There is an event in the car biz called simply The Launch: A carmaker books a resort somewhere, maps out a day of driving nearby, and then invites us "lifestyle influencers" to be wined, dined, given logo merchandise and earnestly pitched by corporate. The following morning we drive off in shiny new cars, hopefully to develop an appreciation for Marque X's latest pride and joy. Delightful as this sounds, it can be grueling, for the next day we're usually up early again to fly home, where a deadline awaits to grind out something pithy yet discerning about what we just did.
So I don't accept many invitations any more. Also, a few hours on scenic byways aren't like living with a car for days, driving it on familiar roads and doing familiar chores. And the presentations are just too compelling. Pretty soon the VP-Marketing has me nodding and thinking, Hey, this would be a Bentley, if Bentley built a $10,000 car in New Guinea! (This is known as "drinking the Kool-Aid.")
But an invitation from JLR--Jaguar Land Rover, now one entity--to Arizona's red-rock country was just too hard to decline. First we drove Range Rovers in the boondocks, but I just did that overseas ("Supercharged Sport is the driver's Range Rover," at Thanksgiving), so let's focus on the other half of the program: Jaguar's new second-gen XF, the deluxe sporting sedan that is introducing significant change at the company.
There are two variants for 2016, the XF S and XF 35t, and they're available with rear-wheel or all-wheel drive and in several trim levels. The previous base XF came with a somewhat un-Jaguar-like four-cylinder engine, but now every XF has a 3.0-liter supercharged V-6, tuned for 380 horsepower (in the S) or 340 (in the 35t) and 332 lb-ft of torque. Both models are available with unique performance, safety and connectivity technology, at prices that range from just 52 to 66 grand. Not that $52,000 is cheap, but this is a fairly narrow spread between top and bottom. Furthermore every XF I drove delivered the goods, so anyone who has to "settle" for the least costly version won't feel like she's been sent down to the minors. This is a nice change from the familiar bait-and-switch, where a carmaker brings you in with a low, low starting price and then knocks you in the head for the model you really want.
The two cars perform alike too. Jaguar says the XF 35t hits 60 MPH in 5.2 seconds with RWD and 5.1 seconds with the better traction of AWD, while the slightly hotter XF S does it one tenth of a second quicker. Both versions are limited to 155 MPH and they even have the same fuel-economy ratings, at least with RWD: 20 MPG in town and 30 on the highway. To go with their pressurized engines, the 2016 XFs went on the aluminum diet--even with AWD, they weigh well under 4,000 pounds--and got adaptive 8-speed automatic transmissions that provide both acceleration and relaxed cruising revs, as well as sport shifting via finger paddles.
The XF driver may toggle between distinctly different Dynamic, Eco, Winter or Normal modes, or her own preferred engine, suspension, steering and transmission setup. The new XF can feather its inside brakes in fast corners, to stay on line, and something called ASPC automatically gets the car moving without wheelspin on slick surfaces. The AWD XF is also the first Jaguar with Adaptive Surface Response (also borrowed from Range Rover), which can tell whether the car is on normal or wet roads, gravel or snow and ice, and adjusts the steering, throttle, transmission and stability controls to suit.
We'll go deeper into the XF's behavior, and its considerable safety and luxury gear, when we get one at home. Meanwhile, here's the "significant change" at Jaguar: a new 5-year/60,000-mile customer care and warranty program, the most comprehensive in the luxury category. This applies to every 2016 Jaguar, not just the XF, and underscores the company's advances in quality control--and its top J.D. Power customer-satisfaction ranking in 2015. There's more, too: Jaguar will unleash a new entry-level XE model and its first SUV, called the F-Pace, in 2016.
Feline grace & looks
Efficient, modern-day, all-weather luxury
Much car for the money
Back seat is less than spacious
Silvio Calabi reviews the latest from Detroit, Munich, Yokohama, Gothenburg, Crewe, Seoul and wherever else interesting cars are born. Silvio is a member of the International Motor Press Association whose automotive reviews date back to the Reagan administration. He is the former publisher of Speedway Illustrated magazine and an author. Contact him at email@example.com.