REVIEW DATE: 26 Apr 2010
Can Jaguar's 3.0 V6 petrol XF put a dent in diesel's dominance of the executive car market? Steve Walker takes a look.
There was a time when an executive car without six purring cylinders under its bonnet could render its owner a pariah in the golf club car park. If those cylinders were engaged in squashing diesel rather than sparking unleaded into life, well, the driver may as well have turned up for nine holes in a manure-splattered pick-up truck with a goat riding shotgun. In a market where image and status are oh so important, diesel was once the cheapskate choice. Nowadays, things have come full circle. Diesel is top dog in the executive sector, particularly if yours is a company car, and the silky 3.0 V6 petrol model is reduced to propping up the Jaguar XF range.
Since the cost of running a big saloon car, and a big saloon company car in particular, went skyward, people who would once have sneered at diesel find themselves filling up with a black-handled pump. It's not even much of a drawback these days anyway. Diesel engines have progressed radically, today's units being smooth, powerful and refined as well as economical. Jaguar's 3.0 V6 diesel engine certainly is and it makes the 3.0-litre V6 petrol alternative look a sorry substitute on paper.
Were it not for the fact that Jaguar, like other manufacturers, has ensured that the pricing for its petrol and diesel models reflects the new discrepancy in desirability, there would be little hope for petrol executive cars other than ultra high performance models. As it is, with a price premium of nearly £5,000 required for an oil-burner, the basic petrol XF might still be in with a shout.
The petrol V6 suffers in comparison to the other engines offered in Jaguar's XF. Both the 5.0-litre V8 petrol engine and the 3.0-litre V6 diesel are outstanding powerplants but the prices reflect their ability and the V6 petrol option is no dullard. The unit has been available in the XF from the outset, a 3.0-litre 24-valve V6 producing 238bhp peak power. Maximum torque of 293Nm is produced at 4,100rpm and that gives up a lot of ground to the basic diesel option's 500Nm at 2,000rpm but the 0-60mph sprint is still a respectable 7.9s, just over a second down on that pesky diesel.
"The Jaguar XF 3.0 V6 petrol is a great car by most objective measures"
There's little to break the tranquillity of the cabin when you're on the move, just a puff of wind noise. The engine stays very much in the background but that's true of all the XF's power options. The throttle response might be fractionally sharper in the petrol and the power oozes on as smoothly as you'd expect but the catapult surge of the diesel is missing from the middle of the rev-range.
There's not much that would attract serious criticism, although this isn't one of the top six-cylinder petrol engines in the way that the XF's other units do figure highly in their respective classes. The major plus point for the engine is that it's fitted to the XF, a car that combines the disciplines of ride comfort and enjoyable handling supremely well. It means that the car excels in most situations. Whether pounding the asphalt on a long motorway trip or flowing through the bends on a country road, it rarely falls short of enjoyable and rewarding.
Jaguar tradition is combined elegantly with cutting edge design and technology in the XF and it can't have been an easy thing to pull off. Previous Jag efforts had been rather stuffy in their appearance, harking a little too strongly back to the good old days, despite harbouring clever engineering and construction under the skin. The XF is clearly a Jaguar but its design is forward-looking enough to appeal to a market weaned on shamelessly high-tech German products.
An exterior that mimics the purposeful stance and gently curving roofline of a coupe hides a surprisingly big cabin. There's room for four adults to sit in comfort (a transmission tunnel restricts foot space for the middle passenger in the back), generous interior stowage space and a boot capacity of up to 540 litres that gets bigger when the rear seats are folded. The attention to detail is as good as anything in the sector and if you want a cabin with sense of occasion in your executive car, there's nothing to touch it.
The starter button pulses red, like a heartbeat when you get in. Press it and the JaguarDrive Selector gearchange dial rises from the centre console while rotating air conditioning vents swirl open on the dash. You might get tired of the XF's welcome procedure but it will take a while. Jaguar hasn't quite nailed its control interface as the touchscreen control panel can be a little tricky to use on the move but the major functions are easily accessible and there isn't the overload of buttons that some rivals suffer from.
The 3.0-litre V6 petrol XF will rely on its pricing to sell and at the moment, it's available in Luxury or Premium Luxury trim at just under £5,000 less than the equivalent versions of the entry-level diesel unit. It also looks competitively priced next to equivalent six-cylinder versions of BMW's 5-Series and the Mercedes-Benz E-Class but both offer a lot more by way of performance. Standard equipment includes leather trim, the touchscreen control system, satellite navigation, Bluetooth connectivity and keyless entry which puts rivals firmly in the shade.
All that torque is obviously nice to have but the reasons why diesel has outstripped petrol in the executive car sales charts revolve around running costs. XF buyers who take V6 petrol option will save a packet upfront but they'll be saddled with 27mpg combined cycle economy and 249g/km emissions of CO2 while V6 diesel owners can revel in 42mpg and 179g/km. Closer inspection reveals that the V6 petrol is only fractionally cleaner than the mighty 5.0-litre V8 range-topper.
The fleet customers who make up such a big part of the executive car sector's total sales are even more exposed to the efficiency issue as a result of emissions-based taxation on company cars. For them, it's tough to look beyond the diesel which also enjoys stronger residual values but the lower price of the petrol car may make it more financially viable for private buyers covering lower annual mileages.
A six cylinder petrol engine was once the thing to have in your executive saloon but the only thing you can bank on in the automotive industry is change. These days, it's diesel engines that rule the roost - and the sales charts. The Jaguar XF 3.0 V6 petrol is a great car by most objective measures, stylish, smooth and well-equipped, but it's not the finest V6 petrol unit around and is comprehensively overshadowed by the XF's fantastic 3.0-litre V6 diesel option. The saving grace for the petrol car is that it's almost £5,000 less than the oil-burner. On that basis, the prospect of an XF and a family holiday in the Caribbean will still tempt a good few buyers.
|For XF 3.0 V6|
|OVERALL||7.7 OUT OF 10|
|Space / Versatility||7|