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Four Play

With its turbocharged four-cylinder, the Jaguar XF makes downsizing sexy.

It is often alleged that the wealthy play by different rules. Witness the legal fallout – or rather, lack thereof – from the Wall Street financial meltdown. But this is a car column, not a political soapbox, so I digress… Fortunately for social justice seekers, the automotive world is somewhat more egalitarian. There are rules that apply to all automakers, those catering to sybarites and plebes alike.    

Federal government emissions standards constitute one such leveler of the playing field. By 2016, all vehicles must achieve a combined average of 35.5 mpg. Obviously, many automakers are already there, or at least well on their way, thanks to hybrid and plug-in electric technologies. Others are moving a bit more slowly. These tend to be some of the smaller, old-world luxury automakers. I can’t help but chuckle a little when one such automaker trots out a “greener” version of one of its gas guzzlers, touting a reduction from twelve cylinders to eight (only eight!) and a combined mpg in the mid-teens.

Such is not the case, however, with Jaguar. Despite being under Indian conglomerate Tata’s stewardship, Jag still represents old world class and charm. Yet, the brand has made impressive strides in diversifying and modernizing the portfolio of its XF sedan. The sleek midsize arrived in 2008 in V-8 spec only. Now, the engine offerings include a supercharged V-8, supercharged V-6 and, most recently, a turbocharged inline four-cylinder. The 2013 Jaguar XF I4 T represents Jaguar’s entry (alongside the BMW 528i and Audi A6) into the relatively new field of midsize luxury sedans sporting a turbocharged four-cylinder – an engine choice widely available elsewhere, though typically reserved for those of, well, lesser means.

So how does this leaner cat stack up? Strictly by the numbers, the I4 T (shorthand for inline four turbo) forfeits 100 hp and 81 lb-ft of torque to the supercharged V-6 XF. Still, the compact and lightweight all-aluminum two-liter turbo produces an ample 240 hp and 251 lb-ft of torque. Channeled via a silky ZF eight-speed automatic transmission, the engine output makes the XF smooth and composed on city streets, while still capable of spirited sprints when needed. The only exception I noted was a bit of turbo lag during those dicey freeway merge situations. But obviously, I made it safely.

The real bottom line, though, isn’t under the hood; it’s inside the cabin. The XF is so richly and stunningly appointed for a car in this class that Jaguar could have put a lawnmower engine in it and I’d still love it. Heck, they could have cut a hole in the floor and told me to foot pedal a la Fred Flintstone and I’d probably say, “Yes, please!” The standard two-tone leather and suede headliner combinations ooze class. The wood veneers – particularly the satin rosewood and gloss-figured ebony – would be right at home on the finest Danish furniture. And lest any of this sound stuffy or dated, the generous use of knurled aluminum, plus a very user-friendly seven-inch infotainment touch screen, provide the perfect balance of youth and utility.

The XF I4 T will save you roughly $3,000 compared with the base price of the V-6 model. For my money, I’d forfeit a little bit of juice, sink the difference into some additional interior amenities, and enjoy the ambiance. Besides, you never know when concerns about sustainable forestry and cruelty-free cattle ranching might prompt the feds to put a cap on premium wood veneers and leather.

Enjoy the Ride  
For more information, visit Jaguar’s website.
::  jaguarusa.com

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