Sunday, September 11, 2011

Review: Jaguar XF 2.2D

Jaguar XF 2.2D

Talk about fighting with one hand tied behind your back. The smallest Jaguar saloon has spent its life so far without the engine most buyers wanted.

Now they can have it – and banish thoughts of BMWs and Audis to the other side of the company car park fence. Say a big, warm hello to the Jaguar XF 2.2 litre diesel.

When the XF was launched in 2008 its svelte non-retro lines were a bit of a gamble for a company that traded for decades on hints of labrador and gentlemen’s clubs.

The gamble paid off, with interest, and XFs are now a common sight on UK roads. Still worth a look as they pass, though.

Now, for 2011 comes an XF that’s been mildly refreshed on the outside, with smoother lights front and rear and a new dashboard, more switches and reprofiled seats inside.

Much more important, there’s now the choice of a smaller diesel engine. It’s quite closely related to the unit you’ll find in some Mondeos but has been reworked for its role in a Jag and bolted to a new automatic gearbox with no fewer than eight forward speeds.

Priced from a competitive £30,950, it will also appeal to company car drivers who have to take notice of its tailpipe pollution if they’re not to be stung by the taxman. Road tax at just £125 won’t hurt either.

Jaguar thinks so many buyers will go for this smallest diesel that it will soon become the biggest seller in the range, so untying that hand behind the corporate back and letting the Coventry cat take on the rivals from Germany, at last.

The new gearbox and a stop/start system that cuts the engine when the car is stationary (and, unfortunately, with your foot on the brakes) help the 2.2 XF record impressive economy in the official test; with better than 52mpg.

A brisk drive on testing roads around Jaguar’s Gaydon headquarters near Warwick left my car showing 39.5mpg on its trip computer. That’s an impressive real world figure for a car that simply asks to be driven.

Forget about diesels sounding loud and rough and producing hardly enough power to drag the skin off a rice pudding.

In the latest XF we have a 187bhp diesel with a genuine performance feel – and the need to keep an eye on the speedometer to avoid the collection of points.

But the XF has even deeper charms. Without needing complicated and expensive suspension, the Jaguar engineers have produced a car that feels light on its toes and eager to tackle the next bend. It made me smile after the first bend and the grin never left my face, it’s that impressive.

A little less so is the new interior, which still lacks the lounging room you might hope for in the rear. The new instrument panel uses touches of blue where (still unbeatable) white on black would have been easier to read.

At least there are now proper switches on the centre console below the big colour touchscreen to make choosing functions simpler; so sometimes more is less (confusing).

No complaints about the standard equipment, which includes xenon headlights, rear parking sensors and leather upholstery. Satellite navigation is a costly £2,050.

If you forget your new Jag is diesel-powered (not difficult), a petrol nozzle won’t fit when you try to fill up. Clever, and potentially wallet saving.

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