2014 Jaguar XF Walk Around

Jaguar XF's exterior styling is carried over virtually unchanged from the refreshed 2012 model. All Jaguar XFs use quintessentially British wire mesh grille work, but the finish and shapes below the bumper vary with the model. The Jaguar XFR has black mesh and larger openings below the bumper. The Jaguar XF Supercharged hood is fitted with louvers featuring Supercharged script.

The bi-function HID xenon headlights are slim and compact but still incredibly bright, and bordered with LED running lights in Jaguar's signature J-Blade shape. The tail lights use LED elements exclusively, which extend onto the trunk lid.

The body is defined by a single, uninterrupted line flowing from the front bumper to the rear edge of the trunk lid. The beltline, or that character-building crease below the side windows, rises up into the roof while the roof drops down toward the beltline. The effect is a forward-biased wedge shape that creates an impression of speed, even when the XF is at rest. The rear deck is higher than that of any previous Jaguar sedan, but this less-formal look pays dividends in excellent aerodynamics and an expansive trunk.

The basic shape does more than create a high-impact presence. Aerodynamically, the XF is very efficient, with an impressive 0.29 drag coefficient and a front-to-rear aerodynamic lift balance of zero. That means neither end of the car is more inclined than the other to lift in the airflow as speeds increase. The excellent aerodynamics keep the XF stable at high speeds and reduce wind noise inside.

We parked an XF next to a contemporary BMW 5 Series and were startled by what we saw. The Jaguar and BMW are very nearly the same size. The 5 Series is nothing if not handsome. Yet next to the BMW, the Jaguar seemed not merely larger but somehow grander, more chic. The XF doesn't merely look fine; it makes an impression, requiring you to take it seriously. Some of this impression may be caused by the XF's relative rarity compared with the ubiquitous 5 Series. But bolstered by Jaguar's recent extremely high quality and reliability ratings, the XF is more than a nice-looking car. It has about it that intangible element, dignity. Even the most-affordable XF model has it. In spades.

Interior

Jaguar interiors have always had a nice feel, with beautiful leather seating and ample wood inlays to make the point. The contemporary Jaguar XF interior continues this tradition, but it is somewhat less formal and more straightforward.

Our Jaguar XF had handsome Figured Ebony veneer, one of several veneer choices. But the dominant theme on the dashboard was a broad expanse of scored aluminum running from door panel around the dash to door panel, bright and handsomely adorned with instrumentation.

Slide into the XF with the proximity key in purse or pocket, and the Start button glows, ready to be pushed. Press it, and the vents rotate in the dash, exposing the registers. The gear selector is a big, aluminum dial-knob that rises from the center console when the engine fires up. It's unique, nicer than the drive-by-wire shifters other luxury manufactures have developed, and more functional. Jaguar claims this electronic selector will keep working even if it's drenched with a half-gallon of coffee.

In front of the driver is an analog speedometer and tachometer, with a digital display in between with trip mileage, fuel range, miles per gallon, average speed and a digital speedo. Above this is an analog clock, a linear bar fuel gauge, and at the top, a linear gear indicator, activated when the paddle-shifters are used. When the paddles are not used, a generic fully automatic PRNDS transmission indicator is displayed.

The center stack's premier element is a touch-screen monitor, which controls audio, navigation, phone and climate controls. We find Jaguar's interface not as intuitive as we'd like, and certain functions, like adding an address or modifying a destination, take far too many steps (for example, one has to hit the Home button to switch functions, instead of going straight to, say, audio controls). Also, forget about smartphone integration with apps like Facebook and Twitter, streaming Internet audio. For that, you'll have to go to BMW or another more tech-savvy brand.

The center console's main feature is a pop-up knob aluminum transmission shifter, which retracts flush with the console surface when the engine is not running. To the rear of this knob are buttons for Winter Mode, Stability Control/Off and automatic speed control, the latter protecting against the natural impulse to gradually drive faster and faster on long trips. The Jaguar switchgear are of high quality and reassuring tactile strength throughout.

One Jaguar XF we tested had soft-grain black-leather heated-and-cooled seats with 16-way adjustment for the driver and 12-way adjustment for the front passenger. With contrasting white stitching, they were handsome and blessed with the wonderful aroma of good leather. They also had good lumbar and side-bolster adjustment, allowing an extremely personal fitment for either performance driving or long-distance cruising.

Outward visibility is less than average, due in part to the sexy exterior design and roofline. The rear glass is expansive, but it's raked at a long, flat, coupe-like angle, so the view through the rearview mirror is short. For this reason, we recommend opting for the rearview camera (and navigation system).

The available 380-Watt Meridian sound system performed admirably, with no distortion when played louder than human tolerance.

The Jaguar steering wheel has the usual remotes for adjusting cruise control and audio, but they are thumbwheels placed flat in the spokes of the wheel, not protruding from its edges where they can be accidentally brushed during maneuvering. And in the lower center of the wheel is an iconic, wonderfully Mayan Jaguar's head, the growler, watching your every move. Nice.

Cubby storage in the XF is decent as luxury cars go, but not as complete as some mainstream sedans and family vehicles. The center console is wide, almost as we'd expect in a big sports car. Touch-release covers reveal easy-to-reach cupholders. Bins at the bottoms of the doors aren't very deep, but they're wide enough to lay a phone flat and lined with a soft material that keeps glasses and other delicate items from sliding or scratching. The main bin in the center console isn't large enough to hide a standard-size laptop, but there's plenty of room for cameras or a lot of CDs. There's also an easy-access power point and iPod/auxiliary jacks, with a secure place to leave the plugged-in MP3 player while driving.

The XF's rear-seat accommodations fall short of those of the competition. The rear seat itself is comfortable, with decent side bolstering for the outside passengers, using the same fine materials as in front. Yet the rear space seems more confining than the roomiest cars in this class, regardless of what the published measurements suggest. Rear passengers up to 5 feet, 8 inches will find plenty of space, but taller riders might get squeezed on leg and headroom. The back seat also has fewer amenities then some competitors. There's a power point and two adjustable vents on the back of the center console, but no temperature control or fan. Storage options are limited to the fold-out pockets on the front seatbacks (good), and small bins at the bottom of the rear doors (bad). Cupholders are provided in the fold-down armrest, but they're not very deep or very good at holding cups.

The XF trunk is among the largest in class, however. With 17.7 cubic feet of space, it's bigger than the trunk in some full-size luxury sedans, and it's lined with carpet that's richer than that used inside some cars. To add more cargo capacity, the XF is available with a split, folding rear seat, which expands cargo space to a total of 32.5 cubic feet, making this a great getaway car for a couple. However, loading large items could take some work because the trunk lid is fairly short and the trunk opening is fairly small. So although there's a lot of cargo space, the XF's design is better for multiple, small items than for large, bulky items.

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