This month your correspondent gets himself in a lather over the XF’s styling.
I’ve always considered the XF to be a handsome car, even if I had assumed it was something of a stopgap design; a stepping stone from the failed nostalgia of the S-Type to something more aesthetically robust. But confronted with the knowledge it now embodies the true North of Jaguar saloon style has forced me to re-engage with the car’s appearance in a way I might otherwise have sidestepped.
You can learn a lot about the nuances of a car’s shape from getting the chamois out. I’ve washed the XF a number of times over the past few months and each time I glean a little more. A series 2 model, ‘our’ XF benefits from the remodelled headlamp units which replaced the slightly startled-looking originals in 2011. Based upon the well-regarded C-XF concept which preceded X250, (but was designed after it), the changes wrought to the car’s styling were minor, but sufficient to answer the criticisms levelled at Jaguar for allowing the original production car fall short of the concept’s allure.
One of those criticisms was that the roofline was too tall, losing the slammed, coupé-like appearance of the concept. What you discover however is that Jaguar’s stylists and engineers probably made the XF’s roof line as low as they dared while still allowing humans to reside within. As it is, rear headroom is tight, and even the less vertically endowed feel distinctly snug. In fact, the shallow rake of the rear screen would put several bona fide coupés to shame.
Since we’ve been talking about shutlines a good deal of late, I can report the XF’s are generally quite correct and well managed. Nevertheless, one which bothered me slightly was the join between the sill cover and rear quarter panel. I couldn’t understand why they placed the junction there, but washing the car the other day, I realised it harmonises with the rear bumper shutline, which does make sense. Odd how I hadn’t noticed that little detail before.
Over the years I’ve seen fit to satirise Ian Callum’s often pompous edicts about Jaguar’s disciplined lines and surfaces but to be fair, close inspection of the XF really does appear to bear him out. In fact there’s really only one visual bum note (albeit a pretty glaring one) and that’s the side vent treatment, for which the great Scot should rightly be ashamed. Worse than the incongruity of its appearance on an otherwise calm and simply adorned body side, the vent actually serves no practical purpose other than to look tacky and added-on. Apart from this, there is some lovely sculpture throughout the XF’s forms, particularly over the bonnet and the rear three quarters as the c-pillar merges into the rear wing.
The surfaces are very much a child of Jaguar’s post-millennial burst of Callum-led creativity, particularly the R-Coupé concept which lent itself to at least three production Jaguars. Callum’s detractors love to point out how the modern-era Jags bear no resemblance to their forebears, a state of affairs they seem to get very worked up about.
Upon closer examination however, this isn’t entirely borne out. In fact, references to older Jags abound. The nose contains shades of the early XJ’s, particularly the inset grille, the curvature over the headlamp units, and the pronounced power bulge. The manner in which the raised section of the bonnet flows into the scuttle and the defined shoulder line are reminiscent of the Mark 2, as is the side window graphic – in truncated form. The lack of adornment and relatively slab-sided appearance of the body is also something of a reference to the Sixties saloon icon.
Only the tail treatment lacks a little of the grace with which Lyons always managed to imbue his designs, especially the tail lamps which are too large. One observation worth making is that team Callum – (F-Type apart) – don’t have a terrific track record with derrières. After all, knowing how to end is equally as important as knowing where to start.
On the subject of endings, I’ll conclude by suggesting the XF has generally aged well and given the number on UK roads, it would appear that increasing numbers of motorists agree. This augurs well for its imminent replacement, a car which will need to remain contemporary and relevant into the next decade, which is asking a lot. One has to assume that Jaguar’s masters believe continuity is less risky than change. Perhaps they’re right, but handsome or no, it’s a hell of a risk.