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2012 Jaguar XF Road Test Review : Road & Travel Magazine's 2012 Luxury Car Buyer's Guide

2012 Jaguar XF Sports Sedan Road Test Review

by Martha Hindes

2012 Luxury Car Buyer's Guide - Top 10 Picks

Audi A6

Infiniti M

BMW 5 Series

Jaguar XF

Chrysler 300

Hyundai Equus

Just the name Jaguar for an automobile elicits a sense of prowess. One can sense a cat-like cunning. A feeling of intense control. A certain stealth that is echoed in the feline-toned body and snarling powerplant that propels it. The 2012 Jaguar XF might be the junior among its Jaguar siblings, but it can growl with the best of them.

This is a sports-minded luxury sedan designed for the middle range enthusiast who might otherwise opt for an Audi A6 or BMW 5 Series. With a 2012 XF under one's belt, that might no longer be a quest.

Almost any Jaguar is identifiable at first sight. There are those signature creases running from the grille rearward that suggest the curve of the headlamps, more subtle and contemporary in the XF, but still there. Grille and slimmer headlamps that wrap rearward were major redesigns in the upgrade for 2012. The result is a look of added authority. The front fascia anchored by oversized air vents rides so low to the ground at the bottom corners that it appears to be racetrack ready on a whim. Small side windows at the back of the rear seat windows open the interior. And a hint of spoiler at the end of the sloping roof line crowns the rear deck, a welcome addition at high speeds.

Inside, for 2012, there's the Jaguar promise of greater simplicity in form of added functional dials to augment the JaguarDrive Selector rotary knob that rises from mid-console to act as a shifter. Earlier complaints cited the multiple steps needed to access some functions. Some nagging mechanical problems have been addressed as well. Apparently the design and engineering gurus have been listening.

The XF comes in four distinctive flavors starting with the base model priced at $52,500, then rising through Premium  to Supercharged, then to the top line XFR that, at just under $80K, approaches supercar cost. The XF gained a new powerplant for all four models a year ago, a 5.0-liter Gen III direct injection V-8 mated to a fully adaptive six-speed automatic. The powerplant generates 385 horsepower in base output. As the name implies, the Supercharged (with quad exhaust tips for distinction) and also the XFR versions have supercharged engines. Those models churn out 470-horsepower and 510-horsepower respectively. Fuel economy in the 16/15 city and 25/23 ranges shouldn't impact someone driving a vehicle at this level.

Inside, plushest grain leathers cover seating, instrument panels and door tops highlighted with stitching. There's airy aluminum trim. And burled walnut veneer trim touches even the base model, while all others trims get cooled seating. Among available amenities, depending on model, in addition to multiple high tech navi features are a 16-way adjustable driver's seat, heated windshield and 440-watt Bowers & Wilkins premium 17-speaker audio. Interior lighting can be activated with a mere brush of the hand. A large trunk makes it practical for long-distance travel.

But the most important XF feature has to be the way it cuddles pavement, explodes into speed as it leaves traffic fading in its rear view mirror and lopes with ease through the tightest hairpin curves or blasts along open roads with abandon. Active Differential Control on the top two models adds superior cornering on hairpin curves. Adaptive Cruise Control and Advanced Emergency Brake Assist keep it from getting out of hand when the need for the thrill of speed exceeds common sense. But after all, isn't that what Jaguar was born for?

Visit the Jaguar website, click here.