An Uncomfortable Truth: Jaguar XF 2.2d Premium Luxury

Your correspondent gets into a bit of a flap over ‘our’ Jag’s ride quality. Or lack thereof.

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Is it possible for one’s palate to remain untainted by daily servings of braised swan? It’s bound to have an effect over the long term – after all, too much of a good thing will skew anyone’s critical faculties. For instance it’s unlikely any mainstream motor journalist working today would place a premium on ride comfort above outright handling and roadholding, if only because there probably aren’t any old enough to remember when such qualities were not only valued, but were what set luxury cars apart from the mass-market hordes.

Leonard Setright, a motoring writer who appeared to know a great deal about a good many things once suggested it was unlikely anyone below the age of 42 could fully appreciate the true value of a luxury motor car. Like many of LJKS pronouncements, it’s something of a sweeping generalisation and frankly it was never clear just how far Setright’s tongue was in his cheek when he wrote it. But one can grasp the essential nub – it’s certainly arguable that a luxury car confers qualities better appreciated with age and experience.

A Jaguar can be deemed a luxury car but is it a quality car? This is a question worth asking, for at a time when Jaguar made cars of ‘quality‘, they tended to be assembled in a somewhat arbitrary manner with bought-in components more inferior than its breeding might have suggested, or indeed its owners might have hoped for. Today’s Jaguars on the other hand are considerably better wrought, but what they’ve gained in durability, practicality and finish, they seem to have lost in the more nebulous qualitative areas. Indeed, it’s quite easy for anyone below the age of 42 to grasp the value of an XF, largely because it isn’t really a ‘quality car’. It simply isn’t refined enough. Its diesel engine is uncooth, too much mechanical and road-excited noise is allowed to intrude into the cabin and worst of all, its ride just isn’t sufficiently supple.

In 2011, Car Magazine’s Ben Pullman, a motor reporter well short of his 40th birthday described the XF 2.2d as “brilliant to drive”, which is accurate up to a point. But this comes at a price. Pullman papers over the Jaguar’s “firm ride” in his report, saying; “we reckon the trade-off is worth it”. But the uncomfortable truth is that it isn’t. Because on every journey, every stretch of road you travel, you are constantly reminded of how over-firm its damping is. ‘Our’ XF rides on 17′ wheels and 235/55-series Pirelli P7 tyres, hardly low-profile by modern standards. Yet it rarely feels settled over urban pockmarks, only at motorway speeds does it begin to feel composed, Jag-like.

Today’s band of auto journalists live in a permanent track-day bubble, so I’m hardly surprised Pullman believes the XF’s trade-off between handling and roadholding over ride comfort is the correct one. How could he be expected to know better? About ten years ago, a decision was made to recalibrate the Jaguar marque both stylistically and dynamically. It was decided that as a sporting brand, Jaguar’s road behaviour should reflect this repositioning, the belief being that to take the fight to BMW, it was necessary to become more like them. Conquest sales could only be made by offering a seamless transition from Munich propeller to Coventry cat.

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Yet Jaguar’s dynamic legacy used to centre around a seamless combination of refinement and dynamic balance, largely the work of a series of gifted chassis and development engineers. Latterly, management appear content to dilute this link, upon whose coat-tails the XF and its brethren tug. For what? To attain parity with its rivals. Every contemporary report has praised Jaguar’s ride/handling balance, and by current industry standards, the XF’s ride quality is acceptable, assuming you’ve haven’t experienced Jaguar’s back catalogue. In my view however, it’s too firm, too unyielding. It also suffers from an excessive roll stiffness which can unsettle the car, especially mid-corner. Under the right conditions the XF is a fleet-footed and sure companion, but at other times its lack of compliance gets its dynamic and comfort imperatives into what can only be described as a twist.

The 2016 generation XF has been praised for its combination of handling and ride; journalist, Richard Bremner recently claiming Jaguar have regained the balance for which they were once famed. I’m not sure I’m necessarily buying that, largely because I no longer believe motor journalists hold the mental database to make those kind of comparisons. Their palates have become too jaded. After all, when everyone offers a variation of the same Nordschleife-honed experience, the nuances cease to matter. It all tastes like feathers.

Maybe I’m in the minority here, but I refuse to believe I’m the only (occasional or otherwise) XF driver who would happily trade some sharpness for a smidge more ride comfort. Surely that’s what you buy a luxury saloon for? For heaven’s sake, at least offer a ‘comfort pack’ as an option. The maddening part is how little would be required to provide an acceptable balance. Whoever signed it off needs to lay of the swan canapés for a while. Or perhaps just grow up.

Author: Eóin Doyle

Founding Editor. Content Provider.

10 thoughts on “An Uncomfortable Truth: Jaguar XF 2.2d Premium Luxury”

  1. You get at a quite obvious solution to the ride problem: Jaguar could sell a choice of suspensions and there should be no link to appearance. I don’t know how these cars are equipped, pardon my ignorance, but is an adjustable suspension an option? The car would need to have some appropriate wheels to allow for thicker or thinner tyres, of course.

  2. The ride of the F-Type I was lucky enough to enjoy a thrash in was appalling. I often wonder who these firm set ups are designed to satiate: Nürburgring hot lappers, perhaps? On a fast country road, a softer set up is far preferable as the car is less upset by challenging surfaces. Ford understands this, which is why their performance models are invariably slower on the track than rivals, but far superior on the road. BMW also used to understand this, before they became beholden to run flat tyres and lead dampers.

  3. I fully realise that the bubble of influence of DTW is slight and, in any case, because we are a self-professed Motoring Blog, we are generally preaching to the unconvertable.

    I tend to drive in two ways.

    One is when I’m on my own. Yesterday I drove across England in a Fiat panel van. None of the van’s shortcomings worry me at all – in fact they are a bonus, making for an amusingly visceral experience at relatively modest speeds. The ride was naturally atrocious, noise levels were high and grip less than the average hatchback. Yet once I got off the motorway onto winding Shropshire roads I was very happy, flinging it around damp corners, the suspension crashing noisily, whilst I sung along tunelessly to my CDs. But this is not how I’d behave with passengers.

    The other way is when I’m aware of my passengers. Then I notice most of the bumps and, although I can’t pretend that I entirely revert to more modest speeds, I try to protect my passengers from my own, or my car’s, less positive behaviours.

    My conclusion is that the message is ‘it doesn’t need to be like this’, but it’s no use addressing this to the 20″ wheel, Audi driving, self-styled petrolhead. We need to tell their spouses, friends, partners and children. We need to tell them to complain. ‘Daddy why is your car so nasty?’. Only then will manufacturers get the real world message that what they are building really isn’t acceptable. My Fiat panel van has an excuse for the way it is. A Jaguar (or Audi or BMW) doesn’t.

    1. Indeed you seem to enjoy a spirited drive, if it was your Cube that drove past me last night… Have they not implemented the 20mph limit on your road yet? 😉

    2. Laurent, is that what those numbers that they’ve painted on the road recently mean? I thought it was some sort of obscure graffiti. Anyway, I’m sure that would have been one of the many other Cubes that live in South-West London.

  4. I have to think about this. Expectations? Is that an element? For a while I drove a Ford Transit Connect. It had a laid back demeanour which made it, in a way, a lot nicer than many saloons I’ve driven. Yet no-one would mistake the Connect for a luxury car inside or out or to listen to.

  5. You are spot on there. The more hard as nails race cars (néé regular cars) these journalist drive the further removed they get from what comfort actually is. Since the goalposts have moved in terms of the relative difference in all the cars they test.

    My steed in Istanbul is a CVT gearboxed 1,6 petrol Toyota Corolla sedan. Supremely comfortable. It glides over everything yet it strangely corners without its door handles on the Tarmac. Perfect. Does it get rated by any magazine? No. One and all they are too blinkered to rate it as any good.

    The poor boss has an AMG Mercedes CLA 180 with a 1,5 litre Renault Diesel engine. What an awful car. Stone hard suspension that forces you to go no more than 10km/h over anything higher than a 10p piece. It also doesn’t lean in the corners strangely enough.

    Yes the Toyota has an exceptionally awful interior and the Mercedes an exceptionally nice one for the money. But come the end of a long day driving the 37km I do from construction site to apartment on an awful road, with many sections closer to a dirt track than the motorway it should be, there’s only one car for the job. The Toyota. You drive a constant speed over EVERTHING including the speed bumps outside the office. It just goes doef doef and you’re over them leaving the Mercedes behind going over each speed bump at 45 degrees scrapping its belly with a mere three passengers inside (without luggage!).

    As much as I hate The Appliance’s interior it’s the car’s supreme comfort that made it crawl under my skin. That and that its church quiet inside. Really a hugely underrated car.

    On my Yeti in London I kept the winter tyres on all of the last summer since I never had the time there to change them. Bliss. They are 16″ steel rims with balloon tyres over the low profile 17″ summer alloys. The winter tyres are so much more comfortable than the summers. They don’t handle so well in the corners of course but again: the comfort is miles better.

    Now if only the car companies can deliver this sort of comfort again. Sigh.

  6. The other night I was fortunate enough to enjoy a spirited stint behind the wheel of a friend’s XFR. Both dawdling and at pace, the ride of the big Jag was utterly imperious, its chassis negotiating speed humps and broken country lanes without either crashiness or sogginess. Whether the continuously variable electronic damping system made all the difference over Eóin’s long term lend, I could not say, but it was certainly one of the best ride/handling compromises I have experienced.

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