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2009 Jaguar XF Premium Luxury Road Test
By Kevin 'Crash' Corrigan
I've been in this journo game for knocking on five years now and yet this is the first time that I've managed to scoop a British Jaguar to review.
Now maybe that's because I have a bit of a background in Jaguar. After all, I did once own an independent Jaguar workshop. I was also a member of the Ontario Jaguar Owners' Club for many years and judged several of its JCNA concourse events.
Maybe the company was a bit worried that I had a little too much history in the Jag world, or that I might be as critical with its new cars as I was with its older classics.
On the other hand, maybe Ford's ownership and tight budget restraints of late has meant that the company's PR department simply never had enough vehicles available for the media.
Well, they shouldn't have worried on the first score, at least not when the model we're talking about is the Jaguar XF, because I simply adore the vehicle.
Honestly, I had been waiting with bated breath to drive the XF ever since the vehicle was first revealed in 2007.
Of course, I've seen the XF at shows, and even sat in one or two, but I was waiting to drive the vehicle myself before I voiced any kind of real opinion. After all, a Jaguar has to offer more than simply good looks, it has to perform and handle like a cat to be worthy of the Jaguar name. “Grace, space and pace,” as the old saying goes. Anything short of that is a no-no!
Well, the results are in, and I give it two big thumbs up. In fact, after living with the XF for a week, the only question remaining in my mind is, “Why aren't we seeing them prowling on every street corner”?
In my opinion, for the money, I can't think of another vehicle that can compare to the XF. Prices range from $59,000 (Cdn) for the base car, $65,000 for the Premium Luxury edition, and $77,000 for the Super-charged model. (My test vehicle was the nicely appointed mid-range Premium Luxury model.)
The exterior styling is almost perfect (or should that be purr-fect?). I say “almost” because I'm still not totally enthralled by the front grille. To me, it appears a little too plastic for my liking and I believe that the badge should have been mounted on the hood. Never mind though, because the rest of the vehicle makes up for that by being simply drop-dead gorgeous.
Ok, some might have knocked the blue oval's ownership of Jaguar but I think that Ford (which owned the marque until recently) got several things right. For one, it improved product quality no end (more on that later). Much of this was due to it 're-educating' the British factory staff. In fact, Ford told them more then once, it's said, if you don't improve the overall quality, we'll move Jaguar production out of Britain.
As a Brit who painfully watched the demise of British Leyland and the UK car industry through constant union strikes back in the 80's, I'm glad they did that.
Many improvements came from Ford redesigning such items as gaskets and oil seals. Ask any older Jag owner and they'll tell you, “If a Jag's not dripping oil on your driveway, then you'd better check that it has some in it.”
Lastly, it allowed designers to get creative without worrying about upsetting the whole apple cart. Do yourself a favour and take a look at the XF from the hind quarters -- if that doesn't look like a four-door Aston Martin, then I don't know what does!
Ok, so the car looks the part, but does it prowl and prance like a true feline?
Well, as soon as you climb aboard the XF, you're in for a bit of a shock. Yes, it feels like a Jaguar, but one that's suddenly leapt into the 21st century. A small button on the centre console pulses in blood red, like the car's heartbeat, and gentle pressure on this awakens the 4.2-litre V8 resting under the hood, just as a rotary-style gear selector gracefully rises close by. This entire procedure is wonderful to watch, although if the ventilation system is in operating mode, you could be distracted by the electronically revolving air vents on the dashboard.
Yes, the Jaguar XF is wonderfully high tech, but before some of you jump on me saying “Oh yes, we've witnessed high tech from Jaguar before. I remember the 80's,” let me say straight away that this is Ford technology. You know, Uncle Sam's lot, the Americans! They know how to wire a vehicle.
Once you have selected 'Drive', the XF glides away with just gentle pressure on the right-hand pedal, yet switch off the traction control, twist the selector to sports mode and stomp on it, and the XF behaves more like a scalded cat.
Oh yes, this is what Jaguars are truly all about. A creature that will give its owner endless amounts of comfort and enjoyment, yet at the same time, is capable of scratching the eyes off any beast that comes a-calling.
Ride quality on the XF is almost a perfect balance between luxurious comfort and performance, and it soon lets you know why such fat paws are fitted at the four corners. The automatic transmission is smooth in operation and the gear ratios make it comfortable at highway speeds and yet sporty enough for the most challenging back roads.
Obviously, Jaguar's plan with the XF is to steal a few customers from the likes of Lexus and Infiniti, and if I was them, I could be a little worried if my owners strayed into a Jaguar dealership now.
Of course, this brings me back to my question, “Where are all the XFs hiding”?
Well, and this is typical Jaguar, especially over the past few years. They make wonderful cars, but it's one of the industry's closest-kept secrets!
For some crazy reason, the average man and woman in the street still have it in their heads that Jaguar's are unreliable? Absolute #*&%!
To debunk that notion, today I checked out the ratings for the XF at Edmunds.com and found that its editors rate it 8.0, and consumers put it at 9.4. Or check out its top reliability ratings from other sources such as Consumer Reports and JD Power. Does that surprise you? It doesn't surprise me.
That's Jag's problem in a nutshell. Not enough people are aware of this, and Jaguar doesn't exactly go out of its way to promote its new found reliability. Think of Audi. It had quality issues a few years back, yet it worked hard to turn that around and today its products are held up as benchmarks. Why hasn't the famous British brand managed to do the same thing?
Well, if you want my opinion, it's all down to under-investment in marketing. I can remember when the Jaguar XJ model was held in the same esteem as a Mercedes-Benz S Class, or a BMW 7 Series. In fact, at that time, these vehicles were in the same ballpark money-wise.
What happened? Who suddenly decided that the three-pointed star was worth twice the price of a leaper? Why is it that nearly a decade ago, a Jaguar was known as a $100K car, and yet is still known widely as that today? The fact that you can purchase a Jaguar product for much less today seems to have passed people by, and while the other luxury carmakers have been raising their top-end prices, Jaguar's premium models have hardly increased over the past decade or so.
I tell you, it's all down to marketing, or the lack of it.
Yes, Jaguar makes really good cars at very reasonable prices nowadays. All it needs to do is get that message out there to the buying public.
In my opinion, Ford had done a grand job with the brand. It put the company back on the right track but sadly lacked the finances to see it through to fruition. Under the new ownership of India's Tata Motors, a large company that's head plenty of money behind it, things should start to get better.
My advice to the new Indian owners of Jaguar is this: Shout the good news from the rooftops! Advertise, advertise and advertise the fact that the old days of Jaguar are gone, because they are!
Oh, and put a few more vehicles on the press fleets, because if we can't drive them, then we can't help you with that message, can we?
Kevin 'Crash' Corrigan is a regular contributor to CarTest! More of his reviews can be found at www.carkeys.ca.
Green Light: In the world of prestige vehicles, it's certainly priced right.
Yellow Light: If you really want to get picky, there are a few hints of Ford influence, on silly things like the quality of the under-dash material.
Red Light: Most people believe that Jaguars are really expensive, so expect a little jealousy from the neighbours.
Manufacturer's website: www.jaguar.ca