Executive wheels: Jag’s still got it


Growing up in Chevrolet and Buick country in Flint, Mich., my childhood was filled with car knowledge and experience. We knew the makes, models and years of all the GM cars, and the release of the new models every fall was nearly a holiday.

The town was so filled with car enthusiasts that we were exposed to an incredible array of foreign cars at a time when they were rare. My neighbor, who worked for Buick, had an early 1950’s MGA, a wonderful roadster. My uncle collected Willys – convertibles. There were classic Mercedes, Renault Dauphins and Checkers (American-made, of course). My grandparents even had a Desoto.

But the make that wowed us as kids – that really evoked all the romanticism of the open road, sheer luxury and performance, and that embodied, for us, what automobile design should be – was Jaguar. Most of us loved the XK-E, that beautiful two-seat roadster with the long, sleek “bonnet” which we considered the ultimate sports car. I was a big fan of the late 1950’s/early ’60’s Jaguar sedan, officially the Mark 2, which is one of the more elegant cars ever made, with sleek, rounded lines, burl walnut accents in the interior, and the first car I ever saw with leather seating.

Jaguar evolved over the next 30 years, but the line gained a reputation for mechanical problems. Ford bought Jaguar in 1989, and sold it to Tata Motors of India in 2008. The 2013 XF exemplifies the Improvements that have been made.

I must admit, my heart races a little faster when I hear that I am going to be driving a Jaguar. I love to tell people I have a Jag and see their eyes light up, too, for whatever bad reputation the line might have acquired, it still maintains a reputation for romance and performance.

This car has the most beautiful interior of the models I would consider its competition – the BMW 3 and 5, the Mercedes E, the Lexus GS and the Audi 6. It is comfortable, roomy, elegant as all get-out and obviously well-made. A good example are the wood-covered panels on the console that hide the cup holders and the cigarette lighter/power port: they are very heavy, with a solid push-button latch and smooth operation. This attention to detail and the notch-above quality is maintained everywhere – the glove box, the leather upholstery, the tuning dials. The car exudes class.

This may just be the perfect executive car for Colorado – all-class, all-luxury and all-wheel drive. I had the car in June so I didn’t get to test the AWD in adverse conditions, but given the competition, I have to imagine that it is very good.

I recently reviewed the 2013 BMW 335i XDrive sedan, nearly a doppelganger for the Jag XF, but there is one arena where the two cars diverge: technology. Like most BMWs, the 335i is overly technical and complicated. In this Jaguar, everything is very high-tech but very easy to control and figure out. Don’t get me wrong: I like all the new technology in these modern luxury cars, but I object to the ones where simple actions such as changing the radio station take too many moves and are distracting. Jaguar has all the right stuff, but the distractions – especially while driving – are at a minimum.

One of the XF’s more innovative features freaked me out at first, then I really liked it: the “Intelligent High Beam” where the bright lights go on and off automatically to light up dark turns and to ease the glare for oncoming traffic. This was part of a $2,500 Convenience Package, also including keyless entry, blind spot monitoring, an electric rear sunblind and auto-dimming exterior mirrors.

As for the cutting-edge technology, this XF also features the “Intelligent Stop-Start” which was also in the BMW 335i. During any prolonged stop, the engine simply turns off; when you take your foot off the brake it automatically kicks back on. Presumably, this is done to save gas, but I’m not so sure that these brief engine interruptions and then gas-hogging restarts actually save anything. This XF is rated at 16 mpg city/26 mph highway.

The powerful 340 hp 3.0-liter supercharged V6 engine explains the low gas mileage. But despite the power and the roar when the windows are open, all is quiet inside. You can push it to the max or sit back, enjoy the excellent sound system and just cruise. Either way, the XF handles beautifully: taking corners at speed with leaning and maneuvering effortlessly in traffic and on the highway. This is one of the few high-performance cars I have ever driven – and believe me, it does perform – that also operates nicely at slower speeds. It’s a great mix of excitement and relaxation.

There are a couple of minor drawbacks and one major one. First, the trunk on this very stylish sedan is quite curved and therefore the opening is a bit small, so getting golf clubs in and out (and stowing more than two sets) is a challenge.

And then there’s the logo. A great part of the romance in Jaguar over the years has been the leaping Jaguar logo, which used to also act as a hood ornament that was, without question, the most beautiful on the market. I guess vandals have put an end to the great hood ornaments, which is a shame. Jaguar went with a full-face fierce jaguar, which just doesn’t have the class.

The big problem is the pricing. The base price for the AWD XF is $53,000, which is very competitive. But as with all of these luxury lines, the devil is in the details: the aforementioned Convenience Package for $2,500; a $4,250 Premium Package with navigation, adaptive headlights, rear camera, front park aid, and an upgraded 380-watt stereo with Sirius and HD; $4,000 for the Portfolio Pack with heated and cooled front seats, soft-grain leather seating and suede cloth headliner; a Cold Weather Pack with heated steering wheel and heated front windshield for $700; another $600 for split fold-down rear seat with ski hatch; and $500 for an upgrade to metallic paint. Add in the destination charges and the bottom line is $69,045.

That’s a lot of money for this car and makes it somewhat less competitive; the bottom line on the BMW 335i is $56,000. Still, though, it’s impressive.