Long warranty further enhances appeal
PAYING a last visit to an old friend isn’t always a pleasant event but if that friend is a Jaguar XF, especially a 3.0 R-Sport version, the adieu is almost certain to be a happy affair.
So it proved after a week of re-acquainting myself with Jaguar’s mid-size luxury saloon that has done so much to lift the brand’s image. This particular car sported a coat of gleaming Kyanite Blue Metallic paint (in simple speak, a royal blue) that I thought looked sumptuous and judging by the envious glances all around me, so did lots of other motorists!
For sure, no other luxury saloon has managed, simultaneously, to look so sporting, an impression enhanced in this iteration by Hydra multi-spoke silver alloys housing meaty 255/35R20 tyres. Gloss black window surrounds and a black mesh grille together with twin elliptical exhaust outlets, styled side sills and R-Sport side vents all add to the sporting look.
Inside, specially-shaped, electrically-adjustable front seats with the facings trimmed in heavily-grained charcoal leather offset by dual-row red stitching not only look sporting but provide wonderfully-judged lateral support too. Those in the back are not quite so well looked after as the seat cushion is set a little low to liberate vertical space, but two adults will be happy enough as knee and foot room is more generous than folklore would have you believe.
A dark velour-type roof lining and carbon fibre trim look the part and contrast nicely with knurled aluminium inlays but as I’ve noted before, the dashboard looks rather slabby and shapeless while the instruments and central infotainment screen are fussily-marked and looking their age.
As you’d expect, this Jaguar is impressively equipped and offers all the mod cons to make life inside decidedly pleasing, particularly in the sound department thanks to an industry-standard Meridian installation. And down the back, luggage space is competitive at 500 litres while folding the rear seats liberates a further 423 litres.
Of greatest relevance in the context of the XF R-Sport is the fact that it’s fitted with a power unit that fully justifies its name tag, specifically Jaguar’s lovely 3.0 Supercharged V6.
This 250kW motor has proved its credentials in a number of applications and its virtues of silent power delivery on the cruise and intoxicating wail under hard acceleration are happily unimpaired in the XF.
Indeed, with the assistance of a very long top gear delivered by the wonderfully-effective ZF 8-speed auto, a 120km/h cruise shows the rev counter needle sitting at a mere 1500 rpm! Of course, there is virtually no mechanical noise from under the bonnet at this rate of rotation and thanks to very effective wind sealing, the interior refinement is out of the top drawer.
It didn’t escape my notice that the front door outer gaps are fully sealed all the way to the sills and it’s only the large wing mirrors that cause any audible flutter.
Happily, not everyone sits at a relaxed 120 all day and every day so when the occasion demands, a heavy right foot will get the rev counter needle spinning round the dial to the accompaniment of a simply marvellous six cylinder wail. For the statisticians, 0-100 km/h is despatched in a mere 5,6 seconds and the surge will continue unabated well into illegal territory.
All the while, that ZF automatic changes with exceptional speed and smoothness and for the keenest drivers, it thankfully provides manual override courtesy of well-positioned paddle shifters.
As with all powerful engines, fuel consumption varies widely according to how much right foot is employed. In a mix of urban stop/start and open road driving, with the emphasis on the former, the R-Sport returned 14.2l/100km. I then undertook a 50km run which consisted of 85 percent motorway tackled wherever possible at about 120 km/h with the balance made up of slow-moving urban traffic. This yielded an encouraging 10.2l/100km.
If the engine offers pleasing returns, the same applies to the steering and suspension. Jaguars have always been noted for finely-judged power steering and the XF doesn’t disappoint as the feel is pleasingly linear from lock to lock and there’s none of that awful induced stiffness around the straight-ahead position. If there’s a flaw, some might find there’s almost too little effort needed around that straight position.
Ride too is another Jaguar speciality and despite the fitment of very large, ultra-low profile tyres that aid handling on the limit, the XF rides with extraordinary comfort and control. There’s an underlying pliancy that filters out typical road imperfections from the cabin but this suppleness doesn’t come at the expense of control over undulations and large bumps which are brushed off with aplomb. Indeed, the only real indication that the XF is riding on 35 profile tyres comes in the form of some road roar generated on coarse surfaces. Note though that the low ride height does not lend itself to regular use on unpaved roads.
For anyone looking for a sporty yet luxurious and cosseting saloon, the Jaguar XF ticks all the right boxes and does so in a style that the primary opposition cannot replicate. And the good news is that as the XF has matured, so it has climbed up independent reliability and customer satisfaction indices. So much so, in fact, that any new model purchased through the approved Jaguar dealer network comes with a 5-year/150 000km all-encompassing warranty. Way back in February, I attended the launch of the then new Hyundai i20 in the Cape and for purposes of memory refreshment, I introduced the model with the following words:
“Designed at Hyundai’s Technical Centre at Russelsheim (near Frankfurt), the new i20 hatch shows clear European influence in its more solid and upright stance which partly eschews Hyundai’s “fluidic sculpture” design theme. Clearly, practical elements have taken precedence over style which is no bad thing in a relatively small hatch that needs to make use of every available bit of space.”
Subsequently, the Zimbabwe importers, ADI, brought in 1.2 and 1.4 manual versions of the i20 but the importers advise me a 1.4GLS auto is now also available together a value-driven 1.2l manual.
It was the 1.4 Fluid auto that I most recently spent time with, so in this brief report I’ll concentrate on the mechanical aspects of the car but I must make note of the fact that whatever version of the i20 you look at, the rear space is good. My notes referred to “more than adequate head and leg room” albeit that lateral space is fine for just two adults.
I also noted an improvement in interior execution brought about in the main by the use of textured surfaces and was happy enough with the equipment levels, the comfortable ride and with the good suppression of wind noise although tyre roar was evident with an empty boot.
So, if the basics of the i20 are good, should Zimbabweans be rushing to ADI to get themselves the i20 auto? Frankly, I’d stick with the manual unless you have a specific need for a two-pedal car
There are two reasons for my definitive statement. The first rests with the fact that the transmission offers only four speeds and the second rests with the engine’s relative lack of low speed torque that compounds the negative effects of the wide gearing occasioned by the use of just four forward gears.
This 1.4 produces a competitive 74kW, albeit at a rather lofty 6 000 rpm, but it’s the torque peak of 133Nm at 3 500 rpm that demands plenty of gear changes to maintain spritely performance. Even with the manual gearbox, I made mention that low speed muscle is not the i20’s forte, and with the auto, this deficit is ever-present in stop/start driving.
The auto box changes smoothly enough for the most part but can be jerky under load. Thankfully, manual shifts can be effected along with kickdown and either method will need to be employed to maintain meaningful action below 2 500 rpm.
The i20’s four cylinder motor operates with commendable smoothness and lack of aural disturbances in give and take driving but along with most engines of this ilk, it sounds strained when given the whip. And fuel economy also varies widely according to use.
In clogged, urban conditions, a poor 12.0l/100km was recorded by the auto but this improved to 8.2 on the open road. Again, the manual version will be less thirsty so you don’t need to be related to Sherlock Holmes to work out that the Hyundai i20 with manual transmission is a better daily companion. If however, you’re a committed fan of two-pedal motoring and aren’t in any great hurry, the i20 auto still has plenty of virtues.