By Shawn Molnar
I know I sound like Richard Kiley, but in the jungle, theJaguar claws at the ground with all four paws when it's time to catch lunch. Jaguar, the motor car company, has taken a biomimetic approach to align its XF sedan with that furry inspiration. New for 2013 is an all-wheel drive system that transforms the XF into a snow machine.
Jaguar told us that they expect 70 percent of XFs sold in Canada in 2013 to be ordered with AWD. Frustrated with only a small slice of market share, they're turning to the snowy US states and Canadian market to offer a sedan more buyers will consider when cross-shopping competitive German and Japanese luxury sedans.
Jaguar now sits in a unique position as the 'underdog' of luxury cars. Not in a Hyundai Genesis kind of way, because all Jaguars are truly premium cars, but in the fact that they're a rare sight. They are earn an extra glimpse from many. Without a doubt, Jaguar's XF is one of the sexiest cars of the lot including the Mercedes-Benz E-Class, BMW 5 Series Audi A6 and Lexus GS.
Of course sexy is not enough and the XF will need some substance to stand a chance against its competition.
The Jaguar XF's performance is probably its strongest attribute behind its looks. This car offers a supple ride, though playful handling should you choose to treat it like a sports car. The steering is accurate and thanks to clever engineering, the AWD system does not suck that great rear-wheel drive feel out of the car. During normal driving, power is only sent to the rear wheels so less fuel is consumed turning tires, too.
Jaguar has launched the 2013 XF with a new 3.0-litre V6 supercharged engine that sends 385 horsepower and 380 lb-ft of torque to the rear wheels.
For a "base" engine it's awfully powerful. On a snowy race circuit carved into the icy banks of a marshland, we were able to play with this Jaguar's performance envelope and get a feel for its safety nets when driving on slippery surfaces.
When equipped with winter tires, the XF is a proper snow machine. Its clever AWD can send power to a single wheel if necessary and the XF was able to climb steep, icy hills without drama. The XF will dial back the throttle or brake individual wheels as necessary to keep you pointed in the right direction. In short: the XF is a car we would feel comfortable sending Grandma home in—even if she's got to negotiate a snow storm.
If James Bond needed to blend in, he would lose the Aston and slip in behind the wheel of a Jaguar sedan. They're just so finely crafted, so beautifully appointed with quality woods, leathers, metals and plastics that you can't help but feel in the lap of luxury. Attention to detail is found everywhere and options such as a suede headliner make the XF feel special for any mission. The control layout quickly becomes familiar.
Visibility is limited out the rear windows, but Jaguar have included a backup camera to negate this issue. The seats are comfortable and very supportive, a pleasure to spend time in regardless of the whether, since they're both heated and cooled on demand.
The cabin is not so wide as to feel cavernous; it feels cozy. Rear seat passengers will complain of poor headroom because of the sloping roof line—those 6'2 or taller will not be comfortable even for short distances. Surprisingly, though, we compared rear headroom back-to-back with the brand's full-size XJ and found the XF to be more accommodating.
As a daily driver, the XF will entertain with a brilliant Meridan sound system and relax you with a hushed, quiet ride, and tranquil interior. Now that it offers AWD you could even take it on winter adventures up to the ski chalet.
Our biggest complaint stems from the infotainment system - it features a touchscreen that makes you reach forward out of your seat, and collects finger prints every time you use it. We much prefer the hand controller based systems of competitive cars that keep your arm at your side and the screen free of greasy prints. We also have a beef with the drive mode selector (nee automatic gearshift) which uses a circular dial to select drive, neutral, park or reverse. It is unintuitive to use and takes a lot of getting used to, particularly when doing a quick three-point turn.
The XF is just the right size for most because its compact enough to thread through traffic, but large enough to accommodate four, as long as the two rear passengers aren't too tall. Trunk space is consistent with this segment.
Jaguar's XF can accelerate from 0-96 km/h in 5.5 seconds, which places it into sports car territory. It's a blast to drive this car on a curvy road, yet on urban streets. the rewards with a comfortable ride - your drive home may well be the highlight of your day.
The 'Feel Good' factor of this car is very high, and that's before you notice all the heads turning your direction.
With a base price of $59,800, the XF undercuts its main German competition by a healthy margin of more than $10,000. This great value coupled with dashing looks, great build quality and equal, if not superior, fun behind the wheel renders the XF a serious contender in the luxury/sport sedan market.
If you have a hankering for British style and want a cat that claws with all four, the Jaguar XF AWD is worth checking out. It arrives in showrooms mid-February 2013.