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New Jaguar XF feels right

The redesigned 2016 Jaguar XF is a gorgeous sedan with driving dynamics to match its aesthetics. It's a car that feels right, whether you're cruising down I-95 at a legal pace or taking a corner at the speed of fun.

The redesigned 2016 Jaguar XF is a gorgeous sedan with driving dynamics to match its aesthetics. It's a car that feels right, whether you're cruising down I-95 at a legal pace or taking a corner at the speed of fun.

Mike Bradley, the XF's launch manager, says the car offers "a sports-car driving experience with sedan practicality." That's a fair statement, particularly in the case of the S model I tested, which is the sportiest XF of them all.

This new rendition of Jaguar's midsize luxury sedan, which battles with the likes of the Mercedes-Benz E Class and BMW 5 Series, is a deliberately evolutionary styling exercise. Design chief Ian Callum wasn't ready to make a complete break with a lovely design that has helped sell a hefty 280,000 copies since the XF debuted in 2007.

In gently reworking the XF's body, Callum put the emphasis on simplicity.

"Every exterior line on the XF has a clear purpose, nothing is superfluous," he said. "Achieving that simplicity takes time and requires great determination. It's all too easy to add lines to a car, but much harder to add character by leaving lines out."

The redesign of the XF includes a beneficial increase in the use of aluminum. The light metal was already employed extensively in the previous model's suspension, drive train, and structure. The new car uses even more in the structure, letting it shed an additional 132 pounds.

The weight shaving contributes to a 9 percent increase in fuel economy. The S model I tested had EPA mileage ratings of 20 city and 30 highway. That's not bad for a car powered by a supercharged, 3-liter, 380-horsepower V-6 that gets it from 0 to 60 in a brisk five seconds. (The 2-liter diesel XF, due out in late spring, will do even better.)

While the new car is actually a third of an inch shorter than the one it replaces, a two-inch bump in wheelbase gives it a tad more rear legroom and trunk space.

Interestingly enough, the new XF got a Walmart rollback. At $51,900, the base XF is about $5,000 less than the old model's.

The XF has some pleasant things in common with Jaguar's F-Type sports car. The supercharged V-6s, both the 340-horsepower version in the base car and the 380-horse variant in the S model, were borrowed from the F-Type, as was the responsive electric power steering system. The XF also employs the sports car's torque-vectoring system, which lightly brakes the inside rear wheel when the car enters a corner, helping it turn and thus reducing understeer.

The rear-drive XF S I drove (it's also available with all-wheel drive) proved pleasurable and satisfying on several fronts. It's a lovely car to behold, and just as pretty inside, where being cosseted in clean design, leather, veneer, and state-of-the-art electronics leaves you feeling special.

The XF is quiet and very solid. While the suspension is supple enough on the highway, the standard adaptive damping system will automatically tighten it up when driving conditions require more athleticism.

Between the perfect 50-50 fore-to-aft weight distribution, the suspension tuning and steering response, the XF handles superbly. This is a car that doesn't play with you. It goes exactly where it's pointed.

The driving experience also was enhanced for me by the XF's eight-speed automatic gearbox. This transmission comes with paddle shifters, but I found myself asking, why bother? When I wanted to play on a winding road, I just put it in "sport" mode and let the transmission do the thinking. It always gave me the right gear at the right time.

Maybe it could help me with my income tax return.


2016 Jaguar XF S

Base price: $62,700.

As tested: $74,335.

Standard equipment: Three-liter, supercharged engine, eight-speed automatic transmission, rear drive, driving aids that include adaptive suspension damping, rear camera, navigation, blind-spot monitor, lane-keeping assist and rear camera, and comfort features such as leather, 14-way heated front seats and a moon roof.

Options: Include cooled front and heated rear seats, veneer accents, power trunk, electric rear sun blind, adaptive cruise control, traffic sign recognition, parking assist, and head-up display.

Fuel economy: 20 mpg city, 30 highway.

Engine performance: Lively.

Styling: Lovely.

Handling: Superb.

Ride comfort: Good.

Warranty: Five years/60,000 miles bumper to bumper.

The Ben key: four Bens, excellent; three Bens, good; two Bens, fair; one Ben, poor.