By Warren Brown
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, June 21, 2009
Artifice has value, particularly in automotive journalism. I, for example, will use any excuse to get behind the wheel of a new automobile, especially one as beautiful as the 2010 Jaguar XF Premium sedan driven for this week's column.
Visually, it differs little from the 2009 Jaguar XF Supercharged sedan reviewed in this space on April 27, 2008.
It matters not.
I wouldn't refuse a chance to drive a Jaguar XF any more than I'd turn down a front-row ticket to a Tina Turner concert.
Tina on stage and the Jaguar XF Premium sedan on the road have commonality. Both epitomize the difference between sex and sensuality. Sex is fleeting, often forgettable. Sensuality speaks to the heart and soul. It is a memorable experience, expressed thusly:
If you've seen Tina once, you'll want to see her again. If you've driven a Jaguar XF sedan once -- the base XF, the tested XF Premium, or the truly exotic XFR -- you'll want to drive one again. Any excuse that allows a repeat experience is sufficient.
I had an excuse, albeit flimsy.
Jaguar, like many of its rivals, has been under government pressure to deliver more fuel economy. But the trick for luxury brands is to do that without harming their basic character -- what automotive marketers call "a car's DNA."
Historically, Jaguar's DNA has yielded rear-wheel-drive automobiles known for their beauty, power and speed. But as a ward of Ford Motor, Jaguar fiddled with that formula, offering models such as the front-wheel-drive X-Type and S-Type.
The "X" and "S" were "affordable" and offered better fuel economy in comparison with traditional Jaguar standards. Stylistically, both cars were throwbacks to the days when Jaguar signaled exclusion. But neither had an ounce of traditional Jaguar panache, and both were weighted with fuel economy and performance no better than ordinary front-wheel-drive, mid-size family sedans.
The novelty of the "X" and "S" wore off. Both were discontinued by the 2008 model year, when Ford, in search of cash, sold Jaguar to the Tata Group, a multinational conglomerate based in Mumbai.
With the rear-wheel-drive XF Premium, Jaguar's designers once again are trying to please the gods of fuel economy without offending those reigning over beauty, power and speed. But it appears that the gods must be crazy.
The XF Premium comes with a new, 5-liter, 385-horsepower V-8 engine -- more than enough power to satisfy motorists who want muscle, but who are not inclined to show off by flexing their motorized biceps.
It is a noble effort, one that has emerald patina. But the XF Premium yields only slightly better fuel economy than what is offered by the XFR with its supercharged, 510-horsepower version of Jaguar's 5-liter V-8.
The XF Premium gets 16 miles per gallon in the city and 25 mpg on the highway. The XFR gets 15 mpg in the city and 23 mpg on the highway. Both models require premium unleaded gasoline.
The likelihood is that most fundamental Jaguar worshipers -- the people for whom beauty, power and speed are sacred -- won't care. Such folks spend huge amounts of money and time pursuing "Jaguarness" -- buying and selling Jaguar cars new and old, collecting and displaying them at regional and national car shows, getting together for "Jaguar weekends" and holding rallies crowned by festive award dinners.
Such enthusiasts are deeply touched by details such as the contrast stitching on the XF Premium's interior leather panels. That means some of them will be disappointed by the inconsistent use of that technique in the XF Premium, which features contrast stitching on dashboard- and door-panel coverings, but abandons the technique on the car's leather-covered seats.
That might seem a silly concern to non-Jaguar people. But to the aficionados, it is a deficiency worthy of demerits at regional and national Jaguar car shows.
All else about the XF Premium, including its glove compartment and cup holders -- elegantly hidden behind and beneath soft-touch doors of ebony wood veneer -- meets show standards. The car is a classically beautiful piece of motorized art, a luxury car that feints toward honoring practicality while sacrificing precious little of its aesthetic appeal.