Jaguar’s XF isn’t the first, second or even the third midsize luxury sport sedan to come to mind when I mull over the segment. Instead, established German entries such as the BMW 5 Series, Mercedes-Benz E-Class and Audi A6/S6 are the first vehicles I think of, with cars such as the Jag and Lexus GS coming more as afterthoughts.
However, spending a week with a 2017 Jaguar XF S AWD is a pleasant reminder that the sleek British feline comes to the party boasting its own unique personality with athletic performance, elegant styling and a tech-rich cabin capable of giving the German hierarchy fits.
With a 3.0-liter supercharged V6 making a stout 380 horsepower and 332 pound-feet of torque, the S model is the current range-topper in the XF lineup. Jaguar says that with the available all-wheel-drive system, it will hit 60 mph in 5.0 seconds, which is believable after I experience its thrust while rapidly accelerating away from stoplights, and effortlessly merge onto expressways.
Together with the ZF eight-speed automatic transmission, the lively drivetrain delivers near instant response at throttle tip-in, as well as linear power delivery and brisk gear changes when the car is in Dynamic mode. For additional driver involvement, the XF includes steering wheel paddle shifters, but with up- and downshifts so well programmed, I left the car in full automatic for the majority of my driving.
The XF’s Jaguar-ness really comes through when you throw the car around. Devouring bends and corners is an absolute thrill. As with all current Jags, the steering feels light, but is remarkably responsive to inputs. Crank the wheel and the front end turns in with immediacy, while there’s not much body lean with the adaptive dampers stiffened. Brakes sport firm pedal feedback and plenty of clamping power to scrub off speed before corners and for panic-stopping situations.
My lone wish for the XF’s handling is for steering to feature more heft, but other than that its dynamics are on point, making for an engaging dance partner that feels light on its feet. Part of the reason why the XF feels light is because, well, it is lighter than its direct competitors in the all-wheel drive sector. BMW’s 540i xDrive sedan is 139 pounds heavier than the Jag, Mercedes-AMG’s E43 weighs 265 pounds more, and the Audi S6 carries a staggering 519 pounds of additional mass.
While tight handling has always been a hallmark of the XF, the previous generation model gave up some in the ride quality department. In the latest car, chassis engineers provide the best of both worlds. Punching up the Jag’s Comfort setting unlocks more-compliant suspension damping for regular commutes, which I greatly appreciate over the Midwest’s rutted and frost heave-littered pavement. Even with low-profile 20-inch Pirelli all-season tires, impacts from road imperfections aren’t terribly violent; the cabin isolated me from wind and tire noise.
In a torrential downpour, the all-wheel-drive XF is a grip monster that never feels out of sorts around turns or charging through large puddles, speaking well for the car’s inclement weather capabilities.
As for the blown V6 engine and eight-speed automatic gearbox, the punchy pairing isn’t half bad on the fuel economy front, considering its EPA rating of 20 mpg city and 28 mpg highway. That closely aligns with the 540i xDrive’s 20 mpg city and 29 mpg highway numbers but betters the E43’s 18 mpg city and 25 mpg highway figures.
2017 Jaguar XF S is a feisty midsize…
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Simple and elegant
The XF’s sheetmetal is an evolutionary take on the previous car, looking great to my eye every time I walk toward it in a parking lot. Subtle flowing body lines provide a mature appearance, leaving the large front air dams, big wheels and tasteful slathering of gloss-black trim to bring some attitude to the design equation.
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