Ever since the early 1950s, Jaguar has been synonymous with engine sizes no smaller than six cylinders.
|AT A GLANCE|
|Power plant: Transverse mounted in-line four cylinder 2.0-litre EcoBoost petrol engine, 177kW at 5500rpm, 340Nm at 2000-4000rpm.|
|Running gear: Rear-wheel drive. Eight-speed automatic transmission with manual shift controls on the steering wheel. Double wishbone suspension system front and rear. Full range of electronic ride and handling aids.|
|How big: Length 4961mm, width 1877mm, height 1460mm, wheelbase 2909mm.|
|How much: $90,000.|
|What's good: Best price yet for a large Jaguar. New-age petrol engine offers excellent economy and flexibility. Nice ride and handling.|
|What's not: Boot space remains a little restricted for a car of this size.
|Our verdict: It's not a six or an eight – but a four. But that EcoBoost engine is a great four, which makes this Jaguar XF all the more appealing.|
It wasn't until the mid-1930s that six-cylinder engines began to be included in the mix, and in fact four cylinder units remained under Jaguar bonnets until the early 1950s - but by then, not only were they not considered sufficiently efficient, but they didn't fit in with the Jag marketing mantra of grace, space and pace.
But now, 60 years later, four cylinder petrol engines are very much back in the mix again. It's all thanks to the technical wizardry of the Ford-developed EcoBoost small capacity turbocharged engines which are now being installed into all sorts of product of all sizes.
Just like Land Rover, Volvo and Ford have done, Jaguar has taken a 2.0-litre EcoBoost engine and fitted it to the medium-large XF sedan and will soon put it in the even larger XJ.
What this means is that what is known as the XF 2.0 i4 Luxury (and a 2.2-litre turbodiesel equivalent, which is also four cylinders) takes its place in a Jaguar fleet that in every other case is at least six cylinder product and goes up to stonking 5.0-litre supercharged V8 models such as the XFR and the XKR-S.
There are several areas of good news about this.
The first is that both the XF 2.0 i4 and the 2.2D, which have identical specification, are on the New Zealand market with list prices of $90,000 which is good affordability for high-end luxury sedans.
The second is that thanks to the efficiency of the EcoBoost engine, this four cylinder XF is a fuel miser, boasting a combined fuel consumption of 6.2 litres per 100 kilometres which easily betters anything else with petrol power that Jaguar offers and is down in the realms of the consumption offered by the diesel product.
And the third good news is that the 2.0-litre engine gives the XF very good performance. Thanks to the turbocharging, maximum power is 177 kilowatts and the maximum torque is 340 newton metres at a diesel-like 2000rpm.
This XF really does perform well. I suppose the only minor downside is that the 2.0 i4 doesn't particularly sound like a Jaguar any more. But then again, a scan of the Jaguar fleet currently on offer in New Zealand shows that there's only one petrol six cylinder model in there anyway - and that's the just-launched F-Type sportscar.
But what a nice engine. I've already experienced it before in such product as the Ford Mondeo and the Range Rover Evoque, and it really impresses for its flexibility. In the Jaguar case the engine is mated to a ZF eight-speed automatic transmission which makes excellent use of available power and torque.
It will accelerate the XF to the open road speed limit in 7.9 seconds which is less than a second behind the time achieved by the larger 3.0-litre twin-turbo V6 diesel-engined version, and when at speed it offers beautifully flexible performance.
And at 100kmh in eighth gear on a flat section of open road, the engine ticks over at just 1300rpm, a ridiculously low engine speed where very good fuel consumption can be achieved.
Engine performance aside - and it has to be said that the 2.0-litre EcoBoost engine doesn't exhibit the really solid low-down surge of the bigger turbodiesels - the car continues to offer everything you expect from an XF Jaguar.
The European luxury sedan comes standard with full leather upholstery, electric adjustment of the front seats and steering column, xenon headlights, keyless entry and start, satellite navigation, rain-sensing wipers, rear parking aid, six airbags, and traction and stability control.
The car also has Bluetooth, a DVD player with iPod, MP3 player and USB port, and a 250-watt sound system with 10 speakers.
And it looks good. All the XF models received quite a few exterior and interior changes as part of a facelift last year. The front features slim-line xenon headlight with LED running lights of a design Jaguar has dubbed "J-blade", and the rear has a powered boot-closing function.
The XF has been around for quite some time now, but its excellence of bodyshell design means that to my eyes it continues to look fresh and contemporary. Add to that the technological freshness of that excellent EcoBoost engine, and this model is an appealing price for the price.
- © Fairfax NZ News