Test Drives

Jaguar XF 2.0 R-Sport 2019 review: A Liquid Asset



The car that reinvented Jaguar for the 21st Century receives some mild updates, though it’s short of a facelift; are these changes enough to fend off the usual luxo-barge suspects?

 

SINGAPORE

There’s a saying among the younger denizens of the internet that cats are like liquids. They’ll happily hop into an oddly-shaped receptacle (a bowl, pot, jar, box, etc) and proceed to fill up its volume, just like a liquid would.

As far as cars go, the new Jaguar XF is also like a cat, though for reasons other than shape-shifting properties (and yes, there are reasons other than as a low-hanging feline-based pun for a car review by an unimaginative writer).

Before we get into those reasons though, first an introduction to what’s new on the XF for 2019. Well, new to us anyway; think of it as an upgrade to the car’s local specification than actual new developments from the factory.

There’s a larger infotainment screen (10-inch, upgraded from 8-inch), a cabin headliner made from suede, the rear view mirror is now frameless, the pedals have a snazzy metal finish, a 250hp version of the 2.0-litre Ingenium engine has been fitted, and improved refinement is claimed, thanks to better engine insulation and engine mounts.

Mercifully, one thing that hasn’t been touched is the XF’s styling. I know looks are subjective, but this is surely a hot contender in any Big Executive Saloon Beauty Pageants.

It’s not flamboyantly styled, just exceedingly restrained and handsome, with bulges and curves in all the right places and in just the right amounts. The backward sweep of the nose, rakish roofline and pinched hips all make for an alluring profile that you just can’t help but take another glance at as you walk away after parking up.

Unfortunately, those svelte exterior proportions play against the XF when it comes to interior room. Though legroom is class-competitive, rear headroom and shoulder room are not as generous as you’d find in the XF’s rivals, and the smaller windows don’t help with the perception of space either. The thick D-pillars also compromise the over-the-shoulder view somewhat.

It’s a similar story up front, though it’s slightly less of an issue because the driving environment can legitimately claim to be relatively driver-focused. There’s a large amount of adjustability, so a natural-feeling driving position easy to find, and the 18-way adjustable sport seats have inflatable bolsters on the sides which can cup even my unhealthily skinny body in place. Combine that with the tasty crimson leather, and you get the hint that the XF is no ordinary luxury saloon once you get underway.

This of course is where Jaguar’s traditional superiority lies. Like your furry feline friend seemingly pours itself into a container, the XF also flows along any given road you point it down. The ride is fluid, feeling connected to all the imperfections and undulations in the road yet still insulated from the harshness of bumps, and of all the non-performance cars I’ve driven recently, this one of those that feels more alive when it comes to enthusiastic driving.

It’s got a front end that’s not at all reluctant to change direction, mid-corner bumps don’t have much effect on its composure or trajectory, and when you work the chassis hard you get the sense that the rear end of the car is keen to get involved and help with direction changes, in contrast to the exceedingly front end-led Germans. Basically it’s lithe where the Teutonic rivals, including the Audi A6 and BMW 5 Series, feel heavy and inert.

Even when you think you’re at the limit, the XF has a little bit more in reserve just to help make sure you round the curve in one piece; it’d take a wilful disregard towards safety to make the XF properly come unstuck.

Unfortunately in a straight line the XF is less impressive. This new version of Jaguar Land Rover’s familiar 2.0-litre engine claims 250hp and 365Nm on paper, as well as a 0-100km/h time of 6.7 seconds, but subjectively the shove in the back doesn’t feel commensurate with those outputs, and even some informal century sprints couldn’t better mid-7 seconds against the stopwatch.

That said, the 8-speed automatic gearbox is exceedingly seamless in its operation, and the work to improve the Jag’s NVH (noise, vibration, harshness) characteristics seem to have worked, as you’ll hear and feel nary a peep from the engine while cruising.

So, at most of the traditional aspects of being a car (that is, anything to do with the mechanical bits), the XF is more than up to par. When it comes to the modern notion of luxury though, where connectivity is as important as plushness, the XF lags a little.

The XF is currently the oldest in its class (oh how time flies), and it shows. The instrument dials are analogue instead of digital like in rivals, and they’re plain to look at and the little info display between them only shows trip information, no options for navigation or audio entertainment.

Likewise the new larger touchscreen – it’s simple to use, responsive and smooth, but the way it presents information is more restrictive than BMW’s widget-based system or Audi’s twin-screen setup. For example, any audio adjustments you make don’t pop up if you’re looking at the map.

It’s ironic now then, that the model which marked Jaguar’s departure from its traditional, old-fashioned style is once again, at least on the surface, playing catch up with rivals as far as modernity is concerned.

That said, if you think most cars these days are too digitised and hence distracting, or find most modern driving experiences too detached and sterile, then the XF’s relative simplicity and lively dynamics bucks the trend in a stylish and compelling way.

And to top it all off, at $241,999 with COE, it’s also a good $15k cheaper than the significantly less powerful base models of its two most popular competitors, the Mercedes E-Class and BMW 5 Series – but note that if you’re going to go left-field anyway, then do bear in mind that the VW Arteon and Volvo S90 are even cheaper still.

 

Jaguar XF 2.0 R-Sport

Engine 1,999cc, inline 4, turbocharged
Power 250hp at 5,500rpm
Torque 365Nm at 1,300–4,500rpm
Gearbox 8-speed automatic
0-100km/h 6.7 seconds
Top Speed 244km/h
Fuel Efficiency 7.5L/100km
VES Band / CO2 C1 / 170g/km CO2
Agent Wearnes Automotive Pte Ltd
Price $241,999 with COE
Availability Now

 

about the author

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Jon Lim
CarBuyer's latest addition is its fourth historical Jonathan. Old-fashioned in all but body, he thinks car design peaked in the '90s. He also strongly believes any car can be a race car if you have a sufficient lack of self-preservation, which explains why he nearly flipped a Chinese van while racing it.