Cat’s whiskers

Team OD  /
25 Jul 2013 13:59:40 IST

I stopped by a fortune teller a few days back. Our conversation went something like this:

Your heart rules your head."

Maybe."

You are very impulsive."

Maybe."

And so on. Then I left and soon forgot all about my encounter with the mysterious woman who seemed to know more about me than I did myself. Of course I didn't believe a word she said. It was not until I saw the Jaguar XF that I thought about my brief interlude with the lady seer. Maybe she was right. If I were using my head, I wouldn't be so excited about driving the Jag. After all, it was just another test car, at least that's what I kept telling myself. If I wasn't impulsive, I wouldn't have photographed the car with my mobile phone the moment I saw it in the parking lot. I fairly leaped into the driver's seat... and what a spin my first drive in the Jaguar proved to be. Big, expensive cars are business as usual at OVERDRIVE but I fear I'm gushing like a newbie, an intern. Heck, maybe I should book another sance with my fortune teller and pursue further what she sees in her crystal ball about me. Dare I say, I now believe every word she said then.

Though the XF was launched in India over a year ago, you rarely spot this cat out in the open, on the road. This can be attributed to the fact that so far the XF was only available with a 5-litre supercharged V8 petrol engine that shows an insatiable thirst for petrol, enough to pinch the pocketbooks of even the affluent. Whereas its German counterparts have a host of diesels on offer translating to large sales volumes, a lack of a diesel engine certainly hurt XF sales. Late though in the day, Jaguar has now responded, and how! The XF is now on offer with the most powerful diesel engine in the Jaguar stable, codenamed the AJ-V6D Gen III.

The twin turbocharged 60-degree V6 diesel mill produces 275PS of maximum power and a colossal 600Nm of torque which is on tap with manic fervour just above the idle mark. This engine feels very refined with turbo lag virtually absent and power delivery feels very linear all the way up from 1500rpm. The engine block is constructed from compact graphite iron which provides improved strength and hardness, allows a compact lightweight design and ensures increased noise absorption. The common-rail injection system uses high precision piezo injectors. Injector pressure is rated at 2000 bar and achieves up to five injections in each combustion cycle. This 3-litre engine is based on the outgoing 2.7-litre diesel engine and was introduced in 2009. It was built under collaboration of PSA Peugeot Citroen and Ford Motor Corporation and is assembled at a purpose-built facility at Ford's Diesel Business Centre at Dagenham, UK. It found its way into the XF in 2010, which was the last Jaguar to be developed under Ford's ownership. The electronically actuated parallel serial twin turbos function contrary to the twin blowers in its competitor, the BMW 530D engine. The two turbochargers vary in size and for usual driving, the larger variable geometry turbocharger (VGT) does all the hard work while the fixed smaller turbocharger lays dormant, saving energy and improving efficiency and reducing emissions. However, when the revs cross the 2,800rpm mark, the (smaller) turbo kicks in, providing additional boost to sustain acceleration. In the BMW mill, the smaller turbo does the running around at lower revs while the larger turbo sits back, waiting to provide cover when the revs hit the roof. I had a go in the 530d on the exact same stretch of the Mumbai-Pune expressway where I drove the XF and I drove it in the exact same manner. I must say that the Jag feels much more spirited than the 530d, and to add spice to the mix, the Jaguar engine is mated to an excellent 6-speed ZF automatic box with the shift program and paddleshifters behind the steering wheel making you feel more in control. Or should it be out of control?

All the above mentioned tech translates to stirring performance; 0-100kmph comes up in 7.49 seconds and an overall fuel efficiency of 9.3kmpl. Impressive numbers considering the size of the XF and the performance oriented engine. The XF can switch between the dual roles of a frugal luxury sedan and a manic performer at the drop of a hat. The XF also features a sports mode which lets you hold on the revs longer and makes acceleration a tad sharper.

In terms of handling, the two-stage Dynamic Stability Control (DSC) system is the XF's highlight. The DSC can be toggled by pressing the flag button with the chequered flag right below the rotary gear bezel. Stage 1 allows the XF's stability control to be partially switched off, leaving it with enough control if the driver's right foot becomes hyper active. Keeping the button pressed lets you switch off the traction control entirely and switching on TracDSC which unleashes the XF's evil side. The suspension layout on the XF is similar to the XK's (apart from the unique anti-roll bars, knuckles and bushings) which evidently signifies its sporty intent. Apart from the XK, the XF also shares major chassis components with XJ and also its forerunner, the S-Type. Unequal length wishbones with weight saving aluminium components make up the front suspension. At the rear there is a multi-link suspension set-up and both front and rear components are mounted on to subframes for enhanced stiffness and straight line stability.

The view and the feel from the driver's seat is very sportscar-ish owing to the rakish windshield and the high and relatively small rear windscreen appearing in your mirror which limits the rear view. The seats could have done with a bit more lateral support. Corner too hard and you might just end up on the shotgun seat or get plastered on to the door. The XF diesel interior is pinpoint identical to the XF petrol interiors. Quality wise the XF interiors leave nothing to complain about. It doesn't have the excessively sophisticated look of a BMW nor a dull looking Mercedes cabin. It's bristling with technology while appearing elegantly simple with a plush combination of leather, brushed aluminium and oakwood veneer. The touch screen interface can be a bit cumbersome to operate while driving but all audio and phone functions can be operated using buttons and the spring loaded switches on the steering wheel. No worries.

The XF attracts wistful glances everywhere. Even though it competes with the 5 Series and the E-Class, it doesn't come anywhere close to the existing design philosophy of this segment of cars. Whereas the 5 Series and the C-Class retain the typical executive three-box design, the XF is in a parallel universe where form takes precedence over function and creativity is at the forefront. Everything about the XF, the front, the side and the rear, looks distinct and beautiful. The huge chrome grille and the tastefully designed hood with more lines and contours on it than on an entire E-Class are difficult to take your eyes off. The low, coupe-like profile further complements the XF's sporty stance. The raked roofline means headroom is compromised for the rear passenger. The rear of the XF does bear a resemblance to Aston Martin cars. The car which came to mind when I looked at the XF was the Aston Martin Rapide, which is a good thing. This is one car you just won't be able to take your eyes off, no matter how long you've had it parked in your drive way. The XF, designed by Ian Callum, is the production version of the C-XF which was displayed at the Frankfurt motor show and was a radical departure from the traditional Jaguar lines created by William Lyon and Geoff Lawson. Callum has produced, as he puts it, something different from everything you have seen before" and called the face of the XF the face of jaguar for the next 10 years". Two years have passed already. The only distinguishing factor between the XF petrol and the diesel exterior is the 'S' badge on the boot of the diesel.

Honestly, I hate putting the XF through such technical scrutiny. Jaguars shouldn't require it. Some marques are allowed to get away with whatever they build just because of what they have contributed to the automotive world. The XF is a beautiful car with an equally potent engine and if I had the green, I'd buy the XF S at the drop of a hat. Jaguars are classics, in both the sports or traditional saloon form and the XF is no different. With its striking good looks, class leading power and decent fuel efficiency, it is worth the extra premium you pay over its rivals, not to forget the smile which naturally breaks on your lips every time you see it.

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