Jaguar XF's feel validates ‘alive’ allusion

Current Jaguar ads use the phrase "As Alive as You Are" and refer to the "growl" of the engine as one of their cars' main attractions.

Sounds like typical advertising hype _ until you get behind the wheel of the 2012 Jaguar XF. The feel of the vehicle as it accelerates and takes the tightest curves with ease validates the "alive" allusion.

The muscular exterior, dramatic side windows and broad rear shoulders give an extra boost to the powerful feel. And the sport suspension provides a smooth ride as well as great handling, with no real compromises on either.

Jaguar's XF is powered by a choice of a 385-, 470- or 510-horsepower V-8 engine, with a six-speed automatic transmission (including paddle shifters for clutch-free manual shifting).

These cars also feature JaguarDrive Winter and Dynamic modes, which control every aspect of the car's drivetrain and electronic-helper systems, to best react to road conditions and the demands of the driver. But driving around my neighborhood in the beautiful spring weather, I didn't get to check out "Winter" mode.

This is a midsize sport sedan with design details suggesting the shape of a coupe. The XF line replaced the S-type sedan, beginning with the 2008 model year. Four trims are available, ranging from $53,000-$82,000.

My tester was the Portfolio model, which begins at $59,000 and comes with the base 5.0-liter V-8, with 385 horsepower and 380 foot-pounds of torque. It was as attractive to look at as it was fun to drive.

The Portfolio starts with lots of exceptional standard equipment, including soft-grain perforated-leather seating surfaces in London Tan, stitched-and-tailored leather instrument panel and door tops in Warm Charcoal, knurled aluminum and ebony veneer trim, premium floor mats, and phosphor-blue halo illumination and interior lighting.

A suede cloth premium headliner added extra elegance to my Portfolio.

The grille is prominent and trimmed in chrome, including the "Growler" badge, and the headlights feature a "J-hook" LED array. Chrome is also used to accent the trunk and the Jaguar badge, the elongated side windows, dual exhaust tips, exclusive XF bumper vent and redesigned, larger fender vents.

Nineteen-inch alloy wheels with 10 "V" spokes are extra sporty.

While the sport bucket seats were firm but comfortable, the extra bolstering on the seat cushion made getting in and out a little more difficult for me.

Both front seats were heated and cooled, with lumbar support for the driver. The driver's seat adjusted 16 ways, making a perfect driving position easy to find. The passenger seat adjusted 12 ways for nearly equal comfort.

Also included are two memory settings for the driver's seat, outside mirrors and the tilt/telescopic steering column. Adjustable pedals helped me find a very comfortable, confident driving position.

The leather-wrapped, three-spoke steering wheel with attached transmission shift paddles was easy to adjust and had easy-to-use controls for the audio, cruise, Bluetooth and JaguarVoice system, which allows the driver to use voice commands for certain functions.

Adaptive Cruise Control was included on my vehicle. It helps maintain a set distance between your vehicle and the vehicle ahead, even if the front vehicle slows down. The package also included advanced electronic brake assist and front seatbelt pretensioners.

The Cold Weather Package brought a heated steering wheel and windshield.

My tester had a wonderful 1,200 watt Bowers and Wilkins sound system with 17 speakers, including subwoofer; Dolby and ProLogic II surround sound; and a MP3/WMA player.

Staging was excellent, making even scratchy music - from old vinyl transferred to my iPod - sound good. The iPod connection and USB port are standard, along with CD/DVD; touch-screen display for audio and navigation, with a 30 GB hard drive; Bluetooth; and both satellite and high-definition radio.

The navigation system in my XF was very simple and intuitive, with each step leading easily to the next, and no guessing necessary. The verbal directions were clear and easy to follow. Pronunciation was exact, however, not phonetic - which is often both hilarious and frustrating.

Each list - for example, the points of interest - was precise, with sub-lists and under-sub lists for easy searching. Graphics were clear, uncluttered, and precise with simple touch programming for various functions.

The system also contained Traffic Message Channel, which uses FM radio to deliver traffic and travel information, helping the driver avoid traffic situations such as accidents or construction. The rear back-up camera shared the screen with the audio, navigation, and climate controls.

Rear passengers had a little less room, with 37.4 inches of headroom and 36.6 inches of legroom, than the front, which boasted 39 inches of headroom and 41.5 inches of legroom. Side air bags all around and front active head restraints protected all passengers.

Jaguar XF is rated for 16 mpg in the city and 23 on the highway, and has an 18-gallon fuel tank.

Emma Jayne Williams' auto reviews appear in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. She can be reached at emmajayne1948@gmail.com.

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