What is it?
It might be labelled as a 2019 model, but the Jaguar XF that you see here isn’t exactly a new product, having first lobbed on the scene back in late 2016. However, that doesn’t mean it lacks the flair or the panache you expect in a luxury sedan. It may not be a new car but it does have an all-new petrol engine – say hello to the 2-litre Ingenium, four-cylinder motor which is now available on the XF. Read on to find out if the relatively old XF 20t is still able to take the fight to the BMW 530i or the Mercedes E 200.
On the outside, there are no changes whatsoever to the XF 20t. Even though Jaguar has played it safe by taking the evolutionary route with the design, the XF oozes character and evokes emotion – that long bonnet and the XE-like headlamp and grille design are standout styling elements. Additionally, the thick splashes of chrome on the front bumper, window line, the boot-lid and those gorgeous 9-spoke alloy wheels give the XF a premium look in a way that’s elegant but not pretentious.
How is it on the inside?
The XF 20t that we have here can be had only in the mid-spec Prestige variant, which means you get most of the niceties. You get a 10-inch display for the infotainment system which now supports smartphone mirroring, a sunroof, ambient lighting, leather seats, electrically adjustable front seats, a rearview camera and plenty more. That said, the top-spec Portfolio variant (available in a more powerful state of tune) gets a premium audio system, digital instrument console, four-zone climate control and keyless entry as additional features.
In terms of appearance, it’s not too difficult to spot the design layout and the materials shared with other models from the JLR stable. Nevertheless, the dashboard is neatly designed with a lot of horizontal surfacing. It even retains the previous-gen XF’s super cool start-up sequence which includes a rotary gear selector that rises up from the centre console along with the side air vents that roll up in harmony. Theatrical start-up aside, the XF works well as a four-seater. The front seats are large and immensely supportive with more than enough thigh support and sufficient bolstering. Similarly, the rear seat is wide and nicely contoured with a deep squab, meaning you sit in it rather than on it. That said, space and comfort isn’t as generous as the 5 Series and nowhere close to the long-wheelbase E-Class.
All in all, the XF’s cabin may lack that ultimate sense of space but it does feel premium and different from the German brigade. It’s well put together and the use of padded materials and light textures give it a luxury feel.
How does it drive?
Let’s be honest, if you are eyeing the XF 20t, chances are that you are looking forward to what’s under the hood more than rear seat space or cabin quality. In that case, the XF gets a 1997cc, four-cylinder engine that makes 200bhp. There's 320Nm on tap from low revs, however, the XF doesn't hurl itself out of the block like the smaller XE – blame it on the added weight. Instead, the real meat from this engine is in the mid-range, where the XF is at its most forceful state. Under normal driving conditions, there is little lag and the engine feels responsive, making the XF fairly effortless.
What’s more, the shifts from the ZF 8-speed gearbox are quick yet smooth enough to be indiscernible. Unlike cars with dual clutch autos, this torque converter allows the XF to pick up speed from standstill in a linear manner with no hesitancy whatsoever. However, there is some hesitancy to kick-down in D when you floor the pedal. The gearbox is a little slow to react although you can put the car in Dynamic mode and the gearbox in S for quicker reactions. The Dynamic mode, in fact, sharpens the throttle response and makes the gearbox more engaging.
Modest power output aside, the XF 20t actually provokes you to have a go on your favourite twisty road, and with a great deal of poise thanks to the high levels of grip and excellent chassis balance. Unlike the E Class or even the new 5 Series, the XF darts into corners with great agility and the quick steering is precise and has loads of feel. The ride quality is equally impressive, too. Although we wouldn’t say it’s simply unfazed by sharp potholes and big bumps, the XF deals with bad roads better than you might expect. Thanks to the high profile tyres, the ride quality has a soft edge to it and unlike its predecessor, the suspension can take big jolts without sounding clunky or unnerving.
Should I buy one?
For a car that has been around for over three years, the XF still puts up a worthy fight. It’s priced well, decently equipped and surprisingly good to drive. The engine in the 20t model may not be a powerhouse but the XF’s grip levels and chassis balance make up for it duly.
Where does it fit in?
The XF 20t is priced at Rs 65.20 lakhs on-road Mumbai. The more powerful version, meanwhile, is priced at Rs 72.81 lakhs. As for its rivals, the BMW 530i comes in at Rs 70.31 lakhs whereas the Mercedes E 200 is priced between Rs 68.31 lakhs and Rs 73.02 lakhs.
Pictures by Kaustubh Gandhi