Paul A. Eisenstein
From the Print Edition:
Tiger Woods, May/June 2008
New cars, like old baseball teams, often inspire clichés. You're right to be inured to phrases like "a breathtaking new design" or "jaw-dropping performance." But if you hear the term "pulse-pounding" used to describe the new Jaguar XF sedan, the speaker is not just being formulaic.
The much-needed replacement for the midsize S-Type, this new saloon car should do a lot to restore the British marque's reputation for exotic design. The XF captures some of the best lines of Jaguars past, while building on some of the best elements of the new XK sports car. Yet the graceful, coupe-like shape conceals what turns out to be a reasonably roomy cabin.
All that leather and wood is fine, but for some time Jaguar interiors have seemed caught in a time warp. Not so the XF. OK, so perhaps the rotating vents are a bit gimmicky, but on the whole, this is one of the most elegantly modern cockpits on the market, besting even that benchmark of automotive interiors, Audi.
As you slip behind the wheel, the keyless entry system brings the sedan to life. Gone is Jaguar's dated J-gate shifter, replaced by a matte chrome knob that rises out of the center console. You'll notice the start button begin to flash red, like a heartbeat, begging you to fire up the engine. It takes strong will to resist.
My determination ran out in a matter of seconds, and as I hit the ignition, the XF's supercharged 4.2-liter V-8 fired up with a confident roar, but with only a little bit of the jarring gear whine normally associated with "blown" engines. Adding the supercharger to the base car's V-8 boosts power from 300 horsepower to 420, and torque from 310 to 408 foot-pounds. Measured off the stoplight, 0-to-60 times run 5.1 seconds, compared with 6.2 seconds for the normally aspirated engine.
The decision not to offer a V-6 in the United States came as something of a surprise, but the engine available in Europe just wouldn't meet American expectations. Look for an updated version to appear in a year or two—along with an even more powerful version of the supercharged V-8, which, if Jaguar maintains tradition, will be designated the XF-R.
To risk another cliché, there are some real claws on the supercharged cat. Make that CATS, Jaguar's Computer Active Technology Suspension, which is designed to adapt to both road conditions and driving style. The package provides pleasantly tight and precise handling without the jarring associated with some other electronically controlled suspensions.
After landing a few duds, Jaguar seems to have found its focus. The XF is a solid follow-up to the XK sports car and a commendable alternative to midsize luxury mainstays such as the Mercedes-Benz E-Type and BMW 5 Series. Slip inside, poise your finger over the start buttonÉand see if your own pulse starts to pound.
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