| First Drive | Nice, France | 2010 Jaguar XF Diesel S |
There's no skirting around the fact that Jaguar's engineers had the excellent BMW 535d
in its sights when it set about developing the new 3.0-litre turbodiesel V6. That the company can stand up and say its new powertrain beats the BMW hands down is an incredible accomplishment. Our first experience of this unit is in the 271bhp 'S' model.
In the Metal
Design is a matter of taste, and though few will argue with the appeal of the raked roofline and distinctive rear-end of the XF, the shape of the headlights still splits opinion. Regardless, it's a car that turns heads like few others in the class. The 2010 model year has received a couple of minor tweaks, while the S model pictured gains a subtle boot lip spoiler and a discreet 'S' badge to differentiate it.
There's no doubt that the XF is a feel-good car to own and that feeling is enhanced immeasurably by the cool interior. The vodka bar-like blue neon outlining hasn't dated as yet and the rotary gear selector remains a unique, attractive feature. It's a distinctively styled interior that is good to touch and works intuitively. If you intend to drive your XF with any sort of aplomb we'd advise you invest in a set of sportier front seats though, as the standard items - comfortable as they are - don't offer much in the way of lateral support.
What you get for your Money
Jaguar's philosophy in recent years has been to load up its cars with equipment as standard, so even the 'entry-level' 3.0 V6 Diesel Luxury model would be considered to be luxurious by most buyers. At £33,900 it undercuts the BMW 530d, Audi A6 3.0 TDI and Mercedes E 320 CDI by a useful margin and seems to at least equal these rivals in terms of performance, emissions and economy. You'll need to spend a minimum of £3,000 extra to get the full-fat S variant, which still undercuts the comparable 535d by about £2,500. Jaguar will relieve you of up to £44,200 for the highly desirable Portfolio model, which is positively dripping with equipment. The hybrid-powered Lexus GS 450h might be considered an alternative at this price point.
It's worth mentioning the gains Jaguar has found in terms of fuel economy and emissions in its new engine. Both variants of the 3.0-litre V6 turbodiesel emit 179g/km and return 42mpg on the combined cycle. The 2.7-litre model's figures were 199g/km and 37.6mpg respectively. That has allowed the XF to drop a VED band, resulting in lower annual road tax and even more significant savings for company car drivers.
In the past, we praised Jaguar's XF
2.7-litre V6 diesel engine as one of the most refined diesel engines available and even before we hit the road in the new XF Diesel S it's clear that the 3.0-litre replacement retains that characteristic, with all-but silent operation most of the time and a cultured multi-cylinder growl when revved. For good measure Jaguar has fitted a new acoustic laminated windscreen to all XF models.
While the 2.7-litre XF had refinement in spades, it lacked the performance sparkle of its rivals - notably that of BMW's class-leading six-cylinder units - and was limited to a single variant. The new 3.0-litre engine addresses the latter point by offering customers the choice of either 237bhp/369lb.ft or 271bhp/443lb.ft versions of the same basic engine, widening the range of price points the car now covers.
The higher powered S model is tasked with taking the mighty BMW 535d on and its specifications suggest that's up to the job, with a fraction less power, but a tad more torque than its German adversary. Significantly, maximum torque is available quicker in the Jaguar, which helps it beat even the manual 535d off the line, despite a weight advantage in the BMW's favour. The new Jaguar feels every bit as quick as the BMW too, though the XF gives the impression that the performance is even more effortless, as it's a quieter car. Jaguar's new six-speed automatic transmission is a gem as well; it's perfectly suited to the nature of the diesel engine and offers the driver several options for control (see our test of the new XF 5.0 V8
for more detail).
As for the XF's ride and handling, the Jaguar sits between the Mercedes-Benz E-Class and BMW 5 Series, with a more comfortable bias than the BMW. Even at that, the XF engages the driver if the mood takes him, with the fast acting gearbox partnering lovely, linear steering and strong brakes. A 535d M Sport may boast more iron fisted body control, but the XF's composure is comparable and it's significantly more comfortable. It's a car to cover a lot of miles at high speed in, safely and enjoyably.
Although the new 5.0-litre petrol V8-engined XF is sportier in character than the new diesel engine (thanks to a wider power band and a cracking symphony of sounds), the diesel model will undoubtedly be the big seller in Europe, with Jaguar predicting 94 per cent of XFs sold in the UK to feature the new 3.0-litre V6 turbodiesel - 40 per cent of those the S model.
With such a formidable powerplant in its arsenal, the question pretty much asks itself: will Jaguar make a diesel-fuelled XK? Jaguar personnel declined from commenting when asked, though the vaguely smug way the question was not
answered suggests that it's at the very least being seriously considered. It'd be the only true rival for the fabulous BMW 635d
We make no apology for spending a lot of this article comparing the new XF Diesel S to the BMW 535d; Jaguar as good as dared us to. First impressions suggest that Jaguar has created a car that stands up to such an accomplished rival and in some ways betters it. The Jaguar is much more individual (for now), more comfortable and more refined yet offers the same ballistic performance. That Jaguar has reduced the emissions and fuel consumption so much in comparison to its predecessor is a staggering achievement and one that couldn't have come at a better time.