Saturday, August 27, 2011

Review: Jaguar XF 3.0 Diesel S

Model: Jaguar XF 3.0 Diesel S
Bodystyle: four-door saloon
Engine: 3.0-litre V6 turbodiesel
Transmission: 8-speed auto

What is it?

We recently tested the 2012 Jaguar XF 2.2D, the new four-cylinder Jaguar diesel whose lower CO2 figure will help it chase big sales. Jaguar hasn't neglected its performance buyers, though. Despite the launch of the 2.2D, one in four XF buyers will still choose the 3.0-litre Diesel S.

This uses Jaguar's 275hp V6 diesel engine, which helps the XF saloon reach 60mph in 5.9 seconds, and go on to an electronically-limited top speed of 155mph. It is a potent diesel engine that takes on the might of models such as the BMW 535d and Audi A6 3.0 TDI quattro.

But while the former version went well, it didn't look particularly sporting. The Jaguar XF is a lovely design but sports versions were arguably too 'soft' before. Not anymore: Diesel S models get a series of styling enhancements to give them the visual clout equal to a BMW M Sport or Audi S-line.

All Diesel S models now come with standard Jaguar Adaptive Dynamic System suspension, also featured on the Jaguar XFR. This promises extra driving ability, to be enjoyed from a new R performance-style interior. Available in Luxury, Premium Luxury and Portfolio trims, the Diesel S is now an additional sub-brand to those trims.

Where does it fit?

The XF Diesel S is a slightly less powerful alternative to the BMW 535d, offering more power than the current Audi A6 3.0 TDI but set to be topped by next year's twin-turbo TDI. In short, it is a high-performance diesel that's pretty much a match for the German opposition.

It tops the three-engine diesel line-up Jaguar now offers in the XF range. Petrol engines very much play a bit-part role in the range these days, taking just 3% of sales. That's why the Diesel S has been refocused - today, it plays the role of performance sidekick to the mighty XFR.

Is it for you?

If you like stylish and contemporary British design, the XF will appeal. The facelifted style, with new headlights, grille, lower air intake blades, bumper and bonnet is already very appealing: the Diesel S features further enhance this.

Jaguar has fitted an even more aggressive front bumper to the Diesel S, along with a black grille, side sill extensions, rear spoiler and revised rear valence, all to help set it apart more strongly from less powerful models.

The smallest alloy wheel size is 19-inch, and even this is only fitted to the base Luxury. All other versions get 20-inch wheels, along with soft grain leather R Style seats inside that are virtually identical to those in the XFR.

All this, along with the more powerful engine, comes for a £6,000 premium over the 245hp 3.0 V6 diesel Luxury and Premium Luxury, reduced to £3,900 for the Portfolio. Prices are also around £1,000 less than the comparable competition: even on the balance sheet, it makes sense.

What does it do well?

The V6 diesel's performance is very impressive. It responds to the accelerator with a strong surge, proving extremely swift and willing to rev. The rush is a combination of power and that very meaty torque figure, and it makes the XF Diesel S feel very swift and effervescent.

The engine also revs incredibly smoothly and willingly, almost like a performance petrol V6. The woofling, elegant V6 noise is sporty and appealing, with a complete lack of resonance adding to the appeal (and the 8-speed auto, with paddleshifters, is deeply impressive).

The sportier and more focused chassis setup of the Diesel S means it is poised and feels more sharply focused. Body motions are tighter which makes it more wieldy and better-controlled in bends. This allows you to take full advantage of the clean steering's crisp accuracy.

All this is enjoyed from a simply wonderful driver-focused interior, full of special-touch details. Overall, the XF Diesel S is a rapid, driver-pleasing machine that loses none of the XF's cultured feel yet still manages to give a crisper, more sportscar-like feel behind the wheel.

What doesn't it do well?

Dynamically, it is hard to fault the Jaguar XF Diesel S. At first, a jigglier feel to the ride (particularly on the test car's 20-inch wheels) rouses concerns about harshness, but these are not realised on the move. The ride is more taut, but it is barely any more severe.

The eagerness of the diesel engine, particularly its immediate response to the throttle, can take some by surprise, while those used to BMWs will have to recalibrate to the Jaguar's more fingertip-touch handling characteristics. These aren't criticisms though, just traits to tune into.
What's it like to live with?

The XF is OK for space inside, no more. Rivals offer bigger rear cabins and more practical boots: the Jaguar is passable but does not indulge like the latest Audi A6. Nor does it (yet) offer a load-lugging estate alternative.

It is a very satisfying car to live with though. The engineering feels top-drawer and the XF, in terms of design, quality, craftsmanship and attention to detail, just seems that bit more personal and tailored than its rivals. It is warm and welcoming, charismatic and cultured.

How green is it?

Despite its performance, the Jaguar XF Diesel S returns 44.8mpg and emits 169g/km CO2. These are both near-identical to class rivals and very impressive results for a car that can also reach 60mph in 5.9 seconds. The economy is double that of the Jaguar XFR as well.

Jaguar fits a particulate filter as standard, of course, but the Diesel S model has yet to get the stop-start system of the smaller 2.2D. As the 8-speed automatic gearbox is designed to take such a system, expect it to come in time - which will help make it even more fuel-efficient still.

Would we buy it?

We would strongly consider the Jaguar XF Diesel S if we were in the market for a performance executive car. It has searing pace and an appealing engine which, thanks to great depths of torque and eye-opening economy, only offers benefits from being diesel-powered.

Others are more practical, while a BMW 535d is a might faster and the future Audi twin-turbo TDI will offer the USP of four-wheel drive. But our heart would take the Jaguar - and our head wouldn't regret it. That's how able the sporting new XF Diesel S is.

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