Jaguar Canada is betting a new all-wheel drive version of its XF sedan will lead to increased sales in this part of the world.
By adding Instinctive All-Wheel-Drive to both the XF and XJ models for 2013, Jaguar has transformed its lineup in a big way without adding any brand new models.
And as an entry point into the Jaguar lineup, the XF can now compete on an equal footing with its major competitors from BMW, Mercedes-Benz and Lexus, which all offer an all-wheel drive option on their luxury sedans.
In fact, Jaguar says the majority of the cars sold in this premium segment in the northern U.S. and Canada have AWD so this is a natural progression for the brand, now owned by the huge Tata corporation from India.
The transformation of the XF also includes significant powertrain additions with a new 340 hp supercharged 3.0-litre V6 replacing the naturally aspirated V8 in the XF along with a slick new ZF eight-speed automatic transmission.
With the addition of a start/stop function on the supercharged 3.0-litre XF model, fuel economy is significantly improved as Jaguar quotes a 10.7L/100 km fuel economy number for combined city/highway driving.
But the big news really is the new all-wheel drive system on the mid-size Jaguar sedan.
While I was blessed with beautiful, sunny, spring weather during my week with an XF 3.0 AWD, my colleague Jim Robinson had an opportunity to test the vehicle under winter conditions in Quebec late last year and he came away impressed.
“… the message Jag wanted imparted and which I definitely got, was what confidence in the car is what AWD brings to the owner,” he wrote.
In dry conditions, the all-wheel drive system sends most torque to the rear wheels for, as Jaguar says, “to preserve the agile driving feel and response of a rear-wheel drive XF.”
When slippage is detected, up to 50 per cent of the torque can be instantaneously applied to the front wheels.
In adverse conditions, the driver only needs to select “Winter Mode “ by pushing a button on the transmission tunnel behind the hockey-puck style rotary shifter that is a Jaguar trademark.
This mode automatically pre-loads more torque to the front wheels at start up for easier acceleration. The stability control and ABS systems also come into play when this is applied.
There is also a “Dynamic Mode” for more spirited driving and “Normal Mode”, which is the default setting.
That feeling of confidence that the AWD promises along with the sexy good looks of the XF augers well for an uptick in sales for the 2013 model.
Prices start at $61,500 but my tester was loaded with a number of options that brought the as-tested tag to $75,850 when you throw in the $1,350 destination and delivery charge.
Among the options were the Premium Pack ($4,300) that includes a hard-drive based navigation system, upgraded 380W Meridian sound system with 10 speakers plus subwoofer, Sirius satellite radio, rear camera parking aid, front parking aid and adaptive front lights.
The Convenience Pack ($2,500) includes keyless entry, blind spot monitor, “electrochromatic” mirrors, intelligent high beam headlamps, electric rear sunblind and Jaguar Voice.
The Portfolio Pack ($4,000) has soft-grain leather with contrasting stitching, heated and cooled front seats, suede headline and premium carpet mat.
Also on the option list was split folding rear seat with ski hatch and ski bag ($600), metallic paint ($500), jet headliner ($500), and a cold weather package ($600) of heated steering wheel and heated front windshield.
This is definitely a car that stands out in a crowd. If you want to be noticed, this is a car for you. Heads will turn as you drive by, perhaps because the sight of a Jag is not all that common here.
As one would expect of a vehicle in the premium price range, the XF is comfortable, quiet and smooth with great performance. The interior is superbly finished, particularly when you add the somewhat pricey Portfolio Pack that takes the feeling of luxury to another level.
On a trip out to dinner one night with friends, we all commented on the quietness and lack of road noise exhibited by the XF.
Aside from the unique rotary shifter that rises up out of the centre console when you push the start button, the Jaguar also has a cool HVAC system whereby the air vents suddenly power up and rotate in the dash.
The front seats are wonderfully comfortable and adjustable and three can fit in the rear, albeit a bit of a tight squeeze since this is a mid-size car. Legroom is adequate; if you want more, the upmarket XJ model might be more to your liking.
This is still one of the most powerful cars in the segment (0-100 km/h in 6.4 seconds) even with the switch in 2013 to a supercharged V6 engine from the 5.0-litre V8 last year and the drop of 45 hp. The fuel economy improvements, however, make it all worthwhile.
So what makes the XF special?
Well, it is a Jag and with it comes the luxury and prestige that has always been a hallmark of the upscale former British brand.
Throw in the new all-wheel drive system and a smooth-shifting eight-speed automatic transmission and you have a sexy-looking ‘cat’ that is poised to claw away at the competition in the luxury mid-size class.
Jaguar XF 3.0 AWD 2013
Body Style: four-door mid-size luxury sedan.
Engine: 3.0-lire V6 supercharged (340 hp, 332 lb/ft of torque).
Drive Method: front engine, all-wheel drive.
Trunk Volume: 500 litres.
Fuel Economy: 13.1/7.7/10.1L/100 km city/highway/combined
Price: $61,500, as tested $75,850 including $1,350 freight and PDI.