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Motoring: Jaguar heads in a new direction with the XF

Nauman Farooq | Interrobang | Sports | September 19th, 2011

There was a time when the best cars in the world were truly British. However, for the last few decades, the best cars have either been German or Japanese.

Thankfully the Brits didn't just accept defeat and gave up — if anything, they are now producing cars better than ever before and improving them along the way.

Take the Jaguar XF for example. It's been out for a few years, and despite its rivals coming out with newer and more advanced cars, Jaguar is constantly upgrading and tweaking the car to play ball with the competition.

While it might have been around for a few years, time has done nothing to diminish the appeal of this four-door coupe. It looks just as striking today as the day it was first unveiled. The general public obviously agrees, because they look at this car with admiration. The XF looks fantastic, even when parked next to any exotic car.

And it's not just about the looks — the specifications also look pleasing. My test car was the regular XF, which means it has a normally aspirated, 5.0-litre V8. It produces 385-hp and 376 lb/ft of torque. All that power goes to the rear-wheels via a ZF six-speed automatic gearbox, with steering wheel mounted paddle shifters.

So yes, this XF is a fast car (zero to 100km/h in 5.8 seconds, top speed electronically limited to 250km/h), but to be honest, it doesn't feel as fast as it should. It just prefers to quietly and gently pick up speed rather than being rushed.

It's the same story with the handling. It doesn't like to attack corners; rather it prefers you to drive at more sensible speeds. So while other Jaguar models feel like their tires are clawing into the tarmac, the XF didn't feel like that. The set up also suggests that it is designed for safe under-steer rather than fun over-steer. I personally prefer the latter, but most will feel more comfortable with the former. When going through a twisty section of road, it's best not to rush.

Not that you are ever in a rush while seated in its wonderful interior. From a design point of view, this interior is above anything else in its class. While gimmicky, I do like the way the start/stop button pulses like a heartbeat as you step in the car, and when you fire it up, the aluminum gear dial pops up and the air-vents open. All this is very amusing and will certainly wow people in the showrooms, but I question how reliable all this will be? I once wanted to push the car back just a tad, so I thought I'd just turn the accessories on and then put it in neutral and roll it back, but no, it would not raise its gear lever until I turned the engine on. So while this new funky feature looks cool, I do prefer simpler systems that are less likely to have faults. I'd also like to mention that this big, shiny rotating gear knob also has a habit of reflecting sunlight right into your eyes.

I am not a fan of its new gear selecting system, and I think the seats could be better (too flat, not much support when cornering). Other than that, the interior is a great place to be in — it's spacious too, even in the back.

It certainly is a great place to spend time in and it surely impresses everyone who gets in, until they notice that some painted plastic bits do look cheap. Take them for a ride and their first impressions are good, but over city streets, most agree this car certainly doesn't ride as well as most older Jaguars did, though the ride is still better than some of its German rivals.

Since it first hit the market, the XF has taken Jaguar in a new direction. Thankfully it's bringing younger buyers into their showrooms.

Part of the reason for that is the price. A base XF starts at just under $62,800, which is a bargain for a mid-size luxury V8 sedan. Plus, with a fuel-economy rating of 13-litres/100km in my week, it's not too thirsty either.

End analysis: the XF is a good car that could do with a few improvements, but looking at the direction Jaguar is headed based on its new concepts, much better things are lying ahead.
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