What is it?
Although this Jaguar XF may look no different to versions we’ve previously tested, there’s a significant change beneath its aluminium architecture. For the first time, the British brand’s executive saloon is available with the intelligent all-wheel-drive system that was first seen in the F-Type.
Unlike a permanent system that drives all four wheels all the time, Jaguar’s system powers only the rear wheels until extra traction is required. This should help agility while giving the kind of all-weather dependability drivers of the Audi A6 quattro love so much.
Naturally, there is a penalty for the additional hardware. Weight is up by around 100kg with an increase in carbon emissions and fuel consumption too. It should also be noted that you are restricted to Jaguar's 177bhp Ingenium diesel and eight-speed ZF auto if you want an AWD model.
What's it like?
Those expecting the extra grip to equate to a faster 0-62mph time will be disappointed; the XF AWD is nearly half a second slower against the clock if the official figures are to be believed. However, its top speed is unchanged, should your route to work involve an unrestricted autobahn.
While 8.4sec doesn’t sound too shabby a 0-62mph figure, the AWD feels more sluggish than this suggests. Ultimately, acceleration is adequate, and the car never felt strained accelerating to, and sitting at 130kmh on our French autoroute drive.
In normal driving conditions, the XF AWD feels little different to the two-wheel drive model. The steering remains as quick and accurate as ever, which helps the XF feel far more agile than you might expect from a big saloon - the stiffer suspension of the R-Sport test car helped further.
Firming up the XF may help handling, but it doesn't help comfort. Rough surfaces agitate the ride, although it never becomes outright unpleasant. If you’re swayed by the racy styling of the R-Sport model, you'll put up with it, but the Prestige and Portfolio models have a softer set-up and a more compliant ride.
It’s really only when you push the XF hard enough to begin losing traction that the differences between two and four-wheel drive XFs become apparent. Of course, on wet and icy roads, the difference is seen sooner. On dry roads, you'll have to be trying exceedingly hard to get power sent to the front wheels.
If you do manage to unstick the rear tyres, the tail of the car steps out only fractionally and momentarily before the AWD system shuffles power around, pulling the car out of the slide before it becomes even slightly out of control. It’s safe, but still much more exciting than the equivalent Audi system.
As for the rest of the car, it’s much the same as any other XF. That means an attractive interior, decent rear space and a bigger boot than any of its rivals. It also means material quality that is still behind the likes of Audi and a diesel engine that is less refined than the best out there.
Should I buy one?
If you’re in the market for an all-wheel-drive saloon car but still want to have some fun, the XF is worth serious consideration. Sure, you can get a much faster diesel engine in an Audi A6 with quattro AWD, but the A6 is undoubtedly a blunter instrument.
The XF blends the security of four driven wheels with more playfulness than you get from the Audi. It should also prove similarly economical; according to the Jaguar’s trip computer at least, we averaged more than 46mpg over 600 miles of driving.
For the vast majority of people, however, the two-wheel-drive XF will be an even better bet. Unless you live somewhere that gets snow regularly, the standard XF is quicker, more economical and even more playful to drive.
2016 Jaguar XF 2.0d 180 AWD R-Sport
Location West Sussex; On sale Now; Price £38,650; Engine four-cylinder, 1999cc, turbocharged, diesel; Power 178bhp at 4000rpm; Torque 318lb ft at 1750-2000rpm; Gearbox eight-speed automatic; Kerb weight 1700kg; Top speed 136mph; 0-62mph 8.4sec; Economy 57.7mpg; CO2/tax band 129g/km, 23%