Jaguar XF S 30d Long-Term Test (Update #1)
A sports-oriented prestige sedan powered by a diesel engine remains an unlikely combination in the minds of most Australians. Yet the Jaguar XF S 30d proves that mix is not some impossible dream. A large car with the agility of a hot hatch and the ride comfort of the Mercedes-Benz S-Class, the XF also makes the best of the diesel factor by drawing on JLR's excellent 3.0-litre V6, which is refined and muscular.
Jaguar’s second generation of XF sedan has been on the market here for around a year, but I’ve already sampled it in three different iterations: a supercharged petrol V6, a turbocharged petrol four-cylinder, and now… a turbo-diesel V6.
This latest XF has really struck a chord. Finished in a vivid electric blue metallic colour – a new colour named Caesium Blue and costing $2060 – and riding on big 20-inch alloys (also optional for $2730) in a glossy black finish, it looks like a car for those going through an identity crisis. You wouldn’t actually call it subtle, but nor is it especially brash. It’s hard not to love it for its looks.
But under the XF’s beautiful skin is a remarkably competent diesel V6. Every once in a while it gave the game away with a little extra tappety rattle to signal the engine is a compression-ignition unit, but other than that and the low-redlined tachometer, there’s not much to distinguish this engine from a petrol V6 of similar capacity.
It delivered power responsively – with minimal turbo lag – and restarted automatically at the lights with very little of the usual bump and grind. Everything was accompanied by a deep, guttural growl that’s not quite exotic, but certainly better than the run-of-the-mill diesel powerplants around.
At freeway speeds the engine’s soundtrack faded into the background, leaving just some muted road noise and the passage of climate-controlled air through the cabin to disturb one’s musing.
And as if easily exploitable performance and a pleasing engine note that’s not omnipresent weren’t enough, the diesel V6 consumed fuel at the rate of just 8.5L/100km for the week, according to the trip computer.
The pairing of the engine and the ZF eight-speed automatic transmission is a match made in heaven, and the shift paddles even make sense with the torque-rich, low-revving engine, although the transmission won’t shift up at the redline in manual mode.
Even in drive modes other than the Dynamic setting – Normal and Eco (plus Winter/Rain/Snow, which I didn’t use) – the XF felt lively when the driver demanded more performance. Keep the boot into it and the diesel V6 would produce a solid wall of thrust at very short notice.
Red means ‘go’
Changing modes was accompanied by red ambient lighting and a sporty (red) tacho display. The XF’s Dynamic setting adjusts the suspension for sportier cornering, but with little change to the car’s superb ride/handling balance.
Punted into a corner in this (Dynamic) mode, the XF was neutral, threatening to break into oversteer at the limit, whether or not power is applied. Even in that mode, however, there was more roll than expected, and the rear suspension felt a bit soft for that sort of motoring.
But, to reiterate, the XF S provided strong grip in such a large sedan, allied with very neat handling and a lot of feedback coming through for precise cornering. The tyres were very sticky too, and jumping on the outstanding brakes would pull the XF S down from high speeds without much hint the tyres were approaching the limits of adhesion. As a bonus, the XF S stopped softly, even under moderately hard braking. This was a great complement to the car’s ride/handling balance already mentioned.
Comfort doesn’t take a back seat
As is expected from Jaguar, the driving position was close to ideal. I personally found the seats to be a bit firm in the cushion and could have done with more side bolstering around the front of the seat base.
The infotainment screen uses the familiar Jaguar Land Rover interface, but in a much wider format featuring fast, soft-touch actuation and nice touches like parking assist and 360-degree camera operation.
Rear-seat accommodation was fine for adults, providing plenty of kneeroom, but not as much legroom to stretch out – although there was room under the front seats to place one’s feet. Despite the sunroof fitted (costing $3300 extra), headroom was acceptably good.
At 540 litres, the boot was accommodating, and the rear seats folded down for additional volume, but the aperture between the boot and the cabin was not especially large and the boot lid itself was narrow and small for bulkier payloads. Jaguar had supplied the car with an electrically-powered boot lid option costing $1130.
At night, the adaptive LED headlights shone a bright white beam and were enhanced by the static cornering lights – something to cause wildlife consternation from a kilometre away. But not oncoming drivers. The car’s automatic high-beam assist saw to that.
No, the only people likely to be blinded by the Jaguar are those who find themselves wreathed in the dawning light of realisation. A full-sized family sedan can be prestigious but frugal, fast and refined, stylish and practical – and comfortable as well as sporty.
2017 Jaguar XF S 30d pricing and specifications:
Price: $152,465 (as tested, plus on-road costs)
Engine: 3.0-litre six-cylinder turbo-diesel
Transmission: Eight-speed automatic
Fuel: 5.5L/100km (ADR Combined)
CO2: 144g/km (ADR Combined)
Safety Rating: Five-star ANCAP (2016)