11 Sep 2013

Dawn til dusk in a Jaguar XF S - and why the Jag made my journey better

The XF V6 was due to go back to Jaguar yesterday but last week I organised a trip to Norfolk for Tuesday and asked if I could keep it an extra day so I could try it out on a long trip.  Jaguar said yes.

I've run the XF for a week.  It has the 3 litre V6 supercharged petrol engine, which produces 340bhp.  I specifically requested that engine as it generates so little hype compared to the diesels and the V8 XFR and XFR-S.
Jaguar XF Portfolio
The XF in front of a mahoosive grain store in deepest East Anglia
I awoke at 5.30am and left the house at 6am -  armed with a cooler bag full of sandwiches and drinks - blipped the keyfob, put it back in my pocket and got in the Jag.

There are very few other cars I'd rather climb in, bleary eyed on a chilly autumn morning.  The sun had just risen.  The XF's interior is a damn fine place to be.  The test car has a beige interior with leather seats and lovely black leather atop the dash.  I whacked up the aircon to 20°C, switched on the heated seats, tuned the digital radio and set off.

Even at 6.15am the M4 is chockablock with, I can only presume, mad people.  I get up at that time once in a blue moon and couldn't believe how busy it is.  There wasn't much in the way of commercial traffic, just swathes of Audis and BMWs, drivers agog and fuzzy - with the sun in their eyes.

This wasn't a road trip.  It was a long drive.  There is a huge difference.  A road trip is fun and takes in a carefully planned route utilising decent roads, whilst a long drive requires getting from A to B using the fastest route possible.  In this case the route was the M4, M25 and A11.  Eurgh.

The XF's 340bhp makes it an ultra fast tourer.  The rear seats and boot are spacious and the steering and handling are very good for a big saloon.
Jaguar XF Portfolio
Filled up with fuel on the A11.  It'll do just over 300 miles to a tank
But I didn't care about that.  There are 3 specific features of the XF that make it the ultimate tool for piddling along a series of boring roads where the other road users are 90% idiot.  And that's aside from the fact it is a generally pleasant place to be in terms of look and feel.

Adaptive cruise control - How have I coped over the past 25 years of driving without this feature?  Ignoring the fact I don't have a regular commute, when I did commute this would have been super-useful.  I've driven lots of cars with adaptive cruise control but this is the first time I've used it in real world conditions for an extended period.

Get up to speed, set the system to what speed you want and steer.  And that's it.  The idiot in front of you slows down suddenly and the car slows down - to whatever distance you preset.  The idiot in the lane next to you suddenly pulls in front of you and the car slows down and pulls back to your preset distance - which varies according to speed.  In the Jag the system works at down to 15mph, at which point it panics and shouts ABORT ABORT DRIVER INPUT REQUIRED.

This transforms immensely boring and frustrating motorway commutes into merely immensely boring motorway commutes.  Adaptive cruise control is ace - and should be standard on all cars. Motorways would then become smooth flowing and accident free - although some idiots would no doubt find some way of crashing into someone else.

I set the cruise control to 75mph (to take account of the speedo over-reading) when I got on the M4 at Reading and didn't touch the throttle or brake until I turned off the M25 for the A11.  That is bloody impressive.  And the XF averaged 30mpg, which is pretty sensational for a big, supercharged, petrol, lump.

Digital radio and smartphone integration - Jaguar's touchscreen (see it here) is simple to use.  It and the sound system integrate with your phone as soon as you get in the car.  It also has DAB radio.

If you were last tuned to a digital station that will come on when you turn on the ignition.  If you were last playing something on your iPhone that will play when you turn on the ignition.  If you want to change then the screen makes it easy.

The system has a quirk.  If you plug your phone into the USB socket (under the armrest) to charge it then Bluetooth stops working.  There may be a way of still playing your own music once you've done this but I couldn't work it out.

I listened to digital radio all the way to Norfolk and it didn't drop out once.  Not even a blip.

Refinement - This is a given with modern Jags.  Never mind the posh interior, the chassis and engine are refinement itself.  The V6 is smooth as your favourite cotton bedsheets that have been washed 100 times.  The chassis irons out all the lumps and bumps in the UK's piss poor motorway network.  You just waft along.

When that bit of flapping plastic trim that's been madly buzzing around under the Mondeo in front of you for 20 miles finally falls off the XF will steer around it with aplomb.  The standard suspension mode is perfectly fine.  However, if you want to stiffen things up a bit (and I mean just a little bit) press the dynamic button and it'll roll slightly less through corners.

Actually there is a fourth feature.  The inbuilt satnav actually works properly (not all do, not even in new cars) and is easy to programme.  It also works out the fastest route depending on traffic conditions. On my way home from Norfolk it took me via Stevenage and Hatfield because the northern section of the M25 was full of traffic.
Jaguar XF Portfolio

I got home just as the sun was setting.  I'd done 374 miles.  Aside from a touch of onset DVT (because there is NOWHERE to stop on the M25 and M4 between Reading and Potters Bar) I felt fine.  I felt so good I took our dogs for a walk shortly after getting home.

The XF will never be a sharp handling sports car but it does a fine job of trying, and has decent brakes.  And the engine is as fast as you need.  And the steering is great.  Its gearbox can be lazy when you suddenly need ACCELERATION but this is because it thinks "Ooh I'd better change all the way down from 8th to 2nd", and this takes a moment.  Changes from gear to gear are accomplished as fast as you need in a car like this.

But it is on a long, boring trip that the XF V6 340 comes into its own.  I can't think of a better car right now to undertake such a trip.