Jaguar XF offers opulence at an affordable price
Think of a luxury car and Rolls-Royce, Bentley and Maybach come to mind. Apart from their price, luxury cars are defined by perception of the brand, excellence of design, quality of materials and craftsmanship.
But do you really have to spend millions to experience a luxury car? Not if the car is a Jaguar XF 3.0 V6 Luxury. The base-model XF defines entry-level opulence for the moderately well off.
Coco Chanel once defined luxury as the absence of vulgarity. She would like the cabin of the XF. It is a stunning piece of contemporary design, an amalgamation of rich, handcrafted leathers, real wood veneers, thick carpets and aluminium trim.
Entering the cabin, the backlit start/stop button pulses like a heartbeat. Press the button and the JaguarDrive gear selector rises, the air vents rotate open and phosphor blue backlighting accentuates the instruments, switchgear and major control panels. A seven-inch, full colour touch screen is the main feature of the central console. Its menu-based system allows intuitive fingertip operation of the climate control, the eight-speaker sound system, including iPod settings, and Bluetooth connectivity. The JaguarSense proximity sensors allow the interior lights to switch on and off with the mere wave of a hand, and the glove box opens similarly, as if by magic. The cabin is not just a nice place; it's a special place.
Refinement and comfort are key attributes of a luxury car, and the XF does not disappoint. The adjustable leather seats and steering wheel make it easy to find the perfect driving position. The gear changes are nigh on imperceptible, and there is an almost eerie lack of road, wind and engine noise until you floor the throttle when the engine note rises to a delicious muted snarl.
The ride is outstanding, soaking up the bumps, potholes and other irregularities on the Shek O Road with aplomb. For such a big car, roadholding is exceptional. The all-independent suspension, comprising unequal length wishbones at the front and a multilink system at the rear, provides excellent cornering, straight-line stability and strong anti-dive characteristics under heavy braking, with minimum road noise and vibration. The perfectly weighted steering is precise and reassuring through the bends and provides plenty of feedback as to what the front wheels are doing.
At almost five metres long and 1.9 metres wide, the XF is a big car. The flowing coup? lines disguise the saloon body, but the downside of the slanting roof is somewhat limited rear passenger headroom. The XF is best viewed from the rear three-quarters angle, where it displays a distinct resemblance to the rear of the Aston Martin DB9 - not surprising as Jaguar's director of design played a part in the development of both models.
The front of the car is dominated by a large mesh grille, designed to echo the grille of the original 1968 XJ. The main headlights have an odd, staring look, but overall the XF is handsome and distinctive. The A and B pillars are notably slim as a result of Jaguar using boron-reinforced steel, with nine times the strength of normal mild steel. The extra visibility this provides is a welcome safety feature.
The three-litre V6 develops 235bhp and 293Nm of torque, providing a 0-100km/h time of 8.3 seconds and a top speed of 237km/h. JaguarDrive Selector, an industry-first rotating gear control, operates the six-speed electronic ZF automatic transmission driving the rear wheels. A simple turn of the knob engages sport mode to sharpen throttle and transmission responses, while the Jaguar Sequential Shift System with discreet steering-wheel mounted paddles allows one-touch manual control.
What Car? chose the Jaguar XF as its 2008 Car of the Year, just one of many awards the XF has received. With prices starting at just HK$588,000, luxury has never been so affordable.