Entries of this nature were made back in the Trollhattan Saab days under the title I drove a XXXX and here’s why I’d still buy a Saab. We haven’t done one for a while, but WooDz has recently had some time behind the wheel of Jaguar’s highly regarded new XF model.
I’ve abbreviated the title because rather than give a summary for his Saab preferences, WooDz spells out some concerns that I share for modern cars. The new Saab 9-5 will be the first Saab to incorporate all this new technology, so it’ll be interesting to see how it effects the driving experience.
My thanks to WooDz for the writeup!
At the weekend I had the pleasure of driving the new Jaguar XF 3.0 Diesel. There were many miles ahead of me, some 800 give or take. So how would the XF hold up over a long period of driving? Could this luxury high-tech limousine tick all the right boxes for me? And does my 10 year old Viggen still have the best seats in the house?
The WooDzettes and the XF
The first impression you get from the XF is pure elegance, it’s not a small car and the sculpted edges and wide stance create a presence you don’t easily forget.
Inside the car you are encased in a mixture of wood, leather and metal, driving home the fact that although the XF’s roots come from a Ford Mondeo, make no mistake this is not mutton dressed as lamb. Or is it?
As you look closer you realise that the wood is really plastic and the aluminum touches, for example on the steering wheel, are also plastic. However for some reason you’re still not phased. Maybe it’s because the main overtone still exudes that luxury feel, that the whole dash is covered in fine stitched leather and well; after all, it is a Jaaaaaag.
The XF’s showcase is the engaging of the ignition and as the soft blue dials come to life and the air-vents automatically open like the pop-up headlights of previous generation performance cars it definitely has that ‘wow’ effect. Once the engine starts up you can hardly hear anything from the oil burner that emits just a quiet purr.
On the road that purr doesn’t suddenly turn into a wild cat growl or roar – diesel engines just don’t do that – but they do give huge amounts of torque at very low revs and the XF’s 600nm gives it to you by the lorry load. At no point did this car ever feel under-powered.
The handling is of the highest calibre and just when you think your speed is a bit too much for that corner, you just turn in a little more and there’s nary a squeak from any of the tyres. I’m sure the Jag can be pushed to its limits but for me that wasn’t the game. I wanted to feel like a king riding back to his castle, making the command decisions as opposed to the decadent romans who were carried for miles on a bed of wobbling cushions.
On that front the XF doesn’t disappoint, it makes you feel special, regardless of whether you’re fully aware of the turning heads as you gracefully pass the wash of inferior carts or you’re soaking up your blissful surroundings cruising at a steady 70mph as you watch the hustle of commuters desperately trying to cut through heavy traffic fighting their way home.
This car should be perfect but it isn’t. I understand that I have probably lead you up a path and it is for a reason – because the XF really is a fine car. It’s fast and it’s even relatively economical, averaging 35mpg from a big 275hp V6. It radiates an aura of power and the handling is absolutely exquisite.
However, this car has a deep rooted problem or two.
I encountered the first of these problems just an hour into my journey, when the car went into what is commonly known by Saab owners as limp home mode. Jaguar call it ‘Reduced Performance’.
If you own an XF you’ll know that it just does this sometimes. There’s no need to take the car to a dealer to be fixed, just stop for a break or fill up with fuel and the system will be back to normal when you return just a few minutes later; and I hasten to add that the car never did it again for the rest of my trip.
However there were more interferences that were at play.
On the motor-way the ‘lane departure’ warnings constantly remind you that either you are overtaking another vehicle or another vehicle is overtaking you. At one point I was in the outside lane and the system thought the bushes in the centre reservation were trying to overtake me.
After a while the little flashes of orange seem to fade into your periphery but the strange bit is that after about 8 hours of driving you actually start to rely on them. That doesn’t mean you stop physically checking the blind-spots to make sure the way is clear but quite often a quick glance sideways and the orange emitting light was enough to know it wasn’t safe to change lane, which meant I could keep more focus on the road ahead.
Are ‘lane departure’ warnings an annoyance? The answer is no but I’m no technophobe and happy to use and trust the signals being sent – to an extent.
Another quip was the cruise control. I like cruise control. It makes long distance driving so much more bearable and the XF has another advancement on just plain old cruise – and that is it’s adaptive cruise control.
You set your desired speed and then with another button you set how far away you want to be from the car in front. If you approach a car that is going slower than you, the XF will change its speed by applying the brakes to match the speed of the car ahead. Once the way is clear, the XF will then accelerate back to the originally set speed.
In certain conditions when the flow of traffic gets too slow your car will continue to apply the brakes and at the last minute it will ask you to intervene and disengage the cruise control.
Personally I think this is pointless because if the system can regulate your speed from over 100mph down to 30, then it should be able to stop the car completely and start it again when the traffic starts to move. Another problem is when a car moves into the gap you’ve set. The system will apply the brakes to maintain your set distance as opposed to a more human reaction, which would range between easing off the accelerator to full braking depending on how close the car is.
Regardless of all this, the worst part is when cruise is engaged, you enter a corner and a large vehicle in front of you, in a completely different lane, fools the system into thinking you’re just about to drive into a brick wall and slams the anchors on.
After a while you just want to forget using cruise control at all, just to avoid the tailgating car behind you from potentially driving into your rear end.
All this technology should be great and 99% of the time it is. Yet it’s that 1% that all the programming in the world can’t calculate for (or is over-calculating for) that literally spoils what should be a relaxed driving experience where you can remain focused on the road ahead, keep a watchful eye on the surrounding traffic and not be distracted by over zealous computer systems.
The all-new Saab 9-5 boasts all of these gadgets and on the new ‘changing perspectives’ microsite, the majority of votes lean toward people wanting more technologically advanced systems to improve one’s driving experience.
For me the answer is simple. An aid is no longer an aid when it becomes an annoyance or a hindrance.
Adaptive cruise (or curse) control is a good example of too much technology. To be brutally honest any computer aided device will numb your driving experience and given enough of them, driving a car of the future will be no more exciting than sitting in an armchair.
We all want the new 9-5 to be good, to be on par if not better than its competition and unfortunately this means fancy plugins are not to be left out. However, if manufacturers want to build a ‘fun to drive’ car then they are going to have to seriously start considering what defines fun and where the line between a ‘safe drivers car’ ends and a robotic taxi begins.
If this is the future of automotive travel then for driving enthusiasts around the world it may become somewhat of a lesser journey. After 15 hours of driving the Jaguar XF my lasting impression is it’s a magnificent car spoilt by technology.
And I still love my Viggen seats…..