Pros: Lovely standard V8 power with optional supercharging, excellent ride/handling balance, big trunk.

Cons: Dated touchscreen interface, subpar transmission, not a fuel-sipper.

Introduction

The 2012 Jaguar XF seems like it would have no trouble winning a popularity contest. Good looks? You bet. Plus, a facelift for 2012 has turned the XF?s curb appeal up another notch. Athletic? Even the base XF has a formidable 5.0-liter V8, with a couple of supercharged V8s also available, and the handling is impressive for a fancy sedan. Good manners? The XF mostly has the rich interior materials for which British luxury cars are renowned.

So why aren?t more folks buying this car?

We can?t explain it, but we can assure you that it?s not the XF?s fault. With its combination of objective strengths and that exclusive British pedigree, the XF certainly deserves to be mentioned in the same breath as luminaries like the Audi A6 and BMW 5 Series. Sure, Jaguar?s midsize sedan lacks polish here and there, most notably in the uneven efforts from both its touchscreen interface and its six-speed automatic transmission. But the XF?s distinctive character and image should be able to compensate for such shortcomings.

As such, our advice is to give this Jag a chance. It may not have caught on with luxury shoppers just yet, but the 2012 XF certainly has the credentials to be a success.

Comfort & Utility

The 2012 Jaguar XF comes in four trim levels: Base, Portfolio, Supercharged and XFR.

Standard features on the base XF include 18-inch alloy wheels, xenon headlights with LED accents, a sunroof, push-button start, a power tilt-telescopic steering wheel, heated power front seats, leather upholstery, driver memory functions, Bluetooth, parking sensors, , a hard-drive-based navigation system with a seven-inch touchscreen interface and a 10-speaker, 400-watt audio system with iPod/USB connectivity and both HD and satellite radio.

The XF Portfolio adds 19-inch alloy wheels, adaptive xenon headlights, upgraded front seats with both heating and cooling functions and various luxurious interior tweaks.

The XF Supercharged tacks on niceties like 20-inch alloy wheels, a electronic limited-slip differential, electronically adjustable adaptive dampers, a heated steering wheel and an upgraded 600-watt audio system with a subwoofer.

The XFR boasts exclusive 20-inch alloy wheels, a sport-tuned suspension, a rear spoiler, various ?R?-themed exterior and interior styling flourishes, special power sport seats, a power rear sunshade and a 17-speaker, 1,200-watt Bowers & Wilkins audio system.

The Bowers & Wilkins stereo can be added to lesser XFs as an option, as can a number of other high-end standard features. Notably, adaptive cruise control is optional on every XF except the base model.

The XF?s interior hails from a few years back, when Ford still ran the show at Jaguar. That?s why some of the buttons and switchgear have a less-than-premium look and feel-they came from Ford?s corporate parts bin. But the XF still manages to emit an upscale vibe inside, especially when Jaguar?s distinctive rotary shift knob rises out of the center console upon ignition. Your passengers will love it. This isn?t the nicest cabin you?ll find in a midsize luxury sedan, but it?s hardly chopped liver.

Front-seat comfort is generally adequate in the XF, but the base model?s seats have surprisingly limited adjustability. Rear passengers will enjoy ample legroom. Tall ones, however, may find their hair brushing the XF?s sleek roof. In keeping with British tradition, both rows are treated to liberal applications of leather and wood trim.

Cargo capacity in the XF?s trunk is a standout 17.7 cubic feet.

Technology

The good news here is that the XF comes standard with appealing features like Bluetooth connectivity and not one, but two USB ports for iPods and the like. It also gets a standard hard-drive-based infotainment system with navigation, voice-recognition capability and digital music storage. So far, so good. The problem is that the touchscreen interface isn?t as slick as we'd expect at this price point. Despite a graphical upgrade for 2012, including some friendly looking icons for navigation functions, the interface is dominated by boxy shapes and a dated-looking font. Moreover, the screen itself measures just 7 inches, which is barely half the size of some newer screens in this segment. There?s plenty of functionality here, but the lack of visual flair disappoints us, especially in such a stylish car.

Performance & Fuel Economy

The rear-wheel-drive Jaguar XF (all-wheel drive is unavailable) starts with a naturally aspirated 5.0-liter V8 rated at 385 horsepower and 380 lb-ft of torque. As standard engines go, this one blows away all comers in this segment. Delivering an exquisite combination of refinement and brute force, the 5.0 is more motor than most folks will ever need.

Nonetheless, for the ?more is never enough? set, the XF Supercharged adds a supercharger to the 5.0 for a total of 470 horsepower and 424 lb-ft of torque. You can hear a distinctive supercharger whine during hard acceleration, but that?s fine by us-it?s a pleasant aural reminder that you anted up for the really fast XF. And that?s exactly what the XF Supercharged is. Short of super-sedans like the BMW M5, nothing with four doors is going to keep up with this Jag.

Still not satisfied? Well, there?s also the XFR, which squeezes a little more supercharged thrust out of the 5.0-liter V8. Rated at 510 horsepower and 461 lb-ft of torque, the XFR isn?t hugely faster than the XF Supercharged, though you might notice some extra rumble from the exclusive quad exhaust tips. There are some good reasons to buy an XFR, but we think its slight edge in straight-line acceleration isn?t one of them.

All XF models come with a six-speed automatic transmission, and it?s not an especially good one. Many rivals have more than six cogs by now, but the real issue here is the shift quality. From its abrupt kickdowns when passing to its delayed, rough downshifts in manual mode, this gearbox feels a bit behind the times.

Fuel economy for the XF is another weak point. Even the standard V8 returns just 16 mpg

city/23 mpg highway, while both supercharged models drop to 15/21 mpg.

Safety

The 2012 Jaguar XF comes with standard stability control, four-wheel antilock disc brakes and six airbags (front, front-side and full-length side-curtain).

The XF has not been crash-tested stateside.

Driving Impressions

The base Jaguar XF strikes such a satisfying ride/handling balance that we question the need for the fancier models with their adaptive dampers and so forth. From the captain?s seat, the XF is taut and focused. Unlike some rivals, it doesn?t feel big and bulky in corners. On the contrary, it hugs the road like an oversized sport coupe. Of course, those upgraded sport-tuned dampers enhance the effect. During more sedate motoring, the XF continues to impress, providing a composed ride that?s supple but never floaty. Road and wind noise are luxury-low, even with the 20-inch wheels and tires.

Other Cars to Consider

BMW 550i - Packing 400 horsepower from its twin-turbo V8, the 550i is quicker than the base XF, and quick enough to keep the supercharged models within view.

Infiniti M56 - With one of the best V8s in the business (and a naturally aspirated one, at that), the M56 is a natural XF rival. And believe it or not, the M?s interior blows the Jag?s away.

Mercedes-Benz E550 - Blessed with a new twin-turbo V8 of its own, the E550 effortlessly runs with the big dogs in a straight line, though it trades some XF-style athleticism for a softer highway ride.

AutoTrader Recommends

Apparently we?re in that ?more is never enough? camp, because our pick would be the XF Supercharged. As nice as the base engine is, the supercharged version is that much nicer. It?s worth the premium.

author photo

Josh Sadlier is an automotive journalist based in Los Angeles and has contributed to such publications as Edmunds.com and DriverSide.com. He holds arguably the most unexpected degree in his profession: a master's in Theological Studies.

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