Critics’ Notebook: 2016 Jaguar XF-S

Tired of Audi and Mercedes? Here’s your challenge to the established order.

Jaguar XF-S
Brett Berk/TheDrive.com

To everyone shopping for a new luxury sedan or sport coupe, I say, buy a Jaguar. They are generally the most comfortable, best driving, most distinctively styled, and least expensive vehicles in the category. I say, we can make Jaguar the next Audi—the scrappy underdog that challenges the dominant players. But no one listens.

Jaguar sold fewer than 6,000 examples of its glorious XF mid-size sport sedan last year. In contrast, Audi sold almost 23,000 A6s, BMW sold 44,000 5-Series, Mercedes sold 50,000 E-Classes. We complain that no one buys the wonderful Cadillac CTS, but nearly 20,000 people did last year. In fact, far more people bought Fiat 500Ls or Smart ForTwos—arguably the two shittiest vehicles currently available in America—than XFs. More Chrysler 200s were sold every ten days in 2015 than XFs were sold in the entire year. And the Chrysler 200 sucks a bag of dicks.

My time with this subtly silvery-blue XF-S was a delight. Its supercharged V-6 churned out power that was as smooth and well modulated as its famous Jag ride. The steering wheel provides actual feedback. And while many automotive critics decry the inclusion of a “sport” button in a sport sedan, I loved toggling between more compliant and more aggressive settings, depending on whether I was cruising on the highway or pounding back roads. And I loved even more that the ambient light in the cabin adjusts with these changes, moving from royal purple in Soft mode to a defcon red for Sport.

In addition to being well-lit, the cabin was roomy.The car’s overall length has decreased slightly from the outgoing model,  but there’s an additional two inches of legroom have been provided. That made the floor in back perfect for my friends’ two pit-bull mixes. (We wouldn’t want them to dirty the buttery perforated brown leather, or oddly striated granite-look trim—we’d have gone for the natural ebony.) And the gloss-black wheels were downright dastardly.

Our XF had winter tires, and the foul weather mode kept that rubber planted in the slippery stuff. We drove it in the snow, proving that you don’t need the additional weight and complexity and fuel economy drain of all-wheel-drive to get through the Northeastern winter. (Speaking of fuel economy, it’s not stellar. If you want better, get the grunty diesel that will be available later this year.)

A base CTS V-Sport will give the XF a run on power and price. But when purchasing a luxury vehicle, I would posit that buyers are less interested in what’s cheapest, and more in what’s best. The XF is a standout, and—until everyone finally follows my advice, and buys one—will stand out from the crowd.

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2016 Jaguar XF-S
PRICE (as tested):
$72,800
POWERTRAIN: 3-liter supercharged V-6, 380 hp, 332 lb-ft; eight-speed automatic transmission 
MPG: 19 city/30 highway
OBSCURITY LEVEL: Undeservedly extreme (for now)