Jag no longer for the pompous

2011-10-07 09:21

Jaguar’s XF range has just gone under the knife for a mid-life facelift. And in a flurry of helicopters and hype, I got to know the refreshed models a little better.

Besides the facelift which has given the XF a much more menacing and seductive face, the main topic of the event was the introduction of its new 2.2-litre turbo diesel engine, which is now available as the entry-level model.

From the get-go I have to say how far the world has come with diesel technology. The old-fashioned (and dreadful) “oil-burners” of yesteryear have given way to superiorly clean, powerful and quiet power plants. This new one produces 140kW of power and a mammoth 450Nm of torque – figures like these were unthinkable from such a car five years ago.

Coupled to that the engine’s smoothness, refinement and general cleanliness – there’s no such thing as a trail of sooty smoke behind this car.

The engine drives the rear wheels through a smooth eight-speed ZF gearbox which feels like silk. And with its sport mode with manual override, steering wheel-mounted shift paddles and stop-start technology, this is a diesel you can really have fun with.

The facelift is quite substantial especially at the front of the car, which now looks almost identical to the larger XJ, and that’s by no means a bad thing. The cheeky headlights feature unique “J-Blade” LED daytime running lights which add even more aggression.

The rear receives slightly fewer changes, with simple additions made to the LED tail lights and a cleaner, less-fussy boot lid. The inside has been tweaked slightly too, and if I had to choose one word to describe it, I would use “sumptuous”. Acres of real wood, leather and metals just make you say “aaaah” when you climb in.

When you hear “Jaguar”, you usually think of old men and half a maple tree for a dashboard. But you really need to take a second look at that pouncing feline, and all that the name encompasses. Yes, the wood is still there along with the leather, but it’s not overdone.

It’s fresh, modern and exciting. Like the way the air vents swivel in and out of the dashboard, and the aluminium gear knob rises from the centre console like a nuclear missile activator. Or the way the sound system cossets your ears with perfect acoustics.

Or the way you can hurtle towards the horizon at ludicrous speeds, while still being able to whisper your conversation to your passenger, and still hear the indicator tick.

Of course, all this brilliance has to be attributed to the brand’s new owners, the Tata Group, who, a few years ago, injected the dying British brand with an immense amount of money. Because clearly this expertise and fresh thinking just needed some backing and boy, are we all reaping the rewards.

A Jag is no longer just a retirement acquisition for the former CEO. Sure, those and other Jaguar stereotypes might still be a huge portion of the company’s market but with products like the XF, they sure are attracting a new group of buyers to their dealer floors – those who blindly buy a BMW for its build quality, or a  Mercedes-Benz for its comfort.

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