The Jaguar that makes all the other options look bloody boring.

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Richard Berry road tests and reviews the new Jaguar XF R-Sport 25t with specs, fuel consumption and verdict.

Jaguar’s XF was the British brand’s comeback car when it arrived in 2008 – the same year Indian company Tata bought Jaguar from Ford. Everything for Jaguar was good again (well good for once).

See, its new wealthy owners began pouring all the money in the world into development and facilities, design god Ian Callum was on the start of a roll and the cars were as British as ever, being built on the site of an old World War II Spitfire factory in Castle Bromwich, England.

There was one problem. The XF was built on the same platform as the S-Type (remember the Jag that looked like an old one but wasn’t? Yeah, that one). So even though it was gorgeous, it handled like a 1999 Ford Lincoln, because it more or less was one underneath.

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Which is why you should forget that one and buy the new generation XF which arrived in 2016. Not only is it goregeouser but it has an all-new platform, it’s made almost entirely of aluminium so it’s light, and a update has landed recently giving it some much needed tech to take on its German rivals such as Mercedes-Benz’s E-Class, BMW’s 5 Series and Audi’s A6.

But before you run off demanding a Jag dealer take your money, there are some things you should know. Things like, why is that blurry? What’s that plastic bit that once pointed out you can’t unsee? And what do you mean this new engine will be replaced soon?

All these will be answered in our review of the XF R-Sport 25t.

Is there anything interesting about its design?

The XF’s biggest strength is its attractive looks and it completely blows its conservatively designed competition away. There’s that fastback profile, that strong shoulder line, and a bonnet which arches down in trademark Jaguar style to that enormous grille flanked by giant lower air intakes.

Jaguar XF R-Sport review

At 4954mm the XF’s dimensions show it to be 18mm longer than the new BMW 5 Series sedan, but at 1987mm across it's 119mm narrower, and standing 1457mm tall it's 22mm shorter in height.

The use of aluminium almost everywhere in the XF, from its core architecture to body panels, makes it relatively light at 1590kg - 100kg less than the previous car.

To tell an R-Sport apart from the three other XF grades, look for the body kit – front bumper, side skirts and boot lid spoiler - plus the 19-inch, 10-spoke 'Vortex' wheels.

The cabin is beautiful, the dashboard border flows from door to door like the bow of a boat, while the stitched leather instrument cluster hood curves over the virtual dials and sweeps down to the passenger side.

The way the air vents roll open from behind flush panels and how the gear shifter rises out of the centre console are not only cool party tricks but serve to make this interior even more elegantly minimalist.

That plastic plate. Have you seen the video above? Did you notice it? Once I point it out you won’t be able to unsee it?

OK, the badge on the grille is integrated into a rectangular black plastic plate which is almost invisible – until you see it for the first time. The plate is part of the radar system for the adaptive cruise control (ACC).

Don’t try to take it off! The only way around it is to not option the ACC. It’s a shame because that grille is beyond beautiful and it diminishes this beauty a bit.

This is almost a 10/10 car for design in my books, but it loses marks due to a few quality issues we found with the fit and finish in various areas of our test car. There was a large gap where the door and the dash meet on the driver side and they didn't meet at the same level either, whereas the passenger side was perfect.

Next, the plastic moulding over the left rear door sill didn’t sit flush and had a sharp edge. Again, the corresponding piece on the other side of the car fitted well. And in the boot the hinge holes appeared to be fairly roughly cut and unfinished. These items, while only cosmetic, would annoy me as an owner once I had spotted them.

How practical is the space inside?

The previous XF was infamous for having as much interior space a regulation sardine can. That’s all changed with the new generation car which is far roomier. I’m 191cm and can sit behind my driving position with a good 30mm between my knees and the seat back. Headroom, despite that fastback roof, is excellent.

Jaguar XF R-Sport review

Storage isn’t too bad – there are four cup holders – two in the front and two in the back. The doors have pockets but you’ll only be able to get a slim bottle in. The rear ones are bigger, though. You’ll be disappointed by the size of the centre console bin. From the outside it looks like it should be enormous, but it’s only half as large inside as the length of the lid that covers it.

Boot capacity is excellent at 540 litres which matches the Benz E-Class's luggage space and beats the BMW 5’s and Audi A6’s by 10 litres.

Those rear doors are big and open wide, making entry and exit a cinch.

Does it represent good value for the price? What features does it come with?

There are four specifications of XF and the R-Sport is on the second rung. The 25t refers to the engine which is the entry level petrol engine. So with that combination of grade and engine the R-Sport 25t lists at $89,515. It's not the cheapest XF, that’s the $82,755 Prestige 20d, or the most expensive, that’s the $129,066 S 35t.

The R-Sport is priced competitively compared to its rivals: the BMW 530i is $108,900.

Like the BMW, the standard features list is fairly light-on and if you want the nicer things you’ll have to option them.

Still, the standard features list covers the prestige basics – there’s an 8.0-inch touchscreen with sat nav, reversing camera, auto parking, front and rear parking sensors, leather seats, dual-zone climate control and advanced safety equipment such as AEB and lane departure warning.

Our car was heavily optioned, but we should point out Jaguar does this to media evaluation vehicles to showcase other features rather than suggest you’ll need them all. Some are excellent, but all come at a price. There’s the exquisite 10.2-inch touch screen and the 12.3-inch virtual instrument cluster for $2630, that also comes with the fancier sat nav. There’s a head-up display for $2580 and a safety pack which includes adaptive cruise control (and the 'can't unsee' plastic plate) for $4270.

Our car also had sports leather seats ($1130) that were 14-way power adjustable ($820), and heated ($820), with a memory setting ($640). There was digital radio ($930), tinted rear glass ($930), a heated steering wheel ($520), cooled glovebox ($820), and the black body kit ($1350). 'Rhodium Silver' metallic paint added $2000, and if you want 'premium' metallic paint you're looking at $4000.

If it was my car I’d go for the 'Black Pack' because the gloss black grille looks amazing, I’d get the bigger display and virtual cluster, the tinted rear glass (it’s almost impenetrably dark) and forget the rest. Oh, and I’d get the car in Polaris White because that’s a no-cost option and looks damned fine with the Black Pack. It’s annoying that the adaptive cruise control is part of $4270 package – it should be standard on a car like this.

What are the key stats for the engine and transmission?

The 25t is a 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo-petrol engine. That doesn’t sound like a lot of engine to push this much car but with 177kW and 340Nm, it is, and besides, the car isn’t that heavy.

This wouldn’t be my choice of engine – not because of grunt, but because of the noise, well the lack of noise. A Jaguar should have substantial aural presence, not sound like a white good reheating your lunch.

I had the same issue with the Ford Falcon with its four-cylinder 'EcoBoost' 2.0-litre. And guess what? It’s the same engine. But this will all change before the end of 2017 with Jaguar updating the XF range with its own Ingenium engines. So you may like to wait until then.

What won’t change is the ZF eight-speed automatic. This transmission is seamless and suits the smooth limo personality of the XF perfectly.

Jaguar XF R-Sport review

How much fuel does it consume?

Jaguar says the 25t engine in the XF should drink premium petrol at an average combined rate of 7.5L/100km. Our car, which was tortured for hours in the worst peak hour traffic imaginable, over a week, while being piloted by a madman, needed more at 15.1L/100km.

What's it like to drive?

There’s another standard feature to the XF R-Sport 25t that hasn’t been mentioned – the sports suspension which comes with this grade. It makes an extremely comfortable luxury car a little less comfortable in its ride, and a better handler. It's a compromise that means it can be both a plush cruiser and an agile weapon.

There is also a supercharged V6 petrol engine that would probably be the best match for the R-Sport grade, but the speed at which the R-Sport 25t can get out of its own way is still impressive with a 0-100km/h time of 7.0 seconds.

Even with wide and low profile (255/35 R20) tyres the ride is just short of superb.

Steering is another high point. It's well weighted, and smooth as a high-commission real estate agent, but far more trustworthy and accurate.

That heavily raked windscreen does make you feel like you’re peering out from the inside of a letter box and the visibility through the back window isn’t great, but the reversing camera’s clarity and screen resolution is up there with the best I’ve seen.

The 'Snow, Ice and Rain' drive mode worked extremely well in wet weather, but without it on, and even in 'Normal' mode, the car struggled to maintain traction under harder acceleration.

I’m not a fan of the laser head-up display Jaguar Land Rover uses – it always appear slightly blurry to my eyes.

Jaguar XF R-Sport review

What safety equipment is fitted? What safety rating?

The Jaguar XF R-Sport 25t has the maximum five-star ANCAP rating. There are six airbags, which isn’t many these days considering the Benz E-Class has nine. It’s good to see that AEB and lane departure warning are standard, but even these are becoming the norm on small budget cars.

There are three top tether points and three ISOFIX mounts across the back row for child seats.

What does it cost to own? What warranty is offered?

The XF R-Sport 25t is covered by Jaguar’s three-year/unlimited kilometre warranty.

Servicing is recommended at 12 months/16,000km intervals and is capped at $1350 in total over five years.

Verdict

The Jaguar XF R-Sport 25t's beautiful, dynamic styling (inside and out) makes its luxury Euro rivals look conservative and boring.

Ride and handling is impressive, although the engine wouldn't be our pick. The better sounding and more powerful supercharged V6, which you can have with the R-sport grade, would suit this car's look far more.

There are a few areas where we would expect better fit and finish, and hopefully Jaguar addresses this issue in the future.

Would you choose the Jaguar over a Mercedes, Audi or BMW? Tell us what you think in the comments below.

This story originally appeared on CarsGuide

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