Wednesday, January 6, 2016

‘16 JAGUAR XF: THE CAT CLAWS BACK!

It all happens for Jaguar in 2016. A new XE compact sedan. A stunning new F-Pace sports crossover. And it all kicks off with a transformed, aluminum-bodied XF, blogs road test editor Howard Walker 
You gotta love the lyrics. “On a morning from a Bogart movie, in a country where they turn back time, you go strolling through the crowd like Peter Lorre, contemplating crime.” And all together now: “In the year of the cat”.
   
 It was the soft-rock anthem of 1976 by that Glaswegian folkie Alastair ‘Al’ Stewart. Go on, take a trip down memory lane and dial it up on iTunes. Fast-forward 40 years - yikes - to 2016 and I reckon ‘Year of the Cat should be anointed as the official anthem for Jaguar.
How come? Over the next six months, Jag will introduce a tsunami of long-awaited, shiny new metal. It includes the crucially important XE - a sexy-looking compact $35-grand sports sedan that’ll butt heads with BMW’s 3-series, Audi’s new A4 and Merc’s C-class. Hot on the heels of XE will be the gorgeous F-Pace sports crossover targeted at everything from Porsche’s Mecan to Audi’s Q5 to BMW’s X5. It’ll sticker from around $41,000.
   
Add to those an impressive new Elite Care five-year, 60,000-mile, free-maintenance, warranty program, and the kind of aggressive model pricing you see at Wal-Mart. If all this doesn’t attract buyers, nothing ever will.
  
And to start it all off, Jaguar has an all-new,
fresh-from-the-tires-up XF mid-size sports sedan that I’ve been driving. Like the big XJ and racy F-Type two-seater, this new XF features a lightweight, aluminum-intensive body. Using aluminum shaves a Jenny Craig-approved 265 pounds off the waistline compared with the old XF, and increases body stiffness by 28 percent.
Lighter weight and I-beam body rigidity help in Jaguar’s mission to make this new XF the most agile, most dynamic driver’s car in its class. It helps that Jaguar engineers purloined some of the best bits from Jaguar’s racy F-type roadster and coupe. This new XF uses the same supercharged V6 engines, same eight-speed fast-shifting automatic, same front suspension, same laser-precise electric steering. Even the same chunky-rimmed steering wheel.    
   
For the time being, U.S. buyers get to chose between 340 and 380-horsepower versions of Jag’s proven 3.0-supercharged, direct-injection V6. There’s a new fuel-sipping 2.0-liter turbo diesel coming soon, but in these VW emission scandal days, no one will care.
But in the body-kitted 380-horsepower XF S model I’m driving, there is power a-plenty to punch the car from zero-to-60 in just 5.0 seconds and catapult it out of tight curves.
   
No, it’s not the smoothest, most refined V6 out there, and it lacks any of the snap and snarl you get in the F. But coupled with the lightening-fast responses of that eight-speed auto, it delivers exhilaration by the bucketful.
 And boy is this car fun to steer through the twisties. There’s just the right amount of heft and feedback from the electric-assist helm, while the front end grips as tenaciously as chewing gum on shag pile. The all-wheel drive version should be even more thrilling.
Jag designers have also done a fine job of upgrading the XF’s interior. The additional two inches in the car’s wheelbase means there’s extra, and much needed, rear seat knee-room. And despite the car being a smidge lower to the ground, there’s an inch more headroom.
   
While the dashboard design isn’t as flashy as the one adorning Mercedes’ flashy-new E-Class, it’s beautifully crafted and finally features bang-up-to-date technology. The new InControl eight-inch touch screen allows you to swipe and pinch like your iPad. The optional laser head-up display on the windshield is the best I’ve seen.

And don’t judge the styling of this new XF from the photos. While the lines are clearly evolutionary, in the metal it looks much sleeker, more elegant. I love the bigger, more upright grille and huge air-gulping front intakes. Adding a tiny window behind the rear doors adds visual length to the car and light to the rear cabin.

Jaguar’s new, more aggressive pricing policy also further heightens the appeal of this new XF. It slashes $5,000 off the price of the entry-level XF 35t that now stickers at $52,895, while the sporty XF S is a steal at $63,695. The year of the cat, indeed. Purrfect.

For more information about the latest luxury-performance vehicles from jaguar, please visit http://www.jaguarusa.com/all-models/xf/index.html


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