Jaguar XF adds spice to the luxury saloon segment. Kartikeya Singhee drives the ballistic 5-litre V8 petrol version

In March 2008, Ratan Tata signed on the dotted line to acquire Jaguar Land Rover and bring the prestigious cars to India. The dream has now turned to reality and the Jaguar range is available in India. Of the entire range, the model that’s stepped into the thick of things is the Jaguar XF. Competing with the likes of Mercedes E-class, Audi A6 and BMW 5-series, the XF has a lot of work cut out for it. But there’s no doubt that the car’s brilliant styling will draw instant attention and admiration.

The XF’s fluid form is more fitting for a coupé than a saloon. The big pupils in the slit-like eyes house advanced cornering lights for better visibility at night. The gaping silver grille feels a bit excessive and the new Jaguar logo at the centre makes the car unmistakable. The crease lines, embellishments and the slinky tail-lamps weave a memorable rear. Under the small boot lid there is 530 litres of storage. While the space is decent, access is a little tight from the high and small boot opening.

Tata has chosen to get the Jaguar down with the best kit possible to help carve out a brand image that appeals to the crème de la crème. That explains the massive 5.0-litre V8 engine on the Jaguar XF Portfolio as the India-spec variant is called. The power-dome on the hood celebrates the engine underneath but it is inspired from the days of the straight-six motors that wouldn’t fit under the hood without popping out the hood. The XF’s boron steel-based chassis however can take a beating. It is super-stiff, super-strong and tipping the scales at 1,780kg isn’t too heavy.

Push down on the brake, jab the pulsing engine start-stop button and get distracted. At first, you notice that the gear selector is missing, after which you’ll see it gliding up from the transmission tunnel. Cool. On exploring the XF’s interiors, I found a curious bronze circle on the mock wood garnish on the dash. A light touch releases the glovebox lock.

Other than these nifty touches, there were the usual goodies such as the multimedia screen with controls for GPS, car set-up and six-disc audio system. The cockpit with its cool-blue lighting feels exceptionally inviting at night and serves up an extraordinary soothing ambience. The driver’s seat is plush and comes with ventilation. The rear however, isn’t as impressive. Though kneeroom is decent, it doesn’t feel as spacious as a 5-series or E-class. Headroom is limited thanks to the swooping roofline and passengers, even those with average height, will have their hairstyles messed up.

To select a driving mode, you only need to turn the drive select such as a volume control and point it in the mode required. The drive select mode also features a sports mode. At every dab of the throttle the XF leapt forward, demanding cat-like reflexes from me as I waded through a sea of motorcycles, bully buses and rebel auto-wallahs. The quick steering didn’t feel too heavy and was instantly responsive, pouring out all of its 52kgm in a silky fashion. Even better is the burbling sound track and the deliciously hearty roar of the engine. Snaking my way out of the city, the XF bowled me over with its compliant suspension. The ride quality for such a sporty saloon was amazing and there’s a magical suppleness with which the Jag coasts over our roads. Yes, there is a hint of firmness but it’s never to the point of being jarring. However, the XF’s ground clearance is a weak point and large speedbreakers need to be dealt with great caution.

Once out in the open roads, the XF was able to run unfettered. The engine revved quickly and without any hesitation all the way to 6500rpm. The six-speed ZF box works seamlessly and is unobtrusive. That is until you up the ante by turning on the sports mode. As a result, throttle responses are quicker, and a tauter stance and adaptive suspension livened up things. The smooth and effortless manner in which the XF tackles corners is simply delightful. With the traction control off, the rear will step out in a flash and it’s easy to overcome the grip from the 245/45 R19 tyres.

Be in no doubt, this is one saloon that gobbles up speeds in an utterly effortless manner. The steering, which felt great at everyday speeds, gets a shade lighter at great speeds this 380bhp rear-wheel-drive missile is capable of. In terms of performance, no other saloon comes close unless you include the Mercedes AMG range. But you could counter that with the 508bhp supercharged Jaguar XFR!

The German trio of Audi, BMW and Mercedes may have the luxury market seemingly in the bag, but Jaguar wants to transcend the segment with the exclusive (and expensive) XF.

Priced at an eye-popping Rs 61.6 lakh (ex-showroom Mumbai), the XF is way more expensive than the regular E-class, 5-series and A6, so it won’t sell in huge numbers and demand will be limited. Ironically, for those who can afford it, that will be exactly the reason to buy it. The XF’s exclusivity and enticing character is meant for the aficionado and stand-out-of-the-crowd types. And when every head turns, it will seem like money well spent.

Technical data

Price Rs 61.6 lakh (ex-showroom Mumbai)

Length 4961mm

Width 1877mm

Height 1460mm

Wheelbase 2909mm

Turning circle 11.4m

Kerb weight 1780kg

Engine V8, 5000cc, petrol

Installation Front, longitudinal

Power 380bhp at 6500rpm

Torque 52kgm at 3500rpm

Gearbox 6-speed automatic

Fuel tank 70 litres

Boot 530 litres

Brakes Ventilated discs

Tyre size 245/45 R19

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