Over the past couple of months I’ve skirted the peripheries of the XF, but now it’s time to address the core of the XF – its road behaviour.
Lets begin with a positive. For what can be described as a fairly mundane executive saloon, the Jaguar’s steering response is from the top drawer. In my experience I’ve only driven one other car fitted with a power-assisted rack (which wasn’t a Citroen) that had nicer steering than the XF. That was a Lotus Evora.
It’s the single outstanding facet of the XF’s road behaviour – the one parameter that moves it out of the conventional, elevating even the dreariest suburban trudge into the arena of the sublime. How to describe? Firstly, the leather lined wheel feels lovely in the hands, which sets a tone in tactile terms. The response to steering inputs is immediate, but not over-sharp or darty. It’s commendably light but with sufficient resistance to inspire confidence. We all know now that to ascribe the word ‘feel’ to any power assisted steering set-up is a nonsense, so we’ll make no claims for that here. But in terms of initial turn-in and response to control inputs, it’s lovely.
There’s a fluidity to the steering’s reactions, a wonderful elasticity to its responses that makes the XF so satisfyingly to drive – more so than any executive car I’ve spent time with. But more than anything, it’s the quality of the steering that impress most. As a driving characteristic one experiences every second you spend behind the wheel, few manufacturers take the trouble to reward the driver so richly. In this area at least, Jaguar’s chassis engineers deserve every word of praise that has come their way. For 2016, the new XF has adopted an electric PAS system, which is reputedly very good, but it’s impossible to imagine it being an improvement on this.
Lest this turn into an unalloyed hymn of praise, I’ll now turn to the subject of the XF’s brakes. Discs are fitted all round, and anti-lock is standard, as you’d expect. The Jaguar’s brakes are powerful, well balanced and will haul the heavy XF down from speed without drama, fade or untoward effect. Having said that, on occasion, the ABS kicks in a little over-zealously for my liking; on one occasion giving me a bit of a shock, as I really hadn’t considered their intervention necessary or desirable. Perhaps they come from the same supplier as the hopelessly over-dramatic parking sensors.
Another niggle with the brakes is their sensitivity. The XF’s brakes are normal servo-assisted jobs, Jaguar having abandoned their fully powered system mid-way into the XJ40’s career. In a similar manner to a neophyte experiencing the fully powered brakes fitted to Citroëns of yore for the first time, the XF’s brakes will stand the car on its nose if you plant your foot too enthusiastically. With experience I’ve developed a delicate touch, but nevertheless, bringing the car to a halt without an unseemly jerk is a hit and miss affair. Furthermore, the rear calipers clamp and unclamp the discs with an audible and unseemly groan.
Whether this should happen at all is a question worth asking, but I certainly don’t expect to have to hear it. It’s exactly the sort of NVH issue Jaguar had all but eliminated under the masterful direction of former engineering supremo, Bob Knight and his successors, so it’s very disappointing to discover these lessons appear to have been unlearned in the interim.
So there you are – from sublime to faintly ridiculous. Life with the XF does occasionally swing between extremes.