuvers. Accelerating hard, and slamming hard left, and then correcting quickly back into my own lane, while honking the horn!! Good grief!! Not exactly what should happen during a test drive. But I gain a LOT of confidence about the XF's true capabilities in daily driving situations in a congested city!!! This cat is sure-footed!!!
I continue on, and we enter Japantown. It isn't as crowded as Chinatown, but it's quite busy today. Cars are double parked on a 1 lane road, bicyclists, pedestrians jay walking, the whole works. So I get have to maneuver the XF in tight city conditions. Steering was extremely precise at very low speeds. Steering is quite easy and light but not sloppy. There is no numb feeling. You feel like you're in control at all time and at all speeds. It is here, waiting to turn onto the very busy Geary St., that I notice 2 hot blondes driving a 6-series convertible. They were busy peering over the windshield trying to get a look at the car. I assume they were trying to figure out what it was because it certainly wasn't a Bimmer!! They continued on Laguna, while I made my left turn onto Geary, still watching me turn. I continue down Geary, past the large Cathedral of St. Mary's. A few more blocks later, and I'm back at Van Ness where I started. I make the right turn and we're back at British Motors. It was a good 40-45 minute test drive, and quite a leisurely drive.
What an amazing test drive!! Not only did I have the opportunity to drive the XF extensively, but the test drive route allowed me to experience the XF in a large variety of conditions that I probably wouldn't encounter for weeks until after I owned the car!!
I now know what to expect from the XF. It exceeded my expectations. Its driveability is not only easy, but it is precise, exciting, and engaging!
The Audio System
The XF I was driving was equipped with the Bowers & Wilkins audio system. The sales guy turned on the audio system for me, while I was driving. And an orchestral composition came on. It sounded like Mahler, but I couldn't be sure. Each note was pristine. The strings of the violins seemed to emanated from inches away from you. I asked if this was a demonstration CD, but before the salesman could answer, I heard a slight bit of static as I drove underneath the overhead wires for the buses. It was simply an FM station!! It was unbelievable!!! Amazing what a 13 speaker + sub woofer, Dolby ProLogic II surround system will do, huh??
I've heard the Mark-Levinson system the Lexus, the Bose system in the STS, and the B&O system in the A8, and the Jaguar system, I believe provides the best sound stage out of all of them.
The Dealership Experience
As you can see from the above picture that I took, the Jaguar dealership is a luxurious place. It plays off Jaguar's' image quite nicely. The salespeople were smartly dressed. The salesman, Jack, was extremely helpful and informative; he was surprisingly well versed in the XF, as well as Jaguar history. No surprise, he has owned about 8 Jaguars in his time!
While he was taking the car out for a spin, we began some casual chatting. Asking if I live in the City. I told him I was born and raised and educated in the City. Asked me where I went to school. I told him. Turns out, he almost sent his son and daughter there, but ultimately chose a different school. He knew my high school by reputation too. ( He was also aware of the cost of these schools.) He's also aware of the reputation of my grad school, as his wife had gone there. It was nice to have a connection with the salesman.
The customer service and the response I got from him was impressive!! He knew I was there to drive the XF but also had a few more cars to explore. There was no pressure. There was no "would you like to see an LR2?" He was extremely helpful and knowledgeable.
The overall experience is head and shoulders and simply light years ahead of other luxury dealerships -- even Lexus. He knows the customer and the demographic. He knows what these customers expect in terms of service, and he delivers. I still hope certain luxury dealerships get a clue. Jaguar certainly earns its reputation here.
He knew I was a younger customer than usually comes into the dealership. He even said flat out, "We're hoping this car attracts more of your demographic." I responded, "Well, from what I've seen and experienced, that won't be a problem. And the service is far above par."
I walked away from the dealership with a big smile and was thoroughly excited.
What is "Wrong" with the XF?
With all the drooling I've done over this car... what's wrong with it?
Well, believe it or not, there are a few things:
-- I never got a clear answer on the fog lights. He's going to check on that for me.
-- Surprisingly, there are no power headrests!!! UGH. What happened there!!??
-- The sideview mirrors are small! They need to be extended about an inch or so.
-- There is a very large blind spot -- lower middle rear window. It is because of the very large bulge for the CHMSL!! Good grief. Put it on the decklid next time!!
I was aiming for the XF SC; however, I think the base engine at 300HP is just fine. I told the sales guy that the only XF I would consider is a Black on Black XF -- or in Jaguar parlance -- Ebony with a Charcoal/Charcoal interior -- with Burled Walnut, and that we can build from there when the time is right.
The XF is one impressive car!! It drives like a BMW but has the refinement of a Mercedes. It is incredibly modern and contemporary in its design execution, but there is a certain Old World charm that still remains with the car. It is distinctly a Jaguar. It doesn't pretend to be German or Japanese or American. It is British. And it effectively taps its roots for elegance, sophistication, and performance.
Jaguar will survive on the back of this car!!
Thanks for reading.