Redesigned for 2016, the Jaguar XF sports sedan aims to battle the heavyweights of this elite class, the BMW 5 Series and Mercedes-Benz E-Class. Jaguar’s entry in this segment has always been a marginal player despite hailing from a storied marque with a decorated racing history and old-world charm. But so far, we’ve been thoroughly enjoying this latest addition to our test fleet.

Being the first mainstream Jaguar product since the sale of the company by Ford to Indian conglomerate Tata Motors, the XF is like hitting the reset button for the brand. As the vanguard for a new era, it signals the direction for the upcoming XE and F-Pace SUV.

The Jaguar XF starts at $51,485 for a rear-wheel-drive base version. Our Prestige model, with all-wheel drive began at $59,550. With a few options including the classic British Racing Green paint (hey, it’s only fitting), the car rang in at $65,586. A $48,445 diesel-powered version will be available soon.

Jaguar claims that the XF has a light, aluminum body that’s aimed at saving weight, as well as providing a solid shell for the suspension to optimize ride and handling. But on our scales, this claim doesn’t hold water. Our XF registered 4,175 pounds which is 100 pounds heavier than the Audi A6, also with supercharged V6 and AWD. Our XF is powered by an engine shared by Jaguar and Land Rover: a 3.0-liter supercharged V6 rated at 340 hp. The sportier models get a 380-hp version of this mill. Oddly, our car's badge reads "35t"—implying that is the engine size. However, there is no 3.5-liter and no turbo (as “t” might signify) in this car.

2016 Jaguar XF

Road Manners Matter

On the road, the Jaguar XF feels alert and light on its feet. It dives into corners resolutely with minimal body lean, instilling much driver confidence. The car impressively gobbles up undulating curves and the body remains planted—qualities that make the XF feel like a true sports sedan. In the handling department, it has an edge over the BMW 5 Series based on our initial seat time.

Given such athleticism, the cushy ride is all the more impressive. The XF’s suspension manages to be firm, yet supple, masking bumpy pavement even with the 19-inch tires on our Prestige. Clearly, the chassis developers have earned their keep.

Adding to the driver-focused mission is steering that actually conveys a dash of true feedback, letting the driver know what the front paws are doing at the pavement level. Brake pedal feel is also appropriate for such a driving machine with a strong bite but smooth action.

There is no shortage of power with the supercharged engine’s readily available shove and the eight-speed automatic transmission plays well by being attuned to the driver’s requests and the terrain. But the engine emits a rather gritty mix of sounds that makes the powertrain neither engaging nor refined. That’s not helped by the stop/start feature that shuts the engine at red lights, which we found obtrusive and certainly unbecoming for a car costing over $60,000. (Fortunately, you can deactivate this feature.) Otherwise, this Jag is a quiet car.

2016 Jaguar XF interior

No Majestic Interior?

The cabin is well-made with the prerequisite double stitching of the leather in the right places. But we felt there is something missing, especially for a Jaguar. The ambience is rather short on warmth and classic charm. The black wood inlays are barely noticeable. It appears Jaguar has attempted to be more somber than its German competitors, who along with Cadillac, now offer more inviting cabins.

The front seats are well-shaped, comfortable, and supportive, even for a long cruise. The rear seat facilitates a good posture but it’s far from generous. Getting in and out requires some ducking due to the low stance and sleek silhouette.

Shared among Jaguar and Land Rover models, the colorful touch-screen interfaces with the audio, phone, and navigation functions. It’s a far reach to the screen and too many tasks require multiple taps to get what you want. Shortcuts through the steering wheel are limited. For instance, there is no way to pick a phone contact through the center cluster and steering wheel controls unless you get an optional, more advanced infotainment system. The seat heater controls are cumbersome, requiring a tap on the button and then choosing the intensity on the screen. Clearly, Audi and BMW leave the Jag in the dust on the ergonomic front.

Another area where the Jag is behind the competition is in active safety features. The $2,000 Vision Package brings merely blind-spot detection, rear cross-traffic alert, and automatic high beams. Lane-departure warning or automatic emergency braking come only on the more expensive S and R-Sport versions. Even then, adaptive cruise control is an option, and it’s not available on the Prestige trim. That’s a glaring omission, given it’s included on our $42,000 Toyota Avalon.

Without a doubt, the new XF’s chassis—encompassing its suspension, steering, and brakes—is expertly executed, but these days, that’s not enough for a car in this class. In terms of ambience, refinement, and ergonomics, the Jag trails most competitors. 

Check back to see how it ranks in the luxury midsized sedan category as we complete our testing.

2016 Jaguar XF sedan rear