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Jaguar once had a proud heritage of athletic sporting cars that people aspired to own. But then they started being put together by communists with all the work ethic of a lethargic slug and soon developed a heritage of not being able to stay together for more than two consecutive corners.
That was when the Arthur Daley effect kicked in. Under British Leyland, Jaguars were suddenly all about semi-incompetent British luxury, gin and tonics and camel hair coats rather than performance.
The British government struggled with it for a while before privatising it along with almost everything else it owned, then Ford stepped in and misunderstood it completely.
After throwing billions of dollars at Jaguar trying to sort it out, Ford have pretty much run out of money, so have decided to flick Jaguar (and Land Rover) off to the Indians. Just after they actually got it right...
The Jaguar XF is another in a long line of cars that is apparently going to "save Jaguar", but in this particular case, this bold claim may well be right. The XF is a very, very good car. And in supercharged SV8 guise, a very fast one too. What would Arfur think...
For a start, he probably wouldn't like the interior. It simply doesn't feel like a Jaguar. This is, however, a very, very good thing as it means that it is modern, tasteful and well put together.
The gimmicky pulsing starter button and transmission selector that rises out of the centre console are, well, gimmicky, but still very cool. What is not a gimmick, however, is the thunderous supercharged V8 heart ripped from the XKR and stuffed under the bonnet of the XF SV8.
Remembering at all times that this is NOT the "R" version of the XF — that is coming later on, and promises to be very fast indeed based on the performance of the SV8. It is, uh, "prodigious" to say the least.
A variety of settings allow for power delivery ranging from "fast, but relaxed" through to "face-melting" depending on how you are feeling at the time, with maximum attack mode being available by twisting the shifter knob around to "S" and hitting the little button marked with a very un-subtle chequered flag on the centre console. This puts the car into "Dynamic Mode", or in other words: firms up the suspension, makes the manual shift mode using the steering wheel mounted paddles truly "manual" (i.e: you can run it up to the rev limiter, and it won't change up until you swing on the paddle) and loosens the electronic's grip on the chassis a bit. They only way they could have been less subtle (but possibly more appropriate) was to have a grinning devil hanging on to a steering wheel on the button...
Nailing the loud pedal in "Dynamic Mode" produces a savage roar from the engine and exhaust, a brief squawk from the rear tyres, a lot of very rude words from any unwary passengers and an unrelenting surge towards the horizon.
Toss it into a corner and the XF becomes no less remarkable. The CATS active damping, which is only available on the SV8, provides a firm but comfortable ride, and brilliantly controlled attitude. The SV8 is a car that is always letting you know what is happening, but not intrusively. Despite the brutal performance, this is still a dignified ride.
The SV8 adds even more kit to the standard car's already impressive list of standard features, including the CATS suspension, tyre pressure monitoring, heated and cooled front seats, bi-xenon headights, a backing camera, 20-inch alloy wheels and an incredible 440W Bowers and Wilkins surround sound audio system that features 13 speakers (plus a sub-woofer), full iPod integration and a TV.
The XF does have its downsides though. Although the interior is spectacularly good (it would be insulting to it to say that it is the best in a Jaguar for a long time — it meets, and even exceeds the quality of the German competition...) some of the plastics are a bit cheap looking for a car that costs $170,000.
And dignified it may be, but the way it drinks may cause a few less than dignified words at the petrol station. Okay, so no one who buys a supercharged V8 should be stupid enough to expect it to be a fuel sipper, but the SV8 stretches this premise to the extreme. Mid-twenties just idling around town expresses the SV8's indignation at such mundane activities...
So it is flawed, but it is also totally intoxicating. The prodigious thirst pales into insignificance when the engine is roaring, the supercharger howling (quietly, that is) and the horizon is rapidly approaching.
A week with the SV8 was not enough. Handing it back was an awful thing to have to do.
Is it the car that will turn Jaguar's fortunes around? It certainly should be. The SV8 is a wonderful, flawed, yet utterly addictive car that makes the German opposition look soulless and bland by comparison.
Jaguar certainly has got the passion back. Now we only have to hope that Tata use that passion and give us more magnificent cars like this.
What would Arfur think...
When I took the diesel powered XF to New Plymouth and back for a gathering of the local Jaguar owner's club (last issue) I was expecting disbelievers among them to say the car looked too modern to be a Jag, besides which, it didn't have a proper motor. They said neither. They loved it.
They'll love this one too. More so.
My only complaint about that car was that it didn't have the maximus performancus that the looks, style and chassis called out for. The supercharged V8 answers that.
Forget the fuel consumption that ended up about 19.9L/100kms average in the time the car was in our care, because research shows that 20% of New Zealanders don't give a flying fig about the cost of petrol. They have other matters to concern them
Great, great, great motor car.
The only issues I have are that it would have been a better car still had Ford had the dosh to have built it in aluminium as was originally planned, and they need to get rid of the Leaper off the bootlid because it looks like a badge that's half fallen off, until you realise what it is.
— Allan Dick
Jaguar XF SV8 Specs
Cylinder head: DOHC
Power: 306kW @ 6250rpm
Torque: 560Nm @ 3500rpm
Gearbox: Six-speed automatic
Driveline: Rear-wheel drive
Front suspension: Double wishbone
Rear suspension: Multi-link
Tyre size: 255/35 R20
Front: Ventilated disc
Rear: Ventilated disc
Safety systems: ABS, EBD, BA, CBC
Electronic Stability: Yes
0-100km/h: 5.4 seconds
Top speed: 250km/h
Fuel consumption (combined): 12.6L/100km