Cat call

The new XF puts a tiger in my tank

Finweek English Edition - - Openers - FRIK ELS frike@fin­week.co.za

PER­HAPS this week’s cover story has left you, the South African mo­torist, more than just a lit­tle de­spon­dent. I feel your pain. I’ve just given back to its real own­ers the Jaguar XF 4.2l V8 Su­per­charged. It was a bit­ter pill to swal­low, but I know now that my reg­u­lar ride won’t fetch enough on trade-in to cover the 20-inch low pro­files on the XF.

The 58 of you who bought an XF in June can stop read­ing now, get back in your cars, take a sniff of that new car smell, dock your MP3-player and be on your merry, merry way. (Jeal­ousy makes you nasty.) As I write this I don’t know how many lucky bas­tards picked one up in July, but it could be above 60. Word gets around.

When I re­view a ve­hi­cle, I usu­ally be­gin with what I call from-the-mouth-of-babestest. Approach a babe with zero knowl­edge and even less in­ter­est in cars and ask her opin­ion. For some rea­son, and I re­ally

should fur­ther in­ves­ti­gate what’s be­hind this (I’m cer­tain it could help me in other de­part­ments), women can pick out a Jaguar in a park­ing lot even if they usu­ally mis­take an Alfa for an A-Class.

The XF’s styling has lit­tle in com­mon with pre­vi­ous gen­er­a­tion Jags – and all the bet­ter for it. But the in­stant recog­ni­tion and at­trac­tion also ap­plies to the new cat from Coven­try. (Tata may own the mar­que now, but Rat­tan and fam­ily wisely kept de­sign and pro­duc­tion in Bri­tain.) Is there too much oe­stro­gen in the wa­ter in old Blighty? Do they know some­thing that Freud could never fig­ure out? Is it a cat lover ver­sus a dog lover thing?

Be­ing called Jaguar isn’t enough; I’ve not heard of any­one lust­ing af­ter a Ford Puma, and Poland’s Leop­ard com­pany makes god-aw­ful look­ing cars (they look a bit like the old Jags in fact, the still beau­ti­ful E-Type ex­cluded, of course). Tiger Wheel & Tyre? There’s noth­ing sexy about get­ting your wheels aligned. But then again a Pirelli cal­en­dar gets my rub­ber burn­ing.

Maybe it’s decades of sub­tle ad­ver­tis­ing. The on­line brochure (www.jaguar. co.za) has a nifty search func­tion. When you click on the search but­ton it sug­gests you search for “+wo­man +shirt”. I did that and no re­sults were re­turned. Good sug­ges­tion, though. Next time I’m in an XF I’ll try to find “+wo­man -shirt”.

The de­signer of the first of Jag’s new gen­er­a­tion cars – the XK, with which the XF shares many styling cues – said he was think­ing of the ac­tress Kate Winslet, his ideal wo­man, while de­sign­ing the coupe. The in­spi­ra­tion for the XF hasn’t been re­vealed, but whoever it was, she’d go so well with the but­tery leather up­hol­stery, the hard, al­most pur­ple wood … ( OK. Enough, Els. How about some­thing about the car it­self? – Ed.)

The Jaguar XF SV8 re­tails for R783 850. For that dosh you get me­chan­i­cally driven su­per­charg­ing de­liv­er­ing 306KW of power and up to 560Nm of torque. How­ever, the man­u­fac­tur­ers have man­aged to tame all that grunt and growl, and ac­cel­er­a­tion is sur­pris­ingly smooth, al­most lin­ear, even in sport mode. The ride is sup­ple, with­out ever be­ing too soft, and the han­dling su­perb. The in­te­rior is the best in its class. If the car’s Teu­tonic ri­val’s cab­ins some­times look as if they could’ve been de­signed by dun­geon mas­ter Josef Fritzl, the Jag’s more Philippe Starck.

The lo­cal ra­dio ad­vert for Jaguar takes a side­swipe at its Ger­man com­peti­tors in its seg­ment. There’s some­thing in the ad about them hav­ing to take more sleep­ing tablets since April. I’d think those di­a­mond-shaped blue pills are what’s re­ally needed.

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