2011 Jaguar XF Introduction

The Jaguar XF is a gorgeous and engaging alternative to luxury cars such as the Audi A6, BMW 5 Series, Mercedes E-Class, and Lexus GS. After our test drives, we'd say the 2011 Jaguar XF is one of the most appealing choices in this wonderful luxury/sports sedan category, and gets to the top of the class with charm, distinctively stunning good looks and dynamic driving capability. The XF models offer the full Jaguar experience of luxury, elegance, performance, ride and handling.

The Jaguar XF delivers everything you'd expect in a contemporary luxury sedan, and then some, in styling, interior design, features, technology, driving behavior and overall impeccable luxury. The hardware underneath is anything but ordinary, much of it shared with the Jaguar XK. Factor in a well-engineered body structure, and the Jaguar XF is exactly what it should be: smooth, quiet and responsive. This mid-size, rear-wheel-drive sedan feels lighter and more agile than some of the other cars in this class, and it bears up like a top-rank sports sedan when driven aggressively.

The XF marked a fresh design direction for Jaguar when it was launched as a 2008 model while including themes that have identified the brand for decades. The swooping roofline and side glass are intended to create the impression of a sleek two-door coupe more than a four-door sedan, which is what it is, and to a considerable extent it works.

The same level of appeal is found inside; it's an interior we really like, both for its look and its overall function. Slide into the driver's seat and an interactive greeting that Jaguar calls the handshake, with the aluminum shift knob rising out of the console, welcomes the driver with the reminder that this will be an active process. The wood, wool and leather create the expected Jaguar feel and scent of an exclusive British club room, but the design itself is light, modern and airy. There's a minimalist feel to it, but it's also charming and makes familiarization easy.

The swoopy, coupe-like styling has its drawbacks, and the biggest should be obvious: That flowing roofline and raked rear glass mean rear headroom is tight, and the XF feels more confining than, say, the Mercedes-Benz E-Class or the Audi A6. On the upside, the XF trunk is larger than those of the competitors, and a folding rear seat offers expanded capacity. The importance of the loss of rear-seat headroom or the enhanced trunk capacity will depend upon the buyer's priorities.

For 2011, the Jaguar XF now comes standard with the wonderful 5.0-liter engine introduced for 2010. The XF is one of the best equipped base models in this class. The 2011 Jaguar XF line includes four models: base, Premium, Supercharged, and XFR.

The Jaguar Gen III 5.0-liter V8, normally aspirated and rated at 385 horsepower, uses a spray-guided direct fuel-injection system, which enhances efficiency and allows higher compression ratios. The engines also have variable camshaft timing on all four camshafts and reduced friction. The normally aspirated version has a variable-geometry intake manifold to enhance the torque range. The supercharged versions use a high-efficiency twin-vortex supercharger. The compact Gen III engines are built with a new lightweight aluminum block design with cast-in iron cylinder liners and cross-bolted main-bearing caps to reduce noise, vibration and harshness, and the cylinder heads are made from a recycled aluminum alloy. The result of all this powertrain improvement is a collection of engines that are not only quite powerful, but also deliver very commendable fuel economy for their levels of performance. All engines are matched with a very smooth, electronically controlled 6-speed automatic transmission.

Also new for 2011 is standard Jaguar Platinum Coverage, which includes complimentary scheduled maintenance for 5 years or 50,000 miles, and no-cost replacement of basic wear and tear items including brake pads and discs, oil and brake fluid changes, wiper blade inserts, and 24/7 roadside assistance.

Additional refinements for 2011 include redesigned sideview mirrors reducing wind noise; standard Burl Walnut trim on the base model; heated windshield available on all models; 6CD changer with premium audio system; 19-inch Caravela wheels (from the XK) available on the Premium; new optional 19-inch wheels on the base model; pushbutton opening for the glovebox replacing the stubborn sensor; black grille for the XFR; and new colors for some models.

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