Jaguar's long history as a legendary British auto brand underwent many changes in the last decade. Under Ford's stewardship, the brand developed a new exterior style, a drastic change for a car company with models that have used the same basic lines for 40 years. Now, in a bit of reverse-colonialism, Jaguar is owned by Tata, an Indian car company that seems willing to support Jaguar's design ambitions.
Following the XK, Jaguar's new XF is the second model embodying the new design direction. This car went on the car show circuit as a concept, and kept many of its gee-whiz features in the production version.
The mesh grille and the badge are the most distinctly historical aspects of the XF. Echoing its new design language, the hold bulges up, while the fenders are less prominent than with traditional Jaguar styling.
A 4.2-liter V-8 sits under the hood, the same engine found in the Jaguar XK. And like the XK, the XF can also be had in a supercharged version, but still using the same basic engine. Jaguar molds its growling cat onto the engine cover.
One thing that most impressed us about the interior was the lack of plastic surfaces. Jaguar chose metal switchgear along with the leather and wood trim. While the car is stopped, panels cover the vents, opening up when the car is started.
We like the roller switches used for audio and cruise control on the steering wheel. Our car came with adaptive cruise control, so the switch on the far right sets the following distance to the car in front.
With the blind spot warning option, a diagram of two cars lights up when a car is in the lane next to the XF. In practice the system worked well, although we would like it to also turn on when a car is approaching the rear quarter.
Some of the XF's most innovative features are on the console, with a shift dial that recesses when the car is turned off. When you get into the car, it detects the smart key, and pulses a red backlight behind the engine start button.
Climate and audio controls each use one dial and four buttons on the instrument panel, but these functions can also be controlled with the touch screen. The car defaults to this screen showing the current climate control settings.