Last weekend, I had the privilege of a 24-hour test drive of Jaguar’s all New XF. This is the second generation of the car that in many ways relaunched Jaguar, moving it away from its inclination towards retro models like the S-Type and X-Type and into a more modern and high tech future.
To be fair, Jaguar’s move away from retro themed models began with the 2006 XK to which the original XF was a brilliant follow up in 2008. Famously, the original XF had the same front and rear windscreen rake angles as the sportier XK and was meant to be viewed as a 4 door version of what was then Jaguar’s sportiest car.The XF was followed by the new XJ in 2010, the F-Type in 2012, and the brand new XE IN 2014 all of them constructed in aluminium instead of steel and all highly influenced by the new styling introduced by the XF Mark 1. By 2015, then, it was time for the original XF to be replaced, now also to be hewed from aluminium instead of steel.
XF Mark 2 has received rave reviews compared to its primary competitors, all of which are due for replacement in the next year or so, the Mercedes E-class , BMW 5-Series and Audi A6. To be fair, XF Mk 1 was widely considered to be top of its class so it would have been a major surprise if XF Mk2 weren’t superior to the existing competition. The real completion will start arriving later this year when the new Mercedes E-class is launched followed swiftly by the new BMW 5-Series. Until then, the biggest competitor for XF Mk2 is inside the family, XF Mk1. So last weekend not only did I have a chance to test drive the All-New XF, I also had a chance to compare it to its immediate predecessor, not least because a Mk1 XF is my current daily drive.
So what did I think? In many ways XF Mk2 is a brilliant update of an already brilliant car. XF’s new aluminium intensive platform has a
highly sophisticated suspension, shared with the XE and based on that of the F-Type. This means the car handles but also maintains a compliant Jag ride.It looks in many ways similar to the Mk1 but everything looks and feels just a bit sharper. Dimensionally similar, it is only a few millimetres smaller on the outside but magically noticeably larger on the inside. Where there has been a major uplift is with the cpacity of the computing hardware in the car. This is a car with it’s own WiFi hotspot, optional capacity to be controlled by your mobile phone, and optional head up display.
The car can be started remotely, if you have the optional In Control apps. This means that on wintry mornings, you can warm up the car before you leave the house. Very nice. It has the latest tech, such as auto dipping headlights, a sat nav that links with your mobile so that you can look up a location on your phone, upload it to the car and then back to your phone if you are forced to park a little way away from your location so that you can continue to get directions as you finish the journey on foot.But frankly, these aren’t the things that immediately strike you about the new XF. It’s the way it drives more than anything that stands out. It’s fantastic. The steering wheel is wonderfully shaped and tactile and is a wonderful thing to interact with.
I tried the Diesel S, powered by a punchy 3.0 litre V6 with 300bhp and 600 Nm of torque. Let’s just say that’s a lot. XF Mk1 has an earlier version of the same engine but it has to make do with 271bhp and 500Nm of torque. There is an appreciable difference between the two.
However, Mk2 does not have it all its own way. Mk1 has the more comfortable ride and, in my view, the better interior, apart for the steering wheel. The seats on my Mk1 are far better than those in the Mk2, in which I could not seem to get as comfortable.
Moreover, not only is it more interesting in the Mk1 with its rotating air-con vents, proximity sensing interior lights, and discreet release for the glove compartment, it also feels more luxurious. Mk2’s interior feels like it was built to a budget, though undoubtedly a large one; Mk1’s interior feels like to was designed without any budget constraints at all. Jaguar simply threw everything it had at it.
Overall Mk2 is the better car. No doubt. To drive, it is a truly wonderful piece of machinery. It just handles with an expensive well damped oily precision. The updated technology is addictive too. After 24 hours I was beginning to wonder how I got by without auto-dipping headlights and the kids loved the fact that the car has its own WiFi hotspot.
However, there are some things that are lost in the transition. Mk1 has the more compliant ride and a better interior. Even for someone like me who is more than a little bit biased towards the Mk1, it’s clear that Jaguar has taken a successful formula and improved in virtually every way.
However, Jaguar is obviously feeling very confident about XF Mk2, which is reflected in its pricing. Like for like (or as close as you can get) XF Mk2 3.0S costs quite a bit more than Mk1. And that’s before you add some of the cool kit like head up display and In Control apps. And let’s do face it you’re gonna want that stuff if you had one of these cars.
So getting the full fat Jag experience may just become, shall we say, even more exclusive. Perhaps that is precisely what Jag has in mind. Having said that, most people buy these cars on finance deals. And the extra cost would work out to be only a few tens of pounds extra per month. So maybe the price hike won’t be off that putting.
Jag deserves to do well with these cars so let’s hope they are a success and we see more of these big cats on the road in 2016.