Jaguar XF 2.2D review

Jaguar-XF-2.2D Jaguar has refused to build a four-cylinder diesel for years; now it says it was just waiting for the right time.

In the darkest days of Jaguar we used to write that there was just one fact that said it all about the once-proud Coventry car maker, founded 89 years ago by Sir William Lyons: of all the BMW 5-series sold in the UK, more than 80 per cent of them had four-cylinder diesel engines.

It speaks volumes about the lack of funds, recalcitrant management, spurned opportunities and sheer lack of gumption at Jaguar that the company hasn’t offered a four-pot diesel in either the XF, or its S-type predecessor. Ford’s Michigan mastodons might have pumped squillions into renewed production facilities, la-di-da marketing and racing into and out of Formula One, but they spectacularly failed on product. Making money selling cars is not brain surgery. Find out what the public want, make it attractive, efficient, reliable and sell it at a good price, and they will turn up.

Fortunately, under Indian ownership (see page 16 for an analysis of Tata’s ownership of Jaguar Land Rover), Jaguar has recruited and promoted people who take such a first-principles approach.

This car, the XF four-cylinder diesel, is the first fruit and with it, Jaguar hopes that it can reconnect the telephones in the fleet sales department and shift some metal.

Will the company-car drivers and public turn up? Good question, which depends on more than just the considerable task of spinning a Dagenham-built 2.2-litre oil burner through 90 degrees and sticking it under the bonnet of this 1.7-ton, four-door saloon. We’ve always been huge admirers of Ian Callum’s XF design, but the grille hasn’t been an easy thing to love. Happily he’s been busy in his eyrie designing a wider, more attractive mouth as well as a set of raised eyebrows over the headlamps as arch as Freddie Mercury ever flashed while singing Don’t Stop Me Now.

There’s a curvaceous new bonnet, lower grilles with a bit of a wave thing going on and Aston-Martin side vents in the wings. It looks hot, although like its predecessor it’s highly sensitive to colour. And the only standard colours are black and white. Have the temerity to ask for a simple red and Jaguar will relieve your wallet of £650, ask for the “Special” paints (black or an unpleasantly institutional blue) and they’ll want £1,300. At least Dick Turpin had the decency to wear a mask while engaged in highway robbery.

The XF’s cabin was always a classy place and a welcome change from the grey-on-grey ubiquity of German saloons. It’s been given a work over and some of the less successful and dafter bits like the electronic glovebox switch have gone.

“The silver switches on silver facia didn’t work as well as we’d like, either,” says Callum. The XF cabin remains a luxurious and comfortable high spot, however, which continues to satisfy owners.

The Peugeot/Citro├źn/Ford-designed engine gets Jaguar modifications including a new oil sump, and covers for the top of the engine and timing chest to quieten it, which are fitted on the production line in Essex. A ZF eight-speed automatic transmission drives the rear wheels.

The engine uses what is billed as an intelligent stop/start, with the electronic control unit monitoring 75 different inputs, including differences between cabin and exterior temperatures and battery condition to determine whether to stop the engine at traffic lights and junctions. There’s a clever system that allows drivers to walk away from a temporarily stopped car, which will engage park and switch off the engine if the seat belt and the brakes are released. It works unobtrusively well.

“This is the most efficient Jaguar to date,” asserts Andy Hayman, the XF’s chief project engineer. It drives pretty well, too, although the eight-speed auto sounds like a sewing-machine factory when you make a quick getaway and it feels like driving a rubber band, because it’s changing up so fast to keep the engine on the boil that it never locks up the torque converter. That said, the engine is powerful and refined, although it does have a raucous edge that its rivals smother and it can’t match the economy and CO2 emissions of its manual BMW and Audi rivals. The week that Jaguar launched this 149g/km, 187bhp car, BMW announced a 119g/km, 62.8mpg, 185bhp 5-series that makes an almost unassailable case to UK fleet managers.

The Jaguar’s steering is light and accurate, although the weight can be increased a little by pushing the Sport button, which also peps up the gearbox change points.

While the all-steel suspension isn’t a patch on the electronically adjustable system on more expensive models, it rides comfortably, handles well at low speeds and is reasonably responsive and rewarding at high speeds. Our only criticism is a slightly startled response you get to inputs of throttle, brake or steering at medium speeds and a loose feeling at the rear, where the XF feels as though it is squaring off the corners like a 50p piece. And maybe it feels rather too like a German car to drive, which would be a very wrong road for Jaguar to go down.

If you want more power, there’s likely to be a 200bhp version in the future, although our experience of this unit in the 197bhp Ford Mondeo is that you lose a lot of flexibility for those extra horses.

The XF four pot is about 15 years too late and not economical enough, but it absolutely doesn’t (as was once claimed) belittle the marque. Instead it offers some folk the chance to enjoy the style and gorgeous cabin of this fine-riding mid-sized executive, without the crippling benefit-in-kind and VED taxation and the daunting write-down allowances of the 3.0-litre V6 diesel.

It just spreads the joy around a little more equally and might even make Jaguar some money in the process. Now what could possibly be wrong with that?

THE FACTS

Tested: 2,179cc four-cylinder turbodiesel, eight-speed automatic transmission, rear-wheel drive

Price/on sale: £30,950/now (first deliveries in September)

Power/torque: 187bhp @ 3,500rpm/ 332lb ft @ 2,000rpm

Top speed: 140mph

Acceleration: 0-60mph 8.0secs

Fuel economy: 52.3mpg Combined

CO2 emissions: 149g/km

VED band: F (£130)

Verdict: A handsome facelift and a good reduction in CO2 emissions for Jaguar’s mid-sized executive. Still no match for eco German rivals

Telegraph rating: Four out of five stars

The Telegraph