RAC

Jaguar XF 2.2D 200PS

Jaguar's refreshed XF saloon has serious business appeal as a tax-friendly, four-cylinder diesel. A new benchmark? Andy Enright decides.

Ten Second Review

The Jaguar XF was a great car when it was first launched in 2008 and the addition of a 2.2-litre diesel, improved refinement across the board, a smart Sportbrake estate model and a boost in interior quality have only underscored that message. Flies the flag and does so unapologetically.

Background

Even when bankrolled by the financial might of Ford, it took Jaguar a few bites at the cherry before it hit on the XF. There was the original, rather disappointing S-TYPE, which then developed into an excellent car; a fact that was missed on many potential buyers who instead ignored it in favour of the usual BMW, Audi and Mercedes models. The XF was Ford's dollars finally come good, a car that, when launched in 2008, stuck it firmly to the opposition. Perhaps the XF was a step too far for its market though. As talented as it was, it didn't look like a Jaguar and this fact alienated as many traditional buyers as it attracted newer buyers. It was a pill Jaguar needed to take if it was to move with the times though. The subsequent XJ reinforced 'new Jaguar' look and feel and the XF no longer seems quite such a singularity in the range. It's now been revised and this, as much as anything, is a key test of the stewardship of company owners Tata Motors. Hit, miss or maybe?

Driving Experience

When it was launched, the Jaguar XF set new class standards in ride and handling. Since then, its rivals have closed the gap slightly but the tactility of the Jaguar still has the capacity to surprise and delight. What was lacking was a tempting selection of diesel engines, but since its introduction we've seen a cleaner 3.0-litre diesel in 240 and 275PS flavours and more importantly, the four-cylinder 2.2-litre we're looking at here, good for 200 or 163PS, depending on which state of tune you choose. The entry-level 163PS XF will stop the watch at 9.8 seconds. But the 200PS version, which is actually just as clear and economical, manages it in a far more sprightly 8.0s, on the way to a 142mph maximum. With 450Nm of torque available from only 2,000rpm, there's no shortage of muscle with this engine, and the XF eight-speed auto transmission means you're always plugged into the meat of it. Across the new XF range advances have been made in refinement with active engine mounts (diesels) and new sound deadening material featuring on the car as well as redesigned wing mirrors to reduce wind noise. As with its rivals from BMW, Mercedes and Audi, at no point does it occur to you that the 2.2-litre oil burner under the bonnet has just four cylinders.

Design and Build

Since the Spring 2011 facelift, the XF has had a much sleeker look, something that's also a feature of the newest derivative in the range, the Sportbrake estate. It's got a 1675-litre total loading capacity and there are nearly 100 different ways to configure the interior. The interior of the XF was always one of its strong points and with not a lot being wrong, there isn't a great deal to fix. You'll find a restyled steering wheel, a new infotainment system, better quality air vents and uprated seats. Jaguar hasn't been able to do anything about the XF's slightly compromised rear headroom, although legroom remains better than you'd expect. The boot measures 500 litres which is less than the class standard albeit not by too much. Cabin quality is extremely good with a feel that's modern British in all the best ways without lapsing into cheesiness or caricature.

Market and Model

Prices for the 200PS version of this 2.2-litre diesel XF start at around £34,000 in saloon form. The least expensive way you can order this variant is in high-spec 'Luxury' form, in which guise it's around £1,000 more than the feebler 163PS version of this model. There's a premium of around £2,500 for the Sportbrake estate model. Of this Jaguar's rivals, the latest Audi A6 offers probably the most aggressive value proposition and when the four cylinder diesel variants are compared, it's the Audi that's packing a smaller, less powerful engine and charging you a couple of thousand pounds more for the privilege. Small wonder that Jaguar seems so confident about this car's chances. Go for the Premium Luxury version that has proven popular and you'll find it fitted as standard with soft grain leather seats, a 600w stereo, Bluetooth, cruise control with speed limiter, hard disk satellite navigation, a heated front window, heated, electrically adjustable front seats and 18-inch alloy wheels.

Cost of Ownership

No apologies here for concentrating on that 2.2-litre diesel engine again because it's set to grab the lion's share of XF sales. It's a modified Ford unit, mounted longitudinally and featuring a host of new parts, including a water-cooled turbocharger and low-friction pistons. Disappointingly, the 163PS version is no cleaner or more frugal than the 200PS model, with just under 140g/km of CO2 and a combined consumption of 55.4mpg. Not quite up there with the best of the German opposition maybe, but it needs to be set against the 47mpg of the 3.0-litre diesel XF models. Residual figures have stood up well due to a strong reliability record and Jaguar's sensible decisions concerning supply and discounting.

Summary

The Jaguar XF was a revelation in 2008 but in the intervening years, its rivals have come back with ever stronger offerings. In certain respects, the Jaguar still feels like the top pick in its class. Its ride and handling are brilliant, its steering superb, and its sense of occasion is second to none. Other rivals offer more space and, if reducing carbon dioxide emissions is an overwhelming priority, the XF still comes up a little short. Otherwise it remains a formidable contender. Mid-life facelifts can be tricky things to pull off, but this time round the XF looks sharper and more modern yet won't punch big holes in the residual values of the outgoing model. Having two versions of the 2.2-litre diesel is a smart and pragmatic move too, though from a pure driving point of view, we'd take the more powerful option. Tata Motors are clearly guiding Jaguar in a sympathetic and sensitive manner yet which isn't shying away from the bigger challenges. That can only be good news.

Scores
Performance 8
Handling 9
Comfort 10
Space 8
Styling 10
Build 9
Value 8
Equipment 8
Economy 8
Depreciation 9
Insurance 7
Total 94

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