Hooked on a feline
The Jaguar XF comes in several guises and engine sizes, and now there's a three-litre V-6 'Sport' model available in Hong Kong to complement this already sporty series. The Sport, which arrived last month, gives the XF slightly larger wheels, at 19 inches, and the bucket seats used in the racy XFR.
Even though the XF series is not as plush or powerful as Jaguar's flagship XJ, it's not exactly the bigger car's poor cousin, and has many of the same classy design features. Call it the XJ's little brother; there's no doubt from the first glance that they are from the same stable.
Jaguar designer Ian Callum, who conceived the new-generation Jaguars before Ford sold the marque to Tata of India, says his aim was to retain the stable's 'British understatement' but bring it into the new century. Pure surfaces with elements of sculpture, which combine to make a car beautiful to look at, are what he sees as the mark of a Jaguar.
These perceptions form the basis of the new XF's long, wedge-shaped body, which, although much larger in scale, still manages to evoke the 1970s E-Type Jaguar. It is a simple and yet elegantly aerodynamic shape.
Sculpted elements include the curve-lined, swept back headlamps, a prominent design feature shared with the XJ, and the smooth, elevated ridge at the centre of the bonnet.
The XF's look is gentler and more instantly attractive than the XJ, which at first glance seems to be a bit too supersized. One interesting design contrast is the 'cat's claw' tail lights. While the XJ's lights flow vertically, the XF's 'scratched' rear lights course horizontally for a more conventional appearance. The guppy mouth mesh grille is there but smaller on the XF.
The test car was a Polaris white XF 3.0 Sport Black Pack. While the Sport's wheels are already an inch bigger than the rest of the series, the Black Pack option pumps them up to 20 inches. The Black Pack option costs another HK$50,000 and basically pays for a more dramatic visual impact. Apart from the bigger wheels, the rest is the cosmetic touches of a gloss black grille and black sills around the windows.
Inside, the XF's cabin features plenty of soft leather and wood, much as you would expect from Jaguar. But these traditional touches are married to an array of impressive hi-tech features for a thoroughly modern take on the classic Jaguar.
Callum injected fun into the cabin that begins with the glowing red electronic start button and cool blue backlighting on the central console, instrument panel and doors. Press the keyless starter and the cylindrical gear shift - or JaguarDrive Selector - rises from the console, and the previously concealed air con vents roll gently open. It's a playful touch that would leave James Bond impressed.
Other novel touches include touch-sensitive lights and glove compartment that just need a flick of the finger to activate.
In the central console, a UBS port and connector for iPod and iPhone hooks up to the top-notch, eight-speaker Bowers & Wilkins sound system. The quality is enough to please music lovers of any age and may help Jaguar appeal to younger drivers, which is one of its aims.
Another attraction to younger drivers might be the price; the XF Luxury can be bought for a relatively painless HK$578,000, which is much cheaper than many comparable sports saloons.
The buckets seats in the sport are a bit narrow, and tended to pinch the back. You don't have to be built like a rugby player to feel this.
On the road, the six-speed automatic transmission is deceptively light on the uptake, but the XF rapidly gathers pace and remains effortless to control. For the driving fun of a manual motor, it also has wheel-mounted paddle shifters.
It holds like a dream around sharp corners on country roads but needs to be taken for a run on the highway to get the most out of it.
It's on the open road where you can really feel the V-8 engine's stealth. You're not going to get the best out of it on Hong Kong's roads, but you will get a taste with four lanes to play in. Once it's gained pace, the only thing stopping it is the 100km/h signs.
Overtaking is a breeze; it's nimble and graceful, and you feel the XF is finally, however fleetingly, in its comfort zone. The car is capable of going from zero to 100km/h in 8.3 seconds, which is not up there with the best, but it's top speed of 237km/h is impressive and unlikely to be put to the test.
The Sport is a welcome addition to the quickly-evolving XF series.
Jaguar XF 3.0 V-6
What drives it? A three-litre V-6 engine pushing out 236bhp and 293Nm or torque. This is coupled with a six-speed automatic gear box but also manual paddle shifters.
How fast is it? Accelerates from zero to 100km/h in 8.3 seconds with a top speed of 237km/h.
How safe is it? Features eight airbags, rear-parking aid through the seven-inch touchscreen and a pedestrian contact sensing system.
How thirsty is it? Consumes 10.5 litres of fuel per 100 kilometres in combined urban and highway driving.
How clean is it? Emits 249 grams of carbon dioxide per kilometre.
Available: From HK$578,000 for the XF Luxury model to HK$658,000 for the Sport. Prices are inclusive of first registration tax. Jaguar Hong Kong, tel: 25200989