The most fun way to drive from Sedona to Flagstaff, Ariz., is via State Highway 89A. Nearly 30 miles of sweeping mountain roads connect the two towns, passing natural wonders such as Slide Rock State Park, an oasis of waterways nestled among a backdrop of the area’s dramatic red and tan sandstone.
We take the jaunt in the 2016 Jaguar XF, the British marque’s midsize sedan, which competes with the likes of the BMW 5 Series, Mercedes-Benz E-Class, and Cadillac CTS. Jaguar has completely redesigned the new XF, beginning with an aluminum architecture that shaves off considerable weight compared with its predecessor.
The new XF sits lower and is slightly wider, with shorter overhangs and a wheelbase that is stretched by two inches. The car’s stronger stance is matched by a more powerful front face with a taller, upright front grille. Redesigned LED headlights are now flush with their surroundings, and wider air intakes help to improve airflow over the front wheels.
Power comes from either a 340 hp, supercharged V-6 (starting from $51,900), or a new 380 hp, supercharged V-6 in the form of the XF S (starting from $62,700). Both are matched with an 8-speed automatic transmission and are available with rear-wheel or all-wheel drive.
From the first corner, we can tell the new XF is more dialed in than ever. The new aluminum chassis keeps the car light on its feet, stable, and composed. Jaguar engineers say it is 28-percent stiffer and 11-percent lighter than the outgoing XF—statistics that are evident as we wind up and over the mountainside. Turn-in is crisp, aided by electric power-assisted steering (the same used on the F-Type) that feels connected, not numb. At exit, we put the throttle down and hear the whine of the supercharger, albeit muffled by a well-insulated interior. Double-wishbone suspension in the front and a unique integral link suspension in the rear use both passive and adaptive dampening for a ride that is both engaging and hunkered-down.
The XF’s stretched wheelbase allows for more interior space, with a backseat that is roomy and comfortable for most adults. The line-topping R-Sport XF S models are the best equipped, with sport-styled seats and optional carbon-fiber trim. In-car technology is improved over past generations with Jaguar’s InControl Touch interface that enables users to access built-in apps and Wi-Fi. We prefer the InControl Touch Pro option, with its 10.2-inch touchscreen, over the standard 8-inch display, which looks dated compared with more sophisticated systems (notably that used in the forthcoming Mercedes-Benz E-Class). A laser heads-up display is also available, as is an optional reconfigurable TFT instrument cluster that replaces the XF’s analog gauges. A suite of available safety features includes adaptive cruise control, a semi-automated parking-assist system that will measure a parking spot and steer itself in, and rear cross-traffic detection that can also sense fast-approaching traffic from behind.
In all, the XF offers standout styling, British charm, and precise driving dynamics in a relatively lightweight package. (jaguarusa.com)