November 2008

Jaguar XF SV8

Front end mixes new style with old Jaguar influences

November 2008

picture of car from the frontpicture of car from the rearpicture of car interiorpicture of car in detail

Overall rating

4.5 out of 5 stars


  • Characterful and powerful V8 engine
  • Cabin is delight to look at and use
  • High specification
  • Exceptional comfort levels


  • Some minor switchgear comes from lesser cars
  • Thirsty powerplant raises running costs
  • Exterior is quite colour sensitive
  • Touch-screen system takes some acclimatisation

Jaguar has entered a bold new era with the XF, aiming to draw in buyers who are new to the brand without alienating long-term fans. The progressive design of the XF is a big part of this move, as is a sporting pedigree, which is where the supercharged SV8 model comes in.

A radical departure stylistically for Jaguar, the XF was designed to be the first of many cars eschewing the firm's old, gentlemanly approach to form and function. On the surface at least, the XF succeeds - it really does look like nothing else from the Jaguar design office. And it's one of the few cars that has remained largely faithful to the original concept, itself lauded as a huge step for the Coventry car maker.

The devil is also in the detail; a quick walk around the XF highlights the car's complex curves, chrome detailing, rakish profile and high waistline. A similar approach sees the XF's cabin ditch the glossy wood of old for a more modern, minimalist appearance complimented by a tasteful amount of light coloured trim.

In a bid to distance the car from austere German rivals, Jaguar has injected some welcome character into the XF. The ownership experience is destined to be a positive one if the presence of a pulsating starter button, air vents that slide into action and a rotary gear selector that rises into place each time you start the car are anything to go buy.

Far from being gimmicks, Jaguar hopes such details will entice buyers young and old - but especially young - to the car, as they show that the designers and engineers care about cabin ambience and the need to make modern technology user friendly. That the XF drives with more vigour and keenness than anything previously also shows that the XF has become more athletic and youthful in the way it performs.

Our verdict on the Jaguar XF SV8

As a car to enjoy, the SV8 has plenty to offer. The characterful and powerful 4.2-litre engine is a joy to use and, although it will prove expensive to fuel, it brings credibility to its sporting aspirations. The rest of the car is similarly impressive, mixing luxury and comfort with style. Even in the face of fierce competition the XF has the ingredients to succeed.


There's no hiding the fact that the XF is not a cheap car. However, it is surprisingly good value when its level of standard equipment is compared with its rivals. The SV8 is comfortably the most expensive

Space and practicality

Past Jaguars have never been regarded as packaging masterpieces, but the XF goes a long way to overturning such perceptions. Front seat occupants fare well, with plenty of head, leg and elbowroom. At the rear legroom is good, although headroom could be better if you're tall. Oddment storage is good for a car in the executive class - MPVs are the overall benchmark here. At the rear the XF's boot is a good size and will accommodate a couple of suitcases with room to spare.

Controls and display

The XF's main dials are very easy to read and the central colour display is straightforward and intuitive. The touchscreen properties require a light touch though, as the display can get crowded with various options. Down to the centre console, and the XF's radical gear selector is actually easy to use. The rotary device rises and falls with the ignition on and off respectively - the starter is a red, pulsating button. Simply spin it right for Drive (plus down and further right for Sport) and left for Reverse and Park. The car's steering wheel paddles can be used at any time.


Plush seats, a quiet cabin and plenty of creature comforts all make the XF's cabin a pleasant place in which to spend a few hours. Engine and road noise are noticeable by their absence. Rear seat adult occupants of a tall nature might find the sloping roofline less attractive from the inside, however.

Car security

All the usual remote locking and immobiliser features are present in the XF. Depending on the model, you can have a completely keyless operation - just walk up to the car, get in and start it - for extra convenience. It also negates the need for you to get fumble for the car's key in locations where personal safety could be compromised.

Car safety

A plethora of airbags highlights Jaguar's commitment to safety, while the engineers' use of intelligent electronic stability controls ensure that keen drivers get to have some fun also. Isofix mounting points are also present, allowing you safely transport children.

Driver appeal

The XF SV8 is intended to offer a more sporting experience than the rest of the XF range, not only through its high output supercharged engine but the standard fit adaptive suspension. In normal driving however there is no apparent compromise in comfort levels, yet in the right conditions the XF is an entertaining car. The impressive paddleshift gearbox mode, plus the option to stiffen the suspension and loosen the dynamic stability control means the driver can easily set the car up for maximum pleasure.

Family car appeal

If you look past the plush cabin upholstery the XF could pass as a family vehicle. The entertainment system would certainly pass muster with young, bored children, and access to the rear is straightforward if you're only concerned with the welfare of little people. Oddment storage can't match that of a people carrier and the shallowness of the XF's boot might struggle with pushchairs and the weekly shop together.

First car appeal

The XF, particularly in SV8 form, is unlikely to suit a new driver, thanks to the combination of power, high purchase price and running costs. Four-door saloons aren't the most popular choice for younger drivers either.

Quality and image

By Jaguar's own admission the XF is a modern interpretation of the firm's luxury trademark designs and implementations. Certainly all the materials are convincing, as is the overall build quality. Image-wise the brand has suffered for being perceived as attractive to mature motorists. With modern styling and technology, the XK coupe and XF have been designed to change this perception.


The XF's rakish profile might look good but the compromise is that rear cabin access is a little compromised if you're large or tall. For most people it will be fine, but that sloping roof does impact on rear headroom and the car's rear doors could be larger - to better aid entry and exit. At the rear, the car's boot is a good size for a modern Jaguar, although the boot aperture is on the small side.

Stereo and ICE (In car entertainment)

Standard fit is a well specified system boasting all the usual premium refinements. Along with steering wheel and fascia controls, the car's colour touchscreen is the main control. Sound quality is excellent and depending on model and options selected, a more powerful amplifier, more speakers and full control of a connected iPod can be experienced.

Colours and trim

Most exterior colours work well - especially the lighter hues, although green is a little too bright and less than flattering. Complimenting the exterior colours is the subtle use of chrome highlights for the grille and other areas. Inside, the refined ambience is topped off by the measured use of wood and silver trim.


Although big, in principal the XF is a straightforward car to park and manoeuvre. The steering is light and accurate at low speeds and forward visibility is good. The view aft could be better, though; the rear screen is small and the rear head rests and high level brake light restrict what you can see. The parking sensors do work well and make life easy once you're acclimatised to the car's dimensions.

Spare wheel

SV8 models get a space saver as standard.

Range information

Petrol engine options - 3.0-litre (238bhp); 4.2-litre (298bhp); 4.2-litre supercharged (416bhp). Diesel engine options - 2.7-litre (207bhp). Transmission options: six-speed automatic gearbox. Trim levels: Luxury, Premium Luxury.

Alternative cars

BMW 5 Series Sharper, more driver-oriented choice; styling not universally liked

Audi A6 Outstanding build quality and good choice of engines; easy on the eye

Mercedes-Benz E-Class Restrained, more elegant alternative; dynamically inferior but spacious

Lexus GS Styling similarities aside, value for money GS is well equipped but lacks diesel variant and character

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