2015 Jaguar XF 3.0 AWD Sport review

 

With the 2015 Jaguar XF 3.0 AWD Sport, looks are everything. That’s because, if you dig beneath the surface, you’ll find a 20-year-old car draped in supple “suedecloth.”

The current mid-size luxury sedan market in the U.S. is just downright old, save for the Lexus GS, which this year is entering its ‘terrible twos.’ The Audi A6 is old four years old, the BMW 5 Series is five years old, and the Mercedes-Benz E-Class (ignoring the 2014 refresh) is six.

Wait; it gets worse. The Jaguar XF is a staggering eight years old … but its bones are much, much older. Though the model itself might be just shy of a decade old, its chassis is from the 1998 Jaguar S-Type, which was designed around 20 years ago.

Now, I bring this up not to shame Jaguar, but rather quite the opposite. I bring it up to applaud the Brits, because, from a relatively primordial platform, they’ve created a very compelling luxury sport sedan that competently goes against the much younger — and advanced — competition.

Model slurry

For 2015, Jaguar has reshuffled the XF line a bit. Now there are eight different versions ranging from $51,175 to $99,000: 2.0T Premium, 3.0 Portfolio, 3.0 Sport, 3.0 AWD Portfolio, 3.0 AWD Sport, 5.0 Supercharged, XFR, and XFR-S.

This slurry of models might seem confusing, but Jaguar believes it has actually simplified things, as these models now include standard features that were once apart of certain feature packages. Before 2015, for example, the Portfolio was a package of options, rather than a standalone model.

Of all the XFs, Jag sent to me the 3.0 AWD Sport, which is powered by a 3.0-liter supercharged V6 that produces 340 horsepower and 332 pound-feet of torque. Like all ‘15 XFs, the 3.0 AWD Sport features an eight-speed automatic. In AWD form, power is routed to all four wheels through Jaguar’s “Instinctive All Wheel Drive.”

Driving

Though it rides on the Ford DEW98 platform shared with the last-gen Thunderbird and deceased Lincoln LS, the XF is, as one might hope from a Jag, quite the roadway performer. Granted, it doesn’t drive as crisply as the GS or the 5 Series, but it does amazingly match wits with the likes of the A6, which suffers from an equally squishy chassis.

By that I mean, while capable of a smooth ride, the XF suffers from extra body roll that its more modern challengers simply don’t. This, delightfully, is where the curse of its ancient lineage ends, because the rest of the drive is exceptional.

Just as in my beloved F-TYPE, the hydraulic power steering was well weighted, direct, and crisp. And the brakes were full of feel, but did suffer from uneven stoppage during fast, high-speed deceleration.

2015-Jaguar-XF-3.0-AWD-Sport-XF-rear-angle

My tester XF was powered by the V6, which, while not as enlivening as the V8-powered models, was nonetheless pleasant. It wasn’t fast, as freeway passing took more pedal pressing than other cars in its class, but it’s no slouch either; 0 to 60 is conquered in 6.1 seconds. I should mention V6 models without IAWD will do 0 to 60 in 0.4 fewer seconds, which might be an incentive to buyers who don’t need four-wheel traction.

The best part about the V6, though, was it the fuel economy it returned. The EPA estimates the XF 3.0 AWD Sport to achieve 17 mpg city and 27 highway. During my throttle-happy time with it, I averaged 20.3 mpg on premium fuel, which isn’t too bad at all, and exactly the estimated combined efficiency rating. While the engine is good, I suspect the fuel efficiencies are due in large part to the eight-speed automatic and the auto start/stop function.

I’d be remiss not to mention that, though “Sport” is in its name, the XF 3.0 AWD Sport is not very sporty, unlike the BMW 528i or the Lexus GS 350 F SPORT. The ride and performance are much more luxurious, refined, and smooth than sporty. Even when I clicked the automatically retracting shifter knob into Sport, I didn’t notice much of a dynamic difference.

Interior

Speaking of the retracting shifter, let’s talk about the interior. Like the driving, while some aspects of the cabin suffer from the old package, Jag designers make up for its misgivings very cleverly.

What’s the biggest downfall of an old car trying to do new tricks? Aside from tech, it’s space. Yes, I was able to carry four adults around, including six-foot-two-inch Peter Braun in the back seat, though; none of us was particularly comfortable during the outing.

But if the buyer isn’t too terribly bothered by a cramped cabin, he or she will be delighted with the accouterments Jag’s bolted to this old boy.

Ignore the small, 7.0-inch touchscreen infotainment display, which isn’t a far cry worse than Lexus’ or Infiniti’s offerings, and the XF cabin is a modern luxury space. With the push of the ignition button that flashes red like a beating heart, the knurled shifter rises from the center console, allowing the driver to select the desired gear with a satisfying click.

When the climate control is activated the air vents reveal themselves, as their aluminum-finished covers slowly and silently retract into the dash. It’s a bit silly, but it’s this sort of drama that sets the XF apart in the crowd.

2015 Jaguar XF 3.0 AWD Sport

The 3.0 AWD Sport models includes – as standard — heated front seats, steering wheel, and windshield, which proved very enjoyable in January in Oregon. I am sure, though, I’d be wishing for cooled seats to boot in spring and summer time, which is something most of the XF’s competitors offer.

Broadly, the fit and finish are exceptional, as are the bond-grain leather seats and “suedecloth” (Jag is inventing words now, apparently) accents, including the A pillars and headliner. These are very grownup and elegant extras that buyers will simply not find on, say, a comparably priced Bimmer.

Impression

When it’s all said and done, though surrounded by elder statesmen in its segment, I have to admit the XF is near the bottom of the pack in most every way. The XF isn’t as spacious as a Lexus. It’s not as tech savvy as an Audi. And it won’t drive as briskly as a Bimmer.

For the $61,165 asking price, though, the XF 3.0 AWD Sport does have one thing over its competition: appearance. Not only is the XF staggeringly gorgeous and aging with dignified grace (something the BMW and Lexus can’t claim), it’s also perceived as being more expensive than it is.

My friends and family – as well as onlookers – assumed, based upon its stunning exterior, the XF was a much more expensive car. Once they plopped down into the cabin and touched the supple suedecloth, they were convinced they were in the presence of an $80,000 sedan.

It was this impression that, well, made an impression upon me as well. I figure, when a buyer is spending upwards of 60 grand on a car, they want to feel like they’ve gotten their money’s worth. If the driver — as well as strangers on the street — thinks they have gotten more from the XF than they paid for it, then it has succeeded.

Highs

  • Premium exterior styling
  • Extremely quiet cabin
  • Interior materials and fit and finish
  • Quick acceleration
  • Predictable fuel efficiency

Lows

  • Dated chassis
  • Dated tech