Special Coverage

Ward’s Auto Interiors Show

What makes a Jaguar a Jaguar? It used to mean sensuous curved sheet metal on the exterior and lots of wood and leather inside.

But the luxury market since has become overburdened with superb luxury intenders, not to mention dozens of wannabes. The once foolproof formula of highly polished burled walnut and sumptuous leather now is a cliche almost as tired as the pillow-like seat cushions and thick velour upholstery of the 1970s.

For more than a decade, Jaguar has been searching for a new design language to describe the brand, one that is modern and awe-inspiring, yet still respects the auto maker’s core values and rich history.

Ward’s editors think designers finally found that vocabulary with the devastatingly beautiful interior of the Jaguar XF.

From the moment the start button playfully lights up and imitates a pulse-like beat when it senses a key fob nearby, to the quiet, spaceship-like hum the interior emanates as it goes into sleep mode after a hard day’s drive, the XF’s interior exudes luxury and personality as if it were creating it by photosynthesis.

First the stunning interior lines and shapes wowed the judges, and then we were intrigued by the innovative use of materials and textures.

Associate Editor Christie Schweinsberg called out the Jaguar’s adventurous color palette, used for everything from trim materials to the turquoise backlighting of the gauges.

Executive Editor Tom Murphy gives kudos to the gray-toned wood trim.

We also gave points for the minimalist electronic emergency-brake lever in the center console that works well and saves precious real estate by eliminating a bulky hand lever or foot pedal.

And yet, in its battle to appear technologically advanced, this interior does not overwhelm the driver with a confusing array of tiny buttons. “It demonstrates that a high-tech car doesn’t need an IP that puts the driver into sensory overload,” says Ward’s Dealer Business Editor Steve Finlay.

But that doesn’t mean this interior is not stimulating to the senses. Push the pulsing start button and it literally comes alive.

The air vent doors open in unison, while at the same time the unique circular gearshift dial emerges from a recess in the center console.

It’s all stunningly modern, yet somehow so British and deliciously reminiscent of a James Bond movie that you half expect “Q” to be sitting in the back seat pointing out the buttons for the machine guns and the ejector seat.

Yes, we know Bond drove an Aston Martin, and Aston Martin no longer is a sibling, and a company headquartered in India will soon own Jaguar. None of that matters. Being reminded of the harsh realities of every day existence is not what consumers look for in the interior of expensive cars.

They want something that gets the blood moving and makes them feel special the moment they sit down. The interior of the XF does that. What’s more, it defines the brand and sells the car like few other vehicles we’ve tested this year.

dwinter@wardsauto.com