Big Cat Hunting

We welcome a fellow sufferer to the DTW branch of Kitty-Fanciers Anonymous. 

Image: The author.

My parents have always been baffled by my fascination with cars. The curse is not familial; neither parent has a fluid ounce of petrol in their veins. Dad preferred football to fast metal and never learned to drive. Mam passed her driving test in her thirties out of gritty necessity, her car ownership journey characterised by a series of grudgingly bought and traded-in Fiestas. 

I on the other hand absorbed everything automotive like an oversized Halfords sponge. A yearly highlight was a trip to the Daily Mail British Motorshow. The week long event coincided with my birthday, making a trip to the NEC a great present for a car mad youth. One of my most vivid memories is from the 1988 show; I was ten when Jaguar launched the XJ220 to a seemingly hysterical response.

Straining for a glimpse of polished silver aluminium through a crowd of bodies forty deep evidently made quite an impression on young me, as since that day a Jaguar has been a permanent fixture on The List of Cars I Want To Own. 

Jaguar XJ220 concept. (c) velocenews

Much as I have come to grudgingly admit that a date with Selma Hayeck is an unlikely prospect (Selma, if you’re a fan of Driven to Write, call me), the ownership of many cars on the list has become crushingly unlikely. A Jaguar, by contrast, has always been an attainable prospect. My main hurdle to ownership was simply to acquire sufficient age to nudge the cost of insurance from eye-watering to merely unpalatable.

And so it was, as I crested the summit of 40, I found myself on the hunt for big game. Yes, I was determined to finally bag that Jag.

***

Three models sat at the nexus of desire and affordability: the X350/8 XJ (also known as the last old man’s Jag), an X250 XF, or for an outside punt, an X150 XK. Engine size and fuelling was not a concern thanks to negligible yearly mileage. I was also prepared to spend reasonable money on a good car; a cheap Jag certainly will not stay so once every rotten sill has been welded and every rogue warning light extinguished. Far more important were age, condition, and vendor. Then it was a case of camping out on the classifieds and pouncing on any leaper that caught my eye. 

The hunt soon became a slog. A fully loaded 2010 XF Portfolio in Leamington Spa, a beauty on Autotrader, looked like it had deflected a shotgun blast on every panel. A dark green 2008 XK in Kirkby-in-Ashfield might have had 50k on the clock but the knackered interior screamed 100k+. A grey 2011 XF Prestige in Loughborough had three owners in the last two years. A rare low mileage 2008 XJ Daimler Super 8 was a Japanese import and came with no history at all.

Then Autotrader pinged something promising: a silver ’09 plate 3.0 TDV6 XF-S in Premium Luxury spec at a well-known car supermarket in Burton-Upon-Trent. At £9k it sat right at the top end of my budget, but with 49.5k on the clock and the promise of big dealer back up, it seemed worth a look. 

***

And so, on a damp and dismal February day, I found myself in the brewing capital of the UK soberly prodding a damp cat. Apart from an odd exterior nibble befitting its age, the XF was in good fettle. The interior was immaculate, the steering wheel exhibiting none of the dog-chew wear that blights leggier Jags. Everything button worked and the car was well specified, a highlight being heated AND cooled seats. Not that I needed cooling on such a miserable day.

Image: The author.

Time for a test drive. The engine turned over on the button and settled into a menacing tick over. To my ears at least, the JLR TDV6 is one of the better sounding diesels (hardly a great accolade, I know) and in this installation remained admirably muted in the cabin. Easing on to the mean streets of Burton, the lack of road noise was impressive; even the winter-pitted ruts of the A38 induced nary a bump-thump from the low profile tyres. Progress was smooth and hushed, just as it should be.

Once on the dual carriageway, I gave the salesman fair warning before flicking the minus paddle and forcefully adding peddle to carpet. 272 bhp might not be a huge number nowadays, but 443 lb/ft of smooth and linear torque gave a convincing recreation of a Saturn 5 rocket during launch. 

Jack be nimble, Jack be quick; Jack Flash sat on a candlestick. The salesman knew from my flushed capillaries that this Jack Flash would buy the car. Opting to forgo the dealer’s finance meant no movement on the asking price, but as a sop to my fragile ego, the salesman chucked in a full tank of diesel, six month’s tax (£160), plus six month’s warranty. And just like that, the deal was done.

***

Collecting my new toy the next weekend, interminable winter rain finally gave way to the first glimmer of spring sun. Long bonnet pointing south towards home, the XF adopted the easy lope of a big cat in its natural environment; the motorway miles passing swiftly, quietly and oh so comfortably.

Image: The author.

It might sound inane to you, dear reader, but with the XF on my drive for the first time, I don’t mind admitting to basking in the warm glow that comes with one of life’s small dreams achieved. I had bagged my big cat; it might not have been an XJ220, but ten year old me would have been pleased with 40 year old me. Hell, 40 year old me was pleased with 40 year old me.

So here we are, the first instalment of a new long term test. I will save detailed driving impressions and the nitty gritty of ownership for later instalments. Suffice to say, the tale of this kitty has a twist or two to share.

Long Term Test
Model: Jaguar XF-S 3.0 TDV6 Premium Luxury 
Age: 2009
Mileage: 49,500
MPG: 32.0

Author: chrisward1978

Professional pixel pugilist and word wrangler. Unprofessional pub snug raconteur.

30 thoughts on “Big Cat Hunting”

  1. Good morning, Chris, and congratulations on your new acquisition. I hope it proves to be a delight to drive and own and look forward to reading more about your experience with it.

    The X250 XF sold strongly because it was a beautiful and distinctive design that combined decent accommodation with a coupé-like profile. Its successor is pleasant enough looking, but in no way as distinctive. It is taking on the E-Class, 5 Series and A6 directly, and losing in a straight fight.

    1. My (and others’) suspicion that the current XF looks the way it does mostly due to marketing issues was confirmed a while ago. JLR management were hellbent on the current XF appealing to the fleet car business’, and therefore demanded a car more in keeping with that market’s (alleged) requirements than Chris’ X250. Obviously, that didn’t work out at all.

      More importantly though, I wish Chris the best of times munching miles with his new four-wheeled companion!

    2. Many thanks. I’ve had a drive in the new XF (a Sportbrake no less) and while it is pleasant enough, Jaguar have definitely eased the dial around towards “sporty”, with all the compromises to ride comfort that entails.

  2. I’d been dreaming of owning a Jag for years, finally taking the plunge almost two years ago on a 2005 X350 XJ6 petrol.

    For £5k, with 92k miles on the clock and all history/paperwork lost with only one key, it was a risky buy for me, but after checking out the car on a test drive I had to go for it.

    The interior is still immaculate, the exterior is tidy, and despite me putting over 20k miles extra on our it’s still absolutely solid. All I’ve had to fix was a throttle body sensor. Drives so much better than any BMW or Merc from the same era, and from recently driving a fully kitted 2017 S-Class, my old Jag easily holds up.

    It handles so well for a car its size it’s unreal. I know this car has a rep for being “an old man’s Jag”, but honestly I love the retro styling, and the performance it can belt out so effortlessly is thrilling. It’s smooth and refined when you want it to be, before turning into a snarling monster at the drop of a hat. Wanted one for so long, and definitely didn’t disappoint. Totally made a Jag enthusiast out of me.

    1. I have no problem with the X350 at all. Indeed, were I to have found a nice example before the XF, that could quite easily be on the drive now.

  3. Best of luck with the new purchase, Chris.

    I was also at that 1988 show, and remember the XJ220 making quite an impression, but I didn’t get the Jaguar bug as you did. I quite fancy a X350 though. I can forgive the somewhat ludicrous styling inside and out, partly because I am quite partial to gratuitous wooden decoration in a car cabin (maybe I am just in denial about my Jaguar affiliations?) and partly because it has always seemed the right size and proportions for me… big, but not too big, and with decent visibility and ergonomics.

    1. Cheers fella. The X358 has some really nice desaturated wood/leather interior combinations to offset the pipe and slippers image. Indeed, the X250 Portfolio has very nice dark wood inlays.

  4. A warm welcome to the cat scratch fever club, Chris! I have currently (in contemporary parlance) “furloughed” my membership (having greedily acquired a second Fintail Mercedes from the USA – who can resist a sound body?) but I just can’t stop myself from looking for the slinky beast that will lead me back into temptation.

    1. Peter – slightly off-topic, but I’d like to hear more about your M-B Fintail, one day. They’re one of the cars in my fantasy garage.

  5. A very nice car – and with the right engine! The new Ingenium 4 cylinders are a bit of a let down for many Jaguar fans, but the Ford/Peugeot-sourced V6s were a very refined power source fit for a luxury car. Too bad they had to be discontinued due to carbon-quotas (not sure the newer ones will be as environmentally friendly as claimed). Their only weakness is the crankshaft, which doesn’t tolerates torque-spikes well, but that’s mainly an issue on Land Rovers, as they must endure higher loads, especially when the owners go off-roading or tows heavy weight – rarely fails on Jags, they are surprisingly hassle-free. Hope yours will be too.

    1. Yes, I did my research on the various engines and while the TDV6 has it’s faults, they’re easy to spot. But yes, it’s a ruddy dirty brute, hence the huge tax it attracts.

  6. Enjoy your car as long as it’s permitted.
    A modern diesel is the equivalent to stress free seven mile boots with its steam engine torque and low rev levels.

    1. Thank you. With the auto box and loungelike interior, the XF TDV6 really is so easy to drive at pace. A bit too easy, in fact. I quite often find myself cresting the Ton Up Club without thinking.

  7. Many congratulations on your new car, Chris. I think it looks particularly good in silver and like the way the colour contrasts with the chrome around the windows and the wheels. Lovely interior, too.

    To celebrate, here’s Ian Callum talking about its design.

    1. Ah you are too kind. The all silver scheme really did appeal to me. I notice Callum doesn’t talk about the botch he made of the headlights…

    2. Hi Chris. Looking properly at the photo of your car above, the XF’s original headlamps are beginning to grow on me. Granted, they were rather a surprise after the C-XF concept, but I don’t think they’re awful and I like the way the headlamp washer is incorporated into the overall shape.

    3. I must admit that I had almost forgotten about this car and it’s a bit of an eye-opener to reassess it. It’s very nice and has matured nicely – a true jaguar trait, funnily enough.

  8. Excellent background story and subsequent review, Chris, thank you for sharing. I’ve always had a soft spot for this Jag but never found the reasoning like you did, so good on you.

    As for Salma Hayek, the last time she was round (before Lockdown) I had to tell her to go home, harping on about Tesla until two am…shocking for a school night

  9. I’m afraid I am more on the old man’s car side, but as others did in the comments, on the wake of your purchase I am now stylistically reconsidering the newer Jaguars.
    My warmest wishes for a long and happy relationship with the XF; good that you chose the 3.0, much better overall and powerful than the 2.7.

    1. Thank you. It is a shame the car launched with a preponderance of mahogany. An open pore light wood would have made all the difference.

  10. Congratulations on a very nice cat!

    Just make sure to change the oil regularly, as all diesel engines suffer from oil dilution especially if a) DPF equipped, and b) not driven over long distances. If it would be mine, i would shorten the oil service interval to maybe half the manufacturer’s recommendation. Apart from that, consider having a gearbox service (fluid and pan/filter) performed within the next 10K, using the manufacturer’s specified ZF Lifeguardfluid 6 ATF

    1. You are most kind. Servicing has been entrusted to a local Jaguar specialist well versed in such things. Not necessarily cheaper, but much better.

  11. That generation of XF is every inch a Jaguar with a 6 or 8 cylinder engine; all the V6 diesels are impressively refined (I think they sound great) and in 3.0 S form like yours they give the car very Jaguar like pace.

    I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that awful 2.2d engine ruins the car. I read someone elses take on it and it sums up my experience complately:

    “The big problem with it was the total inability of the drivetrain to deliver a luxury experience. Constant gear changing, low end diesel vibration and a very narrow powerband meant it simply couldn’t “waft”. It tended to spend most of its time vibrating, running out of puff and then changing to a lower gear before going back to the previous gear, surging or grumbling. All of which it would do in the space of a few metres.

    On a long distance run at 70mph, you were constantly flipping from 8th to 7th. You could lock it in 7th and that would calm it down, but then the engine would be ticking over at 1500rpm and the car had a constant subtle vibration.

    It worked best when being thrashed, at which point it was quick, punchy and much smoother. I sense it probably felt very acceptable during testing while being thrashed around the MIRA test track or that pile of dangerous shite, the Nurburgring, but it just didn’t work in the real world.

    Plus the 2.2 engine sounds horrible”

    The current gen XF X260 is a nice enough car but looks and feels utterly generic with it’s forgettable looks droning four pot engines. A supercharged V6 S may redeem it a little, but the car is such an also ran in every single way; I can’t think what they were hoping to achieve beyond squandering the momentum and goodwill they had gathered from the X250. What on earth is the point in a Jaguar that doesn’t look good.

    1. I don’t mind the looks of the X260 and in Sportbrake form it’s positively handsome, but I take your general point, it’s not a car to pluck at the heart strings. I’ve driven an X260 240 petrol and it was nice enough, but I couldn’t think of any particular reason why anyone would desire one over a new E-Class, which has a far better interior.

    2. Same opinion, the 2.2 HDi is meant to be used as a van engine and in off-roaders (they also provide it for French military vehicles). Peugeot ported it over to cars because it had excellent low-rev torque and taxi drivers preferred it for all-day use, but otherwise it’s certainly not fit for a modern car, let alone a modern luxury car.

  12. Congratulations Chris! That is a stunningly gorgeous car and it seems you got an amazing bargain. I envy the choice of cars available in the UK on the used-car market, and their specs are often much higher than those in Ireland. My €15,000 got me a 6 year old 140bhp Tiguan two years ago. (I’m open to a straight swap with you…No? didn’t think so 😟)

    Enjoy every mile and minute in your dream car. I look forward to hearing updates.

    1. Thank you. There are many cheaper XFs in the UK, especially around the £7k mark, but I wanted something with good provenance and big dealer backup.

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