What You Learn is a recurring look at the cars passing through R&T's test fleet. Sometimes you'll learn a lot about the car, other times, not so much. But it'll always be a succinct take on something we've driven recently. - Ed.
The romantic in us wants a Jaguar. It's why longtime R&T columnist Peter Egan once ended up with a used XK8 Convertible after test driving a diesel-powered Volkswagen Golf. It's hard to chose something rational in the face of a Jag.
Jaguars are, to use an Egan-ism, cars for occasion, but that presents a problem. Jaguar doesn't want to just sell sports cars to a handful of customers who will only use them on the weekend; it wants to sell lots of cars to lots of people. The all-new F-Pace SUV will probably go the furthest in helping Jaguar achieve those aims, but the mid-sized XF sedan has basically the same goal.
The XF S balances the rational and the romantic well. On one hand, you have a roomy, comfortable sedan; on the other, you have elegant styling and a punchy drive shared with the F-Type S.
That 380-horse supercharged V6 doesn't make the XF and out-and-out performance car, but it does allow for effortless high-speed travel, and genuine back road fun. Unlike the F-Type, there's no option for a cackling sports exhaust, but the two share an eight-speed automatic transmission. In manual mode, it goes through gears seamlessly and quickly.
Jaguar also did a fine job making sure the XF S's chassis lives up to its engine. Ride comfort is especially good with the adjustable dampers in their softest setting, but this smoothness comes at no detriment to handling. The XF's electric power steering is, as you'd expect, light, but weighting builds naturally as steering input increases.
This tester came equipped with Jaguar's all-wheel-drive system, which sends virtually all the power to the rear wheels and seamlessly shuffles torque to the front if it detects slip. The result is a car that feels rear-wheel-drive and eager to change direction.
Where other sedans in this segment offer fine, if unremarkable driving dynamics, the XF stands out. It feels like a well-tuned package that perfectly balances everyday comfort and back-road prowess.
In that regard, the XF S reminds me a lot of Jaguar's famous Mark 2 sedan. Produced alongside the legendary E-Type, the Mark 2 benefitted from Jaguar's excellent XK straight-six engine and a sharp chassis to match. It was a sports sedan, before anyone had invented the term.
Also recalling the Mark 2 is the XF's styling. Jaguar abandoned retro styling when the S-Type went out of production in 2008, but the XF's design holds up the same ideals as the Mark 2. It isn't the most striking car on the road by any means, but you'll always turn around and look back at it after you park. It's an understated design that isn't as concerned with the latest car styling trends as its competitors. You can bet it'll age well.
I could see some accusing the XF of being too subtle, but I think that's part of its charm. The Mark 2 both for its impressive performance and the way it blended into everyday life without raising eyebrows. I'm not trying to encourage any would-be bank robbers here, but the way the XF flies under the radar (quickly) is very appealing.
If you know anything about Jaguars, you're waiting for the 'but' at this point. Historically, Jaguars have offered top-notch styling and performance, like the XF, but reliability and other British Car Quirks made them a difficult proposition for many buyers. The current XF might not be haunted by the ghost of Joe Lucas, but there will be problems to contend with, most of them on the interior.
The XF's interior is comfortable, remarkably spacious, and well built, but it leaves something to be desired in terms of style. Bucking long-held stereotypes, the Volvo S90 and Mercedes E-Class offer much more elegant cockpits than the XF.
The XF's interior design problems are minor, but the optional, 10.2-inch InControl Touch Pro infotainment system recalls Jaguar's long history of wonky electronics. The system froze multiple times, forcing me to restart the car like it was a computer, and it once froze on the highway.
In terms of design and usability, this new infotainment system is a huge update over Jaguar's older system, which you still get in the F-Type, but the bugs negate any gains. It's entirely possible that these issues could be fixed by a software update, but it's worth noting our colleagues at Car and Driver .
Is this a deal breaker? For many, it could be, but others will probably overlook these flaws and enjoy the XF's charms.
The 2017 XF S is a lot like the best Jaguars of the past–beautiful, quick, comfortable, and a bit quirky. A car for occasion that you could happily use every day, so long as you can live with its weirdness.