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Jaguar XF offers big value with smaller engine, price

The 2013 Jaguar XF sedan starts at $46,975.

The 2013 Jaguar XF sedan starts at $46,975. Credit: Jaguar

Calling a $47,000 car cheap might seem crass. But it’s a rare day to find a Jaguar for less than $50,000, especially one that looks as good as the XF sedan.

"We needed a more affordable entry point to Jaguar, and we haven’t had a model at that price level in many, many, many years," says Andy Goss, president and chief executive officer of Jaguar Land Rover North America. "People think all of our cars start at $100,000. The XF helps to reposition the brand in people’s mind, showing that we can compete at different price levels."

The XF isn’t new, but the engine on the $47,000 base model is. The sedan gets the same 2.0-liter, turbocharged four-cylinder found on the Land Rover Evoque SUV, Jaguar’s sister brand.

Efficiency regulations are swiftly changing the luxury industry - few would have imagined a four-banger in a Jag a decade ago, when it was owned by Ford. Now the brand is owned by India’s Tata Motors, which Goss says is spending $4.6 billion on research and development between Jaguar and Land Rover.

The hardy 2.0 is mated to an eight-speed automatic transmission, and makes 240 hp and 251 pound-feet of torque. Drivers should see 19 miles per gallon around town, 30 on the highway. That’s a seismic change for a model that was originally released only with a much more expensive (and thirstier) V-8.

"We need a broader product range, and you don’t have to be a rocket scientist to know that some of those white spaces will be filled by smaller cars with smaller engines," says Goss.

The four-cylinder in the mid-sized sedan isn’t the only option. The 340-hp, 3.0-liter V-6 starts at $50,000, and a number of V-8s are still offered, including the supercharged, 550-hp XFR-S ($99,000), out later this year. And for us north easterners, the V-6 is now available with all-wheel-drive.

I drove the base XF around town, on the highway and on sweeping two-lane roads, and the 2.0-liter proved itself fully capable. The sedan scoots around the city and carries ample speed on the open road. The lack of big-engine thrust is most evident when you need a sudden burst to pass slower vehicles. Jaguar claims it reaches 60 miles per hour in 7.5 seconds, but if feels quicker than that.

Once out on back roads looking to have a bit of fun, you’ve got to coax the XF to get the best performance. This means putting it into sport mode and using the behind-the-wheel paddle-shifters. I kept the car in lower gears to maximize torque.

The eight-speed transmission comes from German’s ZF Friedrichshafen, and it’s easily one of the best in the business (and can be found on a growing number of luxury and sports cars across various carmakers). It allows you to shift all the way down from, say, eighth gear to fourth as quickly as you can trigger the left-hand paddle.

The XF’s steering is nicely weighted and because there’s less weight over the front wheels compared to a V-8 model, the car is better balanced. The ride is plush, without any harsh vibrations.

Even more impressive, the motor doesn’t sound harsh or whiny, like too many four-cylinders do when they’re worked hard. I suspect Jaguar put plenty of deadening materials inside. The downside is a general lack of engine sound. One of a Jaguar’s great joys is the vibrant purr of a V-8.

But the XF isn’t really a sports car, as evidenced by the cushy interior. This is about conveying you and your passengers around with a good dose of style. It won’t pass for the interior of a $100,000 car, but you could easily convince someone it costs $70,000.

The base gets some leather on its seats, rosewood veneer, a sliding roof and a seven-inch touch screen (though navigation is an extra option). Overall, the center stack is remarkably unfussy.

The costs savings of the base quickly go away if you begin choosing the pricier-than-they-should-be upgrades. The $4,000 "portfolio" pack gets you nicer leather seats that adjust in more ways and are heated and cooled, a fancier roof lining and a heated steering wheel. But for that kind of money, you could go ahead and opt for the V-6.

Similarly, the Meridian surround system stereo will run you $2,300, the adaptive cruise control $2,300. The 2.0-liter XF is a decent value at less than $50,000, but becomes a lot less attractive once it surpasses $60,000.

One last thing: There was no indication on the exterior of my test model that it was a four-cylinder, and several passengers I took out had no idea it was either.

So choosing to buy the less expensive, more efficient XF is a secret easily kept between you and your bank account.

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