The Jaguar XF occupies a rather tenuous position as the British automaker’s last sedan left standing in North America, which raises questions about its long-term future, or perhaps more accurately, does it even have one?
I have surely started to sound like a proverbial broken record by now, as I’ve said similar things about many, if not all, sedans I’ve reviewed over the past few years.
“Really good car. Too bad shoppers walk right past it on their way to the SUV section of the showroom.”
So, yes, dear reader, if you’re assuming the XF barely sells in North America, you are correct. I won’t list its sales performance here in detail, but I will say it numbered in the hundreds in the U.S. last year and in the tens in Canada. Even in a pandemic year, that’s very grim stuff.
But I’m not here to dwell on that. Instead, I’m going to discuss the raft of changes Jaguar has thrown at the XF for 2021, along with my impressions of said changes based on a recent week’s worth of driving.
To reset, the XF is built on a shared aluminum architecture that Jaguar Land Rover uses as the basis for the smaller XE sedan (still sold in Europe and China), along with F-Pace and Range Rover Velar SUVs. New for the 2016 model year, the second gen XF was one of the company’s first cars to employ aluminum body panels for a lightweight, yet more rigid body structure.
In terms of powertrains, the supercharged 3.0-litre V6 once shared with the F-Type and F-Pace has been deleted, leaving North American customers with just one engine: a 2.0-litre turbocharged Ingenium four-cylinder that produces 296 hp (300 hp in U.S. models) and 295 lb-ft of torque.
The Americans also get a detuned P250 variant (250 hp / 269 lb-ft) with rear-wheel drive, but in Canada we just get the former, the P300 paired with a ZF-sourced eight-speed automatic transmission and standard all-wheel drive. This grade is also known as the R-Dynamic SE.
Changes for the 2021 XF are like those featured on the F-Pace, which I reviewed a few weeks ago. I won’t run through them all but will mention a few significant ones, such as a new front bumper, wider grille, larger air intakes, and super slim LED quad headlights with ‘double J’ daytime runners that use optional Pixel technology. The rear of the car receives a wider bumper and body-colour upper valance.
Inside the cabin is a new multifunction steering wheel, a curved 11.4-inch Pivi Pro infotainment system, and new trim materials which include open-pore wood veneers, aluminum and piano black plastic. Other changes include a new gear shift lever and rotary drive mode selector, along with a new ‘piano lid’ dash cowl, new door trims and seat designs, and increased storage for items such as drink bottles.
For the purposes of this review, Jaguar Land Rover Canada set me up with a Bluefire ($850 paint charge) tester with Siena Tan Windsor perforated leather seating and a Tan / Ebony interior ($660 option).
In addition to paint and interior options, my tester also comes outfitted with 19-inch 5 split-spoke gloss black alloy wheels ($500), Meridian sound system ($600), smart rear view monitor ($500), 18-way driver and passenger heated / ventilated memory seats ($300), heated front windscreen ($450), adaptive cruise control with stop n’ go ($1,200) and more.
In terms of the design changes, my thoughts here align with impressions of the F-Pace, which is they fit seamlessly into the XF’s overall aesthetic. Like the F-Pace, taking note of the exterior updates requires some effort, as the alterations are iterative and change the car’s look by degree, but they do become more obvious when compared to the look of older models. In short, they make the XF’s refined and handsome lines that much more appealing. The black wheels and blacked out grille, window surrounds and badging also evoke a more sporting character, but in a tasteful way.
But, as I wrote about the F-Pace, the changes in the cabin are what really stand out here. From the gorgeous, curved 11.4-inch Pivi Pro infotainment display and configurable 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster to the new gear shift lever and multifunction steering wheel, the XF’s new interior is a thoroughly modern and inviting space. Material upgrades to the touch points on the doors, centre console and dashboard add an air of elegance and sophistication the previous car lacked.
Details really matter in premium segments, and it looks to these eyes that Jaguar designers really nailed it with their reworking of the cabin. I especially like the feel of the new gear shifter in my hand, along with the look of the embossed Leaping Jaguar logo in the front headrests, and the Est. Coventry 1935 stencilling on the centre stack. These are fine details owners will appreciate.
As for the drive, the XF comports itself well as a premium executive sedan that offers adequate, if not pulse-quickening, performance, with a quiet cabin and a comfortable ride. Toggling the JaguarDrive controller to dynamic will bump the revs and draw out upshifting for a more spirited driving character, but it doesn’t alter the experience much, in my view. Suspension tuning didn’t noticeably change, nor did basic handing and steering effort.
So, while the 2.0-litre Ingenium four can rocket the XF from rest to 100 km/h in 6.1 seconds with a top speed of 250 km/h, white knuckle performance isn’t really its game. But it’s a fine mill for the cut and thrust of everyday driving, whether in dynamic or any of the XF’s other drive modes (comfort, eco, rain-snow-ice), and with respectable fuel consumption to boot.
But its real appeal is its updated luxury aesthetic, particularly in the cabin, where soft, perforated Windsor leather seating, panoramic moonroof, dazzling Pivi Pro infotainment system and booming Meridian sound system combine to offer a premium oasis that’s perfectly suited for long-haul getaways and everyday trips alike. It truly is one of the best premium cabins I’ve ever experienced.
These changes undoubtedly make the XF more compelling, but will they be enough to reverse its sales decline? Given recent industry trends, a significant rebound seems like a longshot.
The vehicle was provided to the writer by the automaker. Content and vehicle evaluations were not subject to approval.