Big Cat Hunting (Part 3)

Chris Ward’s cat develops a limp. 

All images: The author

Ponk-ponk-ponk-ponk-ponk-ponk. The electric glovebox release rapid-fired, a tiny machine gun waging war on my sanity. This time, instead of slamming it shut, I left the lid lolling open like a yokel’s mouth.

Yet the tiny machine gun in the dashboard kept firing. Ponk. Ponk-ponk-ponk-ponk-ponk-ponk.

The Jaguar XF had been in my ownership for all of two months when the fault first manifested. Initially the glovebox would refuse to open, or sometimes I would find the glovebox open first thing in the morning. Then it took to dropping randomly whilst on the move, rarely at first, then with increasing frequency until it occurred multiple times every journey. The dealer diagnosed a faulty switch, necessitating a whole new glovebox assembly, including the lid. But now, a month later, the fix clearly had not worked. If anything, it was getting worse.

Ponk. Ponk-ponk. Ponk.

Finally home, I pulled the XF on to the drive and engaged the parking brake. Groannnnn. And then, bong: ELECTRONIC PARKING BRAKE FAULT flashed up in orange on the dashboard.

That was it: my last ounce of patience had gone. The XF was pushing me to my own Basil Fawlty moment and if it wasn’t careful, I was going to give it a damn good thrashing.

The very next day I was back at the dealer going through an all too familiar ritual: here are my keys, show me yours. Once again I resigned myself to suffering the indignity of their Fiat 500 curtesy car, a vehicle barely able to summon the wherewithal to surmount the curvature of the Earth. Although not much better than walking, the Fiat at least had a glovebox that stayed shut and a handbrake capable of holding the car on a hill.

Three days later, the cause of the XF’s plight had still not been diagnosed. Would I mind keeping the Fiat while the XF went to the Jaguar main dealer at Derby? Go right ahead, I said. Well, what else could I say, apart from ARRRRRRGGGGH?

Clearly something far more serious was afoot with the XF than could be fixed by a new glovebox catch.

In truth, I had an inkling and it was not good. Whilst one should always be wary of the opinions of idiots on the internet, dear reader, owner’s forums are troves of information on common faults. Surveying the many, many despairing posts on a couple of Jaguar trauma clinics– I mean owner’s forums, two causes of random electrical faults in XFs jumped out. Firstly, a battery with declining output can addle the Jag’s electronic brain, throwing up errors. A volt meter confirmed that the newish looking battery was indeed pumping on all cathodes.

The second possible cause was altogether less palatable. A seal at the bottom of the windscreen washer pump could fail, leading to fluid being driven along the wiring and – would you believe it? – straight into a junction box, thoroughly buggering the car’s central nervous system. A cat adverse to water, whodathunkit? I was fully prepared to believe this postulation, given the glovebox’s propensity for popping upon pulling the windscreen washer stalk.

A week later, a signal emerged from the embattled Jaguar compound. The random denizens of the internet were correct, the main junction box had indeed been destroyed by fluid ingress (the same complaint as my liver). If that sounds awfully expensive, it is, to the tune of a cool grand – not mine to pay, praise be to the dealer warranty Gods.

Once diagnosed, the XF languished in the big cat enclosure at Derby Jaguar for a further two weeks, the first waiting for a new main junction box, the second rewiring the car. All said and done, four weeks is a long time to contemplate the irony of buying an ultra-lux Jag only to be saddled with an economy Fiat. I was thus more than happy to hand back the keys to the courtesy car and receive my own in return.

The Jaguar settled back into the easy rhythm of commuting. The glovebox stayed shut, the parking brake worked. Or at least they did for the best part of a week.

And then?

Ponk-ponk-ponk-ponk-ponk-ponk. Ponk.

Clearly the XF had not been fixed and my confidence that it ever could be evaporated. A notice of intention to return the XF was submitted to the dealership manager that afternoon. Within a fortnight, head office offered me a full refund. I actually felt bad for them; the dealership had moved heaven and earth to put things right. But after a total of six weeks at the vets and nursing a still broken big cat, I could take no more.

And so, a mere five months after taking ownership, the XF and I made our final journey back to the Burton dealership. Goodbye Jag. Of course, the glovebox did not drop once the entire journey.

Don’t look back in anger. Image: The author

So that was that. Now, with a year’s hindsight (doesn’t time fly in a global pandemic?), I regard my not-so-long-term test positively. Exasperating and deeply flawed my particular example may have been, but in 3 litre diesel guise the X250 XF offers the three Jaguar tenets of space, pace and grace in spades. Indeed, my most abiding memory was the civility with which it could despatch great distances at great velocity, in absolute comfort and in near silence. Not only that, everything felt RIGHT inside it, not just in terms of the major controls or the way it went down a road, but also in the serenity it fostered. Well, when the bloody car worked anyway.

The thing that galled me most about my experience wasn’t the inconvenience or the PTSD. No, what REALLY stuck in my craw was that, damn it, the naysayers were right. When I bought the Jag, people split into two camps: those who understood the dream, and those who suspected I had taken leave of my sanity. The latter camp was by far the larger. Why couldn’t I buy a sensible car, they said? Something newer with a long warranty and containable running costs? That the XF proved to be a rolling shitshow only confirmed their narrow worldview.

And yes, I can see their point now; my childhood dream of owning a Jaguar was a foolish one. Innocence dies on the altar of experience, and now I understand the safety of conformity, the comfort in compromise. Play it safe and you can never lose.

And then I thought, nah, sod that. I would rather stubbornly cling to a child’s foolish dream than trade it for a heart made of cold adult pragmatism. And so with that in mind, the very next weekend after returning the XF, I went out and I did it again.

Yes, dear reader, I bought ANOTHER Jag.

jaguar-xe
The author

2009 Jaguar XF-S 3.0 TDV6 Premium Luxury
Months owned: 5
Miles: 2100
MPG: 28.5
Costs: My sanity

Test concluded.

Author: chrisward1978

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

50 thoughts on “Big Cat Hunting (Part 3)”

  1. Childhood dream of owning a Jag?
    I had the same dream, and when a twenty year old, fifteen owner XJ-8 with no service history or MOT showed up on my radar for the princely sum of £300 – my dreams came true. I drove it 120 miles to a pre-booked MOT near my home where it failed on just two front tyres!
    Three years I enjoyed that lovely old motor. I sold it with a full ticket on the very day that the tester told me not to bring it back the following year.

  2. “the very next weekend after returning the XF, I went out and I did it again.
    Yes, dear reader, I bought ANOTHER Jag.”

    As our good quote maker Confucius once said – Our greatest glory is not in never falling but in rising every time we fall

  3. Chris, you clearly have more common sense than me. Better luck this time with the new car (and XE, no?)

  4. … a very amusingly written piece, by the way, had me chuckling, particularly at the near-Basil Fawlty moments.

    1. “There is nothing like British car ownership…”

      I own a 2004 Toyota Avensis. Built in Britain. To me it is a British car. Currently the Odometer reads 340.000 Km.

      In 12 years and 270.000 Km oh ownership (I bought used) I have spent a total sum of 300€ in one breakdow (the heating air blower ceased to work). Repaired at the Toyota dealer.

      The problem is NOT “british cars”.

      It seems to be british marques.

  5. Chapeau, Chris, you have my respect and admiration for plunging into the shark pool again, despite your previous ordeal. I look forward to future reports and hope the new one (in a great colour, incidentally!) is much better behaved.

    I occasionally look admiringly at an F-Type convertible and wonder if I should have persisted with mine for more than two months. I know she was all wrong for me, but, god, she was beautiful!

  6. “a vehicle barely able to summon the wherewithal to surmount the curvature of the Earth.”

    Just brilliant, made me laugh out loud!

  7. What a great story. I laughed out loud a number if times whilst reading it. Thank you for brightening the start of another day in lockdown!

  8. “Yes, dear reader, I bought ANOTHER Jag.”

    Ponk-ponk-ponk-ponk (this is “congratulations for your purchase, Chris!” in Konkani or some other obscure language).

  9. “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results.” [Attributed to Albert Einstein, who … never said it]

    1. You should never apply that definition to car buyers as most of them, in my experience, are pretty close to bonkers!

  10. I’m sorry it didn’t work out, Chris, and I hope this one will be better – that red is lovely.

    I must say that I think that I would have done what you did and get rid of it – it all becomes too wearing, otherwise, and one loses one’s faith in the car. It’s great that you decided not to give up on your dream, though, and I’d be interested to know what made you choose the red Jaguar.

    As others have said, a beautifully written piece. It brought to mind George Bishop of Car Magazine – I hope your luck is better than his was. I look forward to the next instalment.

    1. Agree about the GB comment; I nearly wrote that myself but thought people might find it a bit predictable coming from me.

    2. I wouldn’t worry, S.V. – I don’t think anyone would think you were being predictable.

      Re GB, I took a train home from work one evening and began reading Car Magazine and GB’s column. He made me laugh out loud in a crowded carriage – really embarrassing, which made me laugh even more.

    3. High praise indeed and I thank you for it. I’ve always had a soft spot for red cars, but this was more a pragmatic choice. Hopefully I will get the chance to write about it soon.

  11. Ponks, Confucius, Fawlty Towers and two Jags – DTW and the folk who dwell here make this such a wonderful journey.
    Chris, a salute from me for a lovely read. Best o’ luck with the red ‘un!

  12. Congratulations on the new attempt.
    We come into the world with nothing and we leave with nothing. In between is called life. It’s there to live dreams, no matter what the cost in nerves. Just don’t let it get you down.
    If you wanted it easy, you would get a dog, not a cat.

    1. Good advice indeed. It is very easy to pass through this life without ever feeling you have touched the sides. Why not chance it, especially when the stakes are so low?

  13. At the risk of sounding like a scratched record, but this is a typical own goal of the modern motor. The bodies are generally solid and watertight, the engines can go on for ever, but ownership is ruined by wholly unnecessary fripperies. The car had a whole new glovebox assembly on account of switch. Why does a glovebox lid need a switch? Because opening a glovebox manually is so hard? Really? Do they also fit a glove removing machine for the owner’s hands, for if they cannot summon the energy to open the glove box how can they have the strength to remove their gloves?
    Next, the electronic handbrake goes on strike. Obviously this is required because hands that can’t open gloveboxes or remove gloves must be sufficiently spavined (thank you, LJKS, for that one) to render operation of a handbrake lever impossible. Luckily, despite being older than either, I can still muster the force needed for the handbrakes in my Morris Minor (1970) and Mercedes (1967), both of which continue to work perfectly. Schlimmbesserung strikes again!

    1. I often feel the same. Was it all that difficult to turn the window winders to let in a little fresh air? Or open the quarterlights? I’m also far from convinced that the weight and consumption of those electric windows, “handbrakes” and glove box openers don’t make a contribution to the fuel consumption.

  14. Pulling the windshield washer stalk and having the glovebox open would be great comedy but for the author’s cost in time and confidence. I have to assume that many of the pre-facelift X250s are out on the roads soldiering on with similar unresolved small gremlins, as these cars are underappreciated and closer to the bottom of the depreciation curve than the XJ-series cars or even the older S-Type, but still numerous (many of the abused S-Types having now been scrapped).

    Perhaps the unfortunate assignment of a Fiat 500 as a courtesy car played an outsized role in the author’s choice to give up on the XF? Premium brand car service and its corresponding costs should come with appropriate treatment. Porsche mandates for all dealers that their service loaner cars be Porsche models for this reason.

  15. I thank you for your comments, you are all too kind. I really did love the old barge, hence my desire despite the intervention of life and a global pandemic to circle back around for a proper final write up. Hopefully I will be able to muster the time to write about her successor soon.

  16. A highly entertaining read. For all the wrong reasons.

    Perhaps DTW readers should all regale the others with their tales of automotive lemons we have purchased. Mine was a brand new 1980 VW Jetta. Its faults were far more egregious than those of this pre-loved XF, and VW had been making the same car without a boot as the Golf for six years, apparently on a “this bolt looks as though it fits there” worker’s choice basis. What a delightful sense of humour those Germans used to have! Eighteen months of agony, including my installation of a Mole vise-grip as gear lever, was mine to endure before common sense struck and I unloaded it.

    Although Tata bought Jaguar and Land Rover at the beginning of 2008, the design and development of the XF was a Ford affair. Perhaps they gave too much leeway to the designers at Whitley to go it alone, presuming that even they couldn’t mess up a reskinning of the S-type. But the English knack of not really understanding that electrickery and water do not mix struck again. I well remember the first Minis with the distributor stuck out in the breeze behind the grille, looking to trap any errant drop of dew foolish enough to stand in the way of 848cc of thrusting A-Series power. And by golly, it proved to be an ace at that task. That was after the production engineers copied Issigonis’ back of the envelope design drawings for the little terror, and forgot to seal the bulkhead to floorpan pressings or something, allowing as the Americans would say, moisture ingress. Development? That’s for the other chaps, old man.

    Tata seem to have employed the same hands-off approach to JLR as Ford did towards the end of their ownership. It is a standing joke at US car magazines and websites that their long term test vehicles from JLR will have electrical glitches, sure as night follows day. Their reliability stands alone at dead last in the Consumer Reports surveys, with only Volvo vying for the crown of thorns. Durability, that descriptor of a cockroach-like ability to survive semi-intact for a long time, is not the issue with either JLR or Volvo. Their problem is instead reliability, the failure of subsystems together with shoddy software programming, and lax standards on the D part of R&D. Not enough testing. Which brings me back to Issigonis and his Mini.

    Good luck with the new cat. I hope it’s not a dog.

  17. Great article Chris, I enjoyed the writing and the thankfully vicarious experience.

    Please do bring us the sequel, how about Big Cat Hunting. This Time It’s Delirious?

  18. The manufacturers often crow about the extreme testing that they conduct across the globe, when they release a new model. Which makes it all the more irritating that the XF could develop problems due to light rain, which JLR could find quite close to home. It will be interesting to see whether New Defender, made in a new facility in Slovakia, fares any better.

    There seems to be a trend of offering new models with very high specifications and a very high price as a First Edition. Bill Malcolm has already mentioned the issues with his his Jetta, and his friend’s S80, and they are far from isolated – buying a First Edition strikes me as foolhardy; I’ll have a later model where the issues have been sorted, please! There is probably a sweet spot somewhere between the early models where the manufacturer is excited and perhaps offers more options but the car may have ‘teething troubles’, and the later ones which are probably more dependable but no longer flavour of the month, so they have started to ‘de-content’ and restrict engines, trim or options.

    Good luck!

    1. Tom – Good point about the rain resistance. Although I’m from far further north, I lived in Birmingham for two years, and never experienced such intensity of rain. The conurbation sits on a flat plain, with the most westerly hills well into Wales. When rain and snow struck it was sudden and extreme, soaking through four or five layers of clothing in a few minutes. I learned to keep a full change of clothing in my desk drawer.

      There was some evidence that the conditions did shape the cars, for example the protective shields on the ignition side of the Issigonis cars, but Birmingham-based Lucas Industries largely deserved their poor reputation for unreliable and overpriced components.

    2. Thank you. I’m very keen on the Defender, something which will no doubt offend the gentle sensibilities of many Jaguar owners. Regarding the sweet spot for the X250, I gather the facelifted ones are a touch more robust.

  19. A highly amusing read.

    Irregardless of in which direction of boredom-removing competence the (heroic!) XE ownership develops, we would be delighted to hear how
    it delivers on all fronts. Especially as the XE is still a relatively unknown item in the real-world owners’ pool.

    1. Thank you. Indeed, the XE has not been “a seller”, so real world opinions are somewhat thin on the ground and tainted by the rose tinted enthusiast brigade.

    2. The XE is a car I think I have not seen in real life. Jutland is served by a dealer in Silkeborg (a town known for its wealth of car dealers), Randers and Aarhus. On the other hand I see Alfa Romeo Giulias often enough for me not to do a double-take. I also see Maserati Ghiblis now and again (I saw one yesterday). What is happening with the XE? Is it flopping? Top Clarkson give it 7/10 and praise its ride and handling. It lacks V6s (how many of its peers sell with a 6 pot anyway?). Is it really that bad?

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