Review and road test of the Jaguar XF (2015 - 2017)
By Jonathan Crouch
If you think the big three prestigious German brands have the Executive car segment sewn- up, a drive in Jaguar's second generation 'X260'-series XF may be enough to make you reconsider. Even in the face of tough competition from rivals like the BMW 5 Series, the Mercedes E-Class and the Audi A6, this car offers a compelling range of virtues, being more spacious than its 'X250'-series predecessor and with greater levels of quality and connectivity. Perhaps most significantly, this MK2 model's aluminium-intensive architecture provides for weight savings that have delivered sharper handling and class-leading efficiency. In short, it's a very complete package.
4dr Executive Saloon / 'Sportbrake' estate (2.0 petrol / 3.0 V6 supercharged petrol / 2.0d diesel / 3.0 V6 diesel)
Can any auto maker's future hinge on the fortunes of a single model? History suggests so. Take Jaguar's XF. The original version, launched back in 2007, transformed the way people thought about this prestigious British brand. Smart, rakish and sophisticated, it referenced the future at a time when the company's other models were still steeped in the past. And set the tone for a fresh, stylishly dynamic period in the company's history that's since brought us not only more luxury saloons but also sportscars, estates - and even an SUV. All of these models were fundamentally new in a way that, back in Jaguar's old Ford-owned era, the original 'X250'-series MK1 model XF could never be. Hence the need for the MK2 'X260'-series model we look at here as a used buy, launched in 2015.
This design might not look very different from its predecessor at first glance. Yet a styling evolution hides a product revolution, this MK2 model being lighter, more efficient and more packed with technology, an improvement on its predecessor in every possible respect. Slightly more compact dimensions disguise a longer wheelbase that allowed the hi-tech aluminium-intensive architecture to clothe a much more spacious cabin, especially for rear seat folk.
What didn't change was the XF's remit as a more sporting, dynamic choice in the full-sized Executive segment. To put that in competitive context, it's more BMW 5 Series than Audi A6 or Mercedes E-Class, though buyers of all three of these cars should be tempted by this model's cutting-edge cabin technology and class-leading efficiency figures. This car was launched with jaguar's older petrol engine technology, but a range of Ingenium petrol units soon joined the range, to go with the Ingenium diesel available from the start. An AWD option was introduced in January 2016. A Sportbrake estate body style was added to the range in 2017, as was a 300PS version of the Ingenium petrol engine.
What You Get
From almost any angle, you'd know this was a Jaguar. You'd know this was an XF. It's a very different one though, in ways you simply won't appreciate if all you offer this car is a cursory glance. The sweeping coupe-like profile that defined the original model evolved here, the roofline lower, the rear deck longer and higher.
We should talk about the dimensions too. Think it looks a little smaller than the old 'X250'-series design? You're right, it is. Jaguar knew this second generation model had to be more spacious inside, but that didn't mean the car itself had to be bigger. Hence the slightly more compact shape. It's 7mm shorter and 3mm lower in MK2 form, yet at the same time, more length was freed up between the wheels thanks to shorter front and rear overhangs. That means a substantial 51mm wheelbase increase that gave the designers a proper shot at addressing the biggest issue that owners had with the first generation version of this car: it's very restricted rear cabin space. Sure enough, there are massive improvements here, with 15mm more legroom, 24mm more knee room and 27mm more headroom than before: it all made a huge difference.
A seat in the front of an XF has always been a special experience. With this MK2 model, the brief was to retain that sense of occasion but mature and simplify the design language a little. So there's a classier, more modern look as Jaguar's designers have sought to find more interesting and contemporary ways to say 'luxury': largely, their efforts seem have worked. The rising circular gear selector remains on automatic models: so do the cartwheeling air vents, though they've here been reduced in number and thrown to the edges of the cabin, with the centre of the fascia freed up for an 8-inch 'InControl Touch' infotainment system.
As you look around, the height of the waistline and the centre console gives the safe, driver-focused feeling of being sat in the beautifully supportive leather seat, rather than on it. At the same time, the strong horizontal theme of the instrument panel, the layering of it and the materials used for each layer creates the kind of rich, luxurious, hand-crafted ambience you just don't get in this car's Teutonic rivals from this era. Do the shorter rear overhangs necessitate a smaller boot? Actually no - quite the reverse is true. Lift the lid and a 540-litre space is revealed, a 40-litre increase on the previous model accessed via a larger aperture than before.
What to Look For
Most XF owners in our survey seemed very satisfied, but we did come across a few issues. One owner experienced coolant loss after 2,500 miles, which turned out to be a faulty gearbox coolant hose. One owner complained of a faulty boot catch that saw the boot lid hitting the bumper and damaging it. More seriously, another 2.0d model needed a new engine and a replacement steering rack. In one case, there was a water leakage problem, flooding the front passenger footwell. In another, there was a faulty service indicator on the dash. We've heard of a number of problems with the sat nav and WiFi, caused through a JLR upgrade that not all cars will have had; check if the one you're looking at has. Check all these things on your test drive - and look out for scuffed alloy wheels that could be pricey to fix. And, obviously, insist on a fully stamped-up service record.
(approx based on a 2015 Jaguar XF 2.0d) Front brake pads are around £95; rear brake pads vary between £20 and £44. An oil filter is around £12. A wiper blade is in the £22-£27 bracket. A headlamp bulb is about £45. An air filter is around £14.
On the Road
On the move, the weight savings achieved in the design of this second generation model quickly make themselves felt, with sharp corner turn-in aided by a responsive electric power steering system, a much stiffer body and standard torque vectoring that eliminates understeer and keeps you on your chosen line. A 'JaguarDrive Control' driving modes system offers you 'Eco', 'Normal' and 'Dynamic' settings that tweak throttle response, steering feel and gearchange timings, depending on the way you want to drive, plus there's a 'Winter' mode which on automatic models includes an 'All-Surface Progress' set-up for easier take-off on slippery surfaces. If you want adaptive damping too, you'll need to get a car whose original owner specified the optional 'Adaptive Dynamics' system.
Engine-wise, most buyers will want the '2.0-litre i4' 'Ingenium'-series four cylinder diesel powerplant, offered in either 163PS or 180PS guises. The lower-powered variant offers class-leading supermini-style efficiency figures (70.6mpg on the combined cycle and 104g/km of CO2) but has less torque than the pokier 180PS derivative most original buyers chose, a car that makes 62mph in 8.1s en route to 136mph. There's a choice of either six-speed manual transmission or the 8-speed auto 'box that most will want. Petrol models start with the old Ford-derived 2.0-litre unit used when this car was first introduced in 2015, but this was replaced a year later by Jaguar's own more efficient 'Ingenium' 2.0-litre petrol powerplant. Both 2.0-litre petrol and diesel models were offered with the option of AWD from 2016. If you want a pokier XF, you'll have to find the substantial price premium for one of the performance-orientated 3.0-litre six cylinder XF S models. There are two of these, a 300PS twin-turbo diesel and a supercharged 320PS petrol version.
Lighter, more spacious, better-looking and a whole lot more efficient, this MK2 XF model worried the German makers more than any model Jaguar had previously brought us. There's nothing simple about producing a car as good as this one, a model that set fresh class standards in terms of its aluminium-intensive architecture, its running costs and its ride and handling balance. True, it might not have been the game-changer its predecessor was, but then it didn't need to be. That corner had already been turned. The old XF showed how Jaguar could compete on equal terms with its Teutonic rivals. This car though, demonstrated clearly how it meant to go about beating them.
Ultimately what was so masterful about this second generation XF was how cleverly Jaguar kept and built upon what was good about the original version, while being realistic about where the old car's weaknesses were. As a result, with this 'X260'-series car, you really can have a beautiful Executive class model that offers cutting-edge technology and a dynamic driving experience but which is also built in Britain and sips fuel like a supermini. These truly are amazing times.
Jaguar XF (2015 - 2017) review by Jonathan Crouch