When the hunted becomes the hunter
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This road test was first published in Cars in Action September 2008.
I was always quite intrigued by Mercedes-Benz so vehemently billing its 4-door coupe CLS as the ‘Jaguar Hunter’. As much as I wondered how Jaguar would ever respond to that reverse compliment as the rest rush ‘CLS-like’. If CLS takes a Jaguar as its inspiration, then surely those cars are rather all ‘Jag-like’?
Suppose the fact that Ford shoved the brand onto the backburner as it flogged it off, made folk forget the real inspiration – after all, Jaguar has been the carmaker to build these things since before I was a boy.
Quietly on the side, through all the troubles and budget constraints, Coventry has been at it building a car only it knows how to. And through no fault of its own, now that Merc has made a niche out of the market once limited to Jaguar by bringing in a car with all that apparent Stuttgart cred and all the sassiness of a Jag, the real Jaguar is going to have to fight for its slice of what has now become a pretty in-demand pie.
An old economics lecturer of mine once explained how if you are first into a particular market, you should be able to pretty much control it. Will Jaguar be able to command a market Mercedes-Benz seems to believe it now has to itself?
Well, if the new Jaguar XF is anything to go by, Mercedes has more trouble than it ever expected from the company it copied to create its ‘Jag-hunter’…
The Jaguar XF is quite a car – we had the chance to drive it around Monte Carlo and Nice at its February world launch and I already came away impressed. From what I initially considered to be a bit of a cheesy starting-up repertoire when the vents fall open, the gear knob pops out and the rest (and which I have now quiet come to enjoy) to its almost all brilliant styling and a new, more modern spring in its step, I came home looking forward to really driving the car.
I did finally spend a lazy weekend with XF SV8 – impressing my pals with the stealthy black sedan with its toffee-brown cabin and all the tricks. It looks very much the part too – reminds me a bit of an Aston Martin. Well, except for those dodgy Bangle-like headlamps, that is.
I was also most impressed when I extinguished that overpowering nanny DSC and the car just came alive. It handles well, pulls like a bastard and does everything just as the gentleman would expect when he asks his Jaguar to do it.
And the flipside is all cool too, - oh-so-easy in everyday-about-town mode with a simple to operate and user-friendly cabin that has everything working off a few knobs and buttons, that cool touch screen and the multifunction wheel. Spacious and multi-adjustable too, the chic, stylish cabin does exactly what a Jaguar must. Albeit in a now much more modern manner…
Then we took it to Kyalami for our Hot Laps. And it proved beyond any doubt that no matter what Mercedes may think about making a ‘better’ Jaguar itself, the XF SV8 will kill a CLS 500 in any dynamic discipline one can toss them at. While Jag matched that car pretty much exactly in a straight line, Merc’s old hammer adage has hammered it again when you need to turn the steering. The car it copied lapped Kyalami in 2 minutes 12.9 seconds – that’s versus the 2m 15.5 the Merc – that is supposed to hunt it managed.
Look at the finer figures out on track and you’ll quickly notice that no matter how quick the CLS is in a straight line, it can never come back at the Jaguar, which comes out of the corners so much faster than its sloppy copy. On the track, the Jag feels planted - if it does something it’s because you asked it to do it. The Merc still likes to do its own thing – causing the driver to react to it rather than to simply drive fast.
XF was stunning on track – even though it was slowed by a nanny DSC that interferes at the limit when we’d prefer it not to. And we’re sure that the real cherry on the top will be when Jaguar introduces its own Q-Car XF as R. Or whatever they finally call it.
This Jaguar is better than a 5-Series on track and XF is stunning everywhere else too – it’s a brilliant piece of work in every respect. Like an expensive wristwatch that is quite difficult to differentiate from a cheap copy, the Jaguar has a distinct advantage over its wannabe pretenders. It is the original… - Michele Lupini
LEGEND TEST: 2008 Jaguar XF SV8
Engine: 306kW 560Nm 4196cc petrol V8
Drive: 6-speed automatic RWD
TESTED (1500m ASL September 2008)
0-60km/h 3.73 sec
0-100km/h: 6.63 sec
0-160km/h 13.96 sec
400m: 14.8 sec @ 165km/h
80-120km/h: 4.28 sec
120-160km/h 5.19 sec
Vmax: 250 km/h
CO2: 299 g/km
NEW PRICE 2016: R783K
NEW PRICE TODAY: R1.3M (XF S)
RATED THEN: 88%
RATED NOW: 85%