2012 Jaguar XF Introduction

The Jaguar XF is exactly what a sporting luxury sedan should be. The Jaguar XF is smooth, quiet, responsive and exceptionally powerful in all variants. Jaguar's rear-wheel-drive mid-size luxury car feels lighter and more agile than some of the other cars in its class, and it bears up like a top-rank sports sedan when driven aggressively.

The Jaguar XF introduced a fresh design theme for Jaguar when it was launched as a 2009 model. For 2012, Jaguar XF gets cosmetic updates inside and out. Bi-function, high-intensity discharge xenon headlights come standard on all 2012 Jaguar XF models, with new LED taillights and a couple of welcome functional changes inside. The four 2012 XF models now look a bit more distinct.

We like the XF best for its out-of-the-mold quality. It has fewer gadgets than do the Audi A6, BMW 5 Series or Mercedes E-Class, and perhaps less excess.

The XF's styling retains themes that have identified Jaguars for decades, but its overall impact is contemporary. The swooping roofline and side glass create the impression of a sleek two-door coupe more than a four-door sedan.

Slide into the driver's seat and an interactive greeting that Jaguar calls the handshake welcomes the driver, activating the dash vents, lifting the aluminum shift knob out of the console and reminding the operator that driving is an active process. The wood, wool and leather create the expected Jaguar feel, with the hint of an exclusive British club room, but the design is light, modern and airy. The XF interior is more minimalist than some competitors, but it's also more charming and makes familiarization easy.

The standard 5.0-liter V8 has variable valve timing, efficient direct fuel injection and a substantial 385 horsepower. It's the most powerful base engine in this class, with acceleration quicker than anyone really needs. The six-speed automatic is one of the most pleasing and effective transmissions on the market. The upgrade supercharged engines are thrilling, and the line-topping XFR is a true ultra-performance sedan, keeping pace with the likes of the Mercedes E63 AMG.

The 2012 Jaguar XF line offers one of the best equipped base models in this class, with GPS navigation and four years of scheduled maintenance included. It comes standard with the full, sophisticated range of active electronic safety systems. A review camera and a simple, effective blind-spot warning system are optional.

Those options are valuable, because the XF's coupe-like styling has its drawbacks. Visibility is a bit more constrained than it is in some sedans. And while there's plenty of rear space for passengers of average height, the flowing roofline and raked rear glass make the back seat feel more confining. On the upside, the XF trunk is larger than those in competitors, and an optional folding rear seat offers expanded capacity.

The Jaguar XF has some mildly annoying idiosyncrasies of its own, but after hundreds of miles of test driving, we'd rank it near the top of its class. It's a fantastically enjoyable drive, as dynamically capable as the best in class, but it's easier to get comfortable in than some its very complicated competitors.

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