On first getting into the 2009 Jaguar XF, the car seems like the ultimate in automotive tech. A red backlight on the engine start button pulses with a heartbeat cadence. Push it, and panels over the air vents open up while the shift dial rises from the console. That's right, a shift dial. Recognizing that most automatic transmissions are electronically controlled, the XF does away with a big legacy shifter, opting for a big dial that you turn to the different drive modes. The touch-screen interface uses a nicely designed set of menus, reminiscent of the LCARS computer interface from Star Trek.
But there are a few signs that Jaguar isn't quite ready for this tech future. The touch-screen interface is slow, taking a few moments between the time you touch a button and the resultant action. The information architecture is also poor, with too many actions required to access the iPod integration screen, for example. It's too bad Jaguar isn't still a Ford property, as the XF could really benefit from Ford Sync. Driving tech is better, though, as the XF can be had with a blind spot warning system and adaptive cruise control, not to mention the excellent audio produced by the Bowers and Wilkins stereo system.
Test the tech: Look, Ma; no feet!
Our 2009 Jaguar XF came with adaptive cruise control, a $2,200 option, so we set out to drive it as long as possible on a congested San Francisco Bay Area freeway without touching brakes or gas. Similar to other cars we've seen that have it, such as the Volvo S80, adaptive cruise control uses a forward-looking radar to track cars in the lane ahead and measure their speed. Then it limits the XF to that speed if the cruise control is set higher. The driver can adjust the following distance between three set levels. The cruise control in the XF works between 18 and 112 mph, and can't track cars moving below about 6 mph.
The display on the instrument cluster shows the following distance and the speed set for cruise control.
We set out on Highway 101, heading south from San Francisco, just after rush hour and set the cruise control to 68 mph and the following distance to minimal, as there was still a moderate amount of traffic on the road. Early on we found ourselves cruising behind a slow dump truck doing about 50 mph. The XF pulled up behind and matched the speed of the truck. But we soon grew impatient and looked for an opportunity to pass. As we had vowed not to use gas or brake pedals, we had to wait for a large enough clearing, as we didn't expect the Jaguar to accelerate hard when we got over.
Our moment came and we moved lanes, the XF accelerating somewhat leisurely up to our set speed. Even at 68 mph, cars were passing by us, so we adjusted our speed upward, easily accomplished by pushing up on the little roller switch on the steering wheel spoke. Although we had a few cars cut into the lane in front of us, the XF always braked easily, cutting down our speed to avoid a collision.
The right spoke of the steering wheel holds roller switches for setting cruise control speed and the following gap.
Then we had our most harrowing moment, where we really, really wanted to tap the brake pedal. A large tow truck stopped half in the passing lane and half on the inside shoulder ahead, creating a temporary bottleneck. Cars in the passing lane quickly cut into our lane, with traffic quickly slowing from 70 mph down to 40. The XF approached the dramatically slowed traffic and applied its brakes. We felt it slow down, and were relieved to find that it hit the brakes hard enough to avoid rear-ending the SUV up ahead. Our car matched the reduced speed of the cars ahead, then sped up as traffic cleared.
As traffic thickened, we had another seeming close call, when a Volvo cut very close in front of us. The XF immediately caught that car on its radar and slowed to match speeds and observe the following gap we had set. We managed to cruise along the freeway for 40 minutes without touching gas or brake, only stopping because of lack of testing time rather than any failure of the car's cruise control. We found that this cruise control works exceptionally well, even in traffic, and can help avoid accidents by immediately sensing a car cutting into the lane in front, even if you are distracted. But there's nothing like a good foot on the gas and brake pedals when you are changing lanes or taking an off-ramp.
In the cabin
We mentioned some of the splashier tech features of the 2009 Jaguar XF in the introduction. Even though automatic vent covers and a rising shift dial are gimmicky, we like them. The interior of the XF is also impressive for its materials. Plastic is virtual nonexistent, with metal switchgear for the climate and audio controls. Leather covers the dashboard, and there is some subtle wood trim. We really appreciate the plastic moratorium, something even Audi fails to do in its very expensive A8 L.
The XF uses a nicely design LCD interface and metal switchgear around the cabin where many cars use plastic.
The XF's interface for its LCD touch screen is nicely designed. This is the same interface we saw previously in the Jaguar XK, and we really want to like it. Unfortunately, it doesn't give the immediate response we would expect, taking too long to slide menus back and forth on the screen. The default screen, which shows climate control settings and audio information, is an odd choice. We prefer these types of systems to default to the map.
The navigation system in the XF, standard with the Premium Luxury trim, does what it is supposed to do, but offers no advanced features. Its maps look very good, with easy-to-read street names and good route guidance graphics. It includes a compass screen and can show a split screen, as well. You can enter destinations by map coordinates or freeway exit or entrance, along with the usual points-of-interest and direct address input. But this DVD-based system doesn't have text-to-speech, traffic, or any other modern features.
Bluetooth cell phone integration is also standard at the Premium Luxury trim level. We were impressed that the car showed a unique PIN on its display when we put it in pairing mode. This feature makes it easy to pair a new phone, and keeps the system secure from other people pairing to it. The system also automatically downloaded our phone's contact list, another feature we like to see on cell phone systems. The cabin is quiet enough that people we called didn't have any problem hearing us, and they sounded fine over the car's speaker system.
There are 14 Bowers and Wilkins speakers around the cabin, producing excellent surround sound.
Those speakers in our Jaguar XF are from British audio company Bowers and Wilkins, and are part of an optional audio upgrade. Along with the car's 14 speakers, including centerfill and subwoofer, the system includes a 420-watt amp and produces Dolby Pro Logic II 7.1 Surround Sound. This system creates some really remarkable separation and clarity. Listening to a modern classical piece, we could hear individual instruments staged around the cabin. Drum beats sounded in very specific locations. Other types of music were reproduced very well, too, with deep, rich bass and pleasant highs.
The car gives quite a few choices for music sources. It includes an in-dash six-CD changer and Sirius satellite radio, but what we ended up using the most was the iPod and USB integration. A module in the console hatch has a USB port, iPod connector, auxiliary input, and a 12-volt powerpoint, so you can keep an MP3 player or cell phone charged. The interface for satellite radio is a little busy, but fairly easy to use. With MP3 CDs and USB drives, you can browse folders to find your music, while the car offers full integration for iPods, letting you choose music by album, artist, genre, and track. Our only complaint about the system is that it buries music selection under an extra button labeled Folders. We would prefer that, as soon as we choose the iPod as our source, for example, the interface immediately lets you select albums, artists, or genres.
The blind spot warning light turns on when a car is in the lane next to the XF.
The XF has a few other tricks in the cabin to distinguish it from the pack. We mentioned the adaptive cruise control. It also has a blind spot warning system, an option in the Advanced Vision package. This feature turns on a warning light in the side mirrors when a car is in your blind spot. We like that this system works even at slow speeds, such as city traffic, but the warning light only comes on when a car is actually next to the XF. If you can see the car in your side mirror, the light won't come on. While this manner of operation seems logical, we like the system in the Volvo S80 better, which lights up when a car is approaching your blind spot. In practice, we find the Volvo system gives you more warning and more time to think about how you're going to change lanes.
There are a couple of other tricks that work with middling success. The XF has proximity sensors for the overhead lights and glove compartment. You open the glove compartment by passing your hand over a sensor in the dashboard, but we didn't find it opened as consistently as with a simple button. But the overhead lights worked better, coming on with a simple touch.
Under the hood
When it comes to power, the 2009 Jaguar XF is no slouch, with 300 horsepower generated by a 4.2-liter V-8 at 6,000rpm, and 310 pound-feet of torque coming on at 4,100rpm. That high torque number leads to some impressively fast starts, with a nice feeling of acceleration as you get pinned to your seat. Of course, for even more power, you can upgrade to the Jaguar XF Supercharged, which, as the name implies, adds a supercharger to the same 4.2-liter V-8. With that car you will get 420 horsepower and 408 pound-feet of torque. The V-8's engine block and cylinder head are aluminum, lightening the load on the car.
This dial is probably the most unique shifter among production cars.
The engine is mated to a six-speed automatic transmission, and although the shifter is a nontraditional dial, it operates well in sport mode. In mountain driving we found the car downshifted subtly rather than aggressively, but would hold the lower gear, letting us keep our revs up through a turn and pretty far into the subsequent straightaway. The XF seems to benefit from its sportier stablemate, the XK, with which it shares powertrains. The dial was a little strange getting used to at first, especially as there is no tactile information about which mode you are in. However, the display on the instrument cluster clearly indicates mode and gear, if you are in manual mode.
Handling in the XF feels a little more like a compromise between luxury and sport. Driving it along rough city streets and over expansion joints, we could definitely feel many of the jolts. The car does an excellent job of damping them out, it just doesn't float over the road imperfections like other luxury cars. In more sporty driving, the car leans a little, although it does stay flatter than we would have expected. If you step up to the supercharged model, you get Jaguar's Computer Active Technology Suspension (with the clever acronym of CATS), which dynamically adjusts the suspension depending on driving style. Unfortunately, CATS isn't even an option on the Premium Luxury trim.
The EPA rates the Jaguar XF at 16 mpg city and 25 mpg highway. In our mixed city and freeway driving, we stayed well under 20 mpg, coming in with a final average of 18.8 mpg. While this number isn't great, it compares well with many V-6 cars we've tested. As of this review, emissions ratings hadn't been published for the Jaguar XF.
The 2009 Jaguar XF, in Premium Luxury trim, goes for a base price of $55,200, which is not bad for a uniquely luxurious car that comes standard with cell phone integration and navigation. The option on our car included adaptive cruise control for $2,200, the Bowers and Wilkins audio system for $1,875, and the Advanced Vision package for $1,800. Along with $1,275 for sundry other options and a $775 destination fee, our total came out to $63,125. For that kind of money you could get the less stylish but faster Lexus GS 460 or the all-wheel-drive Audi A6, but neither car offers the luxury of the XF.
The car scores well for cabin tech, buoyed by the stereo, Bluetooth system, blind spot warning, and adaptive cruise control. Only the mundane navigation system and slow interface keep it down in our ratings. For performance tech, we give it a slightly above average score, as the engine and suspension all represent decent compromises. The sporty transmission gives it an extra push in this area. For design, the exterior of the car doesn't stand out as much as we would expect for a Jaguar, but it earns points for the cool-looking interface on the LCD.