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2011 Jaguar XF Supercharged. Photo by David Arnouts.
DIGITAL EDITOR ANDREW STOY: My family and I spent a delightful weekend in the 2011 Jaguar XF Supercharged, performing mundane duties such as shuttling from preschool, grocery shopping, going to a 3-year-old's birthday party, and making the kids go “wheee.” The car was making me go “wheee,” too, for that matter.
It was interesting getting into the Jag after spending the previous evening in the new BMW 5-series. The latter's chassis is so much more composed than the Jaguar's, but the Brit is seductive and full of personality in a way the German can't match. It's kind of quirky, definitely loose, immensely powerful and fun to drive. Then, I'm a sucker for an Alcantara headliner.
The trick to getting the most out of the car from a performance standpoint is definitely to engage competition mode. The trans tightens up, the engine comes on hard and strong, and it feels like the car will just keep accelerating, jetlike. Granted, I was only able to top out at approximately the posted freeway speed, but it took remarkably little time to get there. Fat discs and hefty binders ensured rapid stops, but again, I wasn't on a track so I can't comment on fade resistance.
I love a big GT car. Sure, the Jag felt heavy, but it had a ton of power to throw around too. The kids fit fine in the back, the trunk is remarkably large, and I enjoyed the gimmicky startup sequence every time I pushed the start button. One thing I don't care for is the way much of the climate control/stereo/etc. is touch-screen only. I don't think that's the way to do heated seats and steering wheels, for example. Particularly in this car--the switchgear was so nicely crafted that I actually longed for more buttons to push.
That didn't necessarily carry over to the outside. The one flaw I found in this car was the exterior door handles. They felt cribbed right off a Ford Escape and gave a rather unpleasant first impression of the car. After that, though, it was bliss. This is the only car I've brought home so far that my wife was truly sad to see go.
EXECUTIVE EDITOR ROGER HART: I remain a big fan of the XF. The supercharged V8 is a dream machine. The engine is powerful enough to easily spin those big meats in the rear. The power is gracefully applied--not like a muscle car or a hot rod, but smoothly until you're topping out in triple digits. This thing is effortlessly fast.
I, too, like the gimmicky start/stop button and the way the gear selector pops up from the console. I do, however, continue to hate all the things you have to do via the touch screen. Having to page through a couple of menus on the screen just to reset the trip odometer is not making life easier. That remains a minor nit to pick, and it wouldn't be a deal breaker. But as elegant and classy as the rest of this car is, it seems a shame to have that touch-screen interface even hint at degrading one's feelings about the car.
ASSOCIATE EDITOR JONATHAN WONG: Saddling up into this 2011 Jaguar XF Supercharged made me miss our long-term example from a couple of years back. The few gimmicky things such as the pulsing red engine start button and the Jaguar “handshake” with the flipping vents and shift dial that rises up from the center console is still pretty slick. However, like Roger, I didn't miss the touch-screen interface with its slow screen wipes.
What we loved about the XF Supercharged before still rings true. The supercharged 5.0-liter V8 offers peak torque of 424 lb-ft down low from just 2,500 rpm to 5,500 rpm, which means this cat packs a wallop off the line to build towards its 470-hp peak at 6,000 rpm. The result is stout power at all points in the rev range. The six-speed automatic transmission sourced from ZF is stellar with the fastest shifts this side of a dual-clutch sequential manual. I do wonder why Jaguar hasn't decided to upgrade to the eight-speed unit that ZF builds for BMW and Audi, though.
Being Jag, the drive tilts towards the sporty end of the spectrum. Jaguar says the adaptive damping system monitors body movement 100 times per second and wheel position 500 times a second and will increase damping rate as the suspension approaches its travel limit, which explains the car's great composure through bends. Steering response is snappy, but it could use a heftier feel in my opinion. Brakes provide confident stopping muscle with a firm pedal. In fact, the brakes are touchier than I remember and caught me off guard at first.
The ride is a little stiffer thanks to suspension, and in part to the standard 20-inch wheels wrapped with low profile tires. It's not overly rough, but I suspect a typical Mercedes-Benz E-class sedan shopper would be turned off by it.
Besides the drive, this XF is a handsome design with clean and uncluttered lines. Ian Callum did real good job here.
However, performance and beauty certainly comes at a price. Our tester wears a base price of $68,375, which is pretty steep. For comparison sake, I think the BMW 550i sedan matches up closest to the XF Supercharged from a drive standpoint, and that starts at $61,575 for a model equipped with an eight-speed ZF automatic gearbox and steering-wheel paddle shifters. But the BMW's base price is a little misleading. If you spec out the 550i with active damping system, heated/cool seats and more to have it match up with the Jag, the price will easily reach $70,000. So price is a wash.
The Jaguar's supercharged V8 has more horsepower than the BMW's twin-turbocharged V8 (470 hp vs. 400 hp), but loses in the torque column (424 lb-ft vs. 450 lb-ft). The 550i's peak torque also comes earlier than the XF Supercharged, too, with that 450 lb-ft being available at just 1,750 rpm instead of 2,500 rpm for the Jag.
When it comes to curb weight, it's pretty even with the XF Supercharged, just 70 pounds lighter than the 550i (4,306 pounds vs. 4,376 pounds). And in a 0-to-60-mph sprint, the Jag is faster than the BMW by a whisker (4.9 seconds vs. 5.0 seconds) according to published performance data from the manufacturers.
I'll give the BMW the edge in ride comfort, even with those dreaded run-flat tires, and it also scores bonus points for offering a six-speed manual transmission. But visually, the XF wins hands-down.
It's pretty difficult to declare a winner between the two. I wouldn't blame anyone for choosing one over the other. In the end, I think the BMW's available six-speed manual transmission would be too much for me to ignore, though.
2011 Jaguar XF Supercharged
Base Price: $68,375
As-Tested Price: $69,375
Drivetrain: 5.0-liter supercharged V8; RWD, six-speed automatic
Output: 470 hp @ 6,000-6,500 rpm, 424 lb-ft @ 2,500-5,500 rpm
Curb Weight: 4,306 lb
Fuel Economy (EPA/AW): 17/15.8 mpg
Options: Jet headliner ($525); heated front windshield ($375)
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