Special Coverage

Frankfurt Auto Show

Jaguar Cars unveils the production version of its much-anticipated ’09 Jaguar XF sedan today at the Frankfurt auto show, vowing the car “signals a new design and engineering direction” for the beleaguered auto maker.

Based on the CX-F concept shown at January’s North American International Auto Show in Detroit, the flagship sedan boasts many “firsts” for the storied auto maker, including JaguarDrive Selector – an industry-exclusive rotary dial that allows gears to be chosen similar to the way stations are selected on a conventional radio.

The 6-speed automatic also can be shifted using steering-wheel paddles and features an inclement-weather setting activated via a switch, Jaguar says.

Another first is JaguarSense, a proximity-sensing control used for overhead console lights and the glovebox release.

In addition to the new state-of-the-art features, the XF comes equipped with the standard array of luxury-car amenities, such as blind-spot detection, front- and rear-parking aids, adaptive cruise control, automatic speed limiter, tire pressure monitoring system and electronic parking brake.

JaguarVoice, used to verbally operate audio and telephone functions, rounds out the bevy of safety and entertainment electronics.

Despite the vast array of in-vehicle electronics, Jaguar says the devices “empower rather than overpower.” The XF has features that are “invisible until needed,” unlike other luxury cars in which auto makers push technology as a dominant interior theme.

The XF also makes use of mood lighting, beginning to proliferate in a number of upcoming vehicles from parent Ford Motor Co. One of the more innovative uses involves the starter button, which flashes red to mimic a heartbeat upon entering the vehicle, a design touch borrowed from the CX-F concept.

Phosphor blue mood, or “halo,” lighting illuminates other portions of the cabin, creating an ambience meant to evoke “a favorite contemporary bar or restaurant,” Jaguar says.

But exterior styling is where the auto maker is counting on the XF to make its mark as the cornerstone for its new design language. The XF, blending contemporary and emotional themes, closely follows the design cues established by the well-received CX-F concept and the XK sports car, including the oval mesh intake grille that defines the brand’s “face.”

Jaguar Design Director Ian Callum says that XF represents a “personal journey.

“It has always been my career goal to return Jaguar to its rightful place as leader in automotive design,” he says. “Cars like the original XJ6 left a lasting legacy and my ambition has been to create something as seminal. The XF is that car.”

The XF boasts a wide muscular stance and a rising waistline that raises the cat’s rear haunches more than any previous Jaguar, the auto maker says.

The car’s unique profile improves aerodynamics without sacrificing interior space, which provides room for five adults “in comfort,” Jaguar says. The XF’s drag coefficient is a mere 0.29, which the auto maker says contributes to low wind noise, better fuel efficiency and strong high-speed stability.

Trunk capacity is 17.6 cu.-ft. (0.5 cu.-m), or 32.4 cu.-ft. (0.9 cu.-m) with the rear seats folded down.

Around back, the XF has design elements meant to emphasize the width of the car, including a Jaguar script that runs along the entire decklid and wraparound light-emitting diode tail lamps. The unique lighting provides the XF with an “unmistakable night-time signature and an exotic personality,” Jaguar says.

The XF will be available with two engine choices – a 4.2L naturally aspirated V-8 that produces 300 hp and 310 lb.-ft. (420 Nm) of torque and a 4.2L supercharged V-8 that delivers 420 hp and 408 lb.-ft. (553 Nm) of torque.

Estimated 0-60 mph (97 km/h) times are 6.2 seconds for the normally aspirated mill and 5.1 seconds for the supercharged version, Jaguar says. Both models are limited to a top speed of 155 mph (249 km/h).

To simplify ordering, Jaguar will offer the naturally aspirated V-8 model in only two trim levels – luxury and premium – and the supercharged model will have its own unique specification, resulting in only six possible XF variants.

Front brakes vary depending on engine choice, with the naturally aspirated model getting 12.8-in. (32.5 cm) discs and the supercharged variant fitted with 14.0-in. (36 cm) units. Both models employ 12.8-in. rear brakes.

The XF is available with 18-, 19-, or 20-in. alloy wheels, the largest standard on the supercharged model.

The XF already is available for order in certain markets, Jaguar says. The first cars are slated to be delivered in March.

Jaguar does not reveal target volumes for the XF. The S-Type that it replaces has been on a downward sales spiral, with only 2,573 units sold in the U.S. through August, according to Ward’s data.

Pricing is available for individual markets depending on the start of customer orders, Jaguar says.

bpope@wardsauto.com