Yours for a song

If only the engine playlist spun the hits of yesteryear


IT WAS a line I heard recently from pokerplaying heavyweight and professional hedonist Dan Bilzerian that made me stop and think for a second. The big ‘Blitz’ documents his life on Instagram, which seems to mostly involve private-jetting his GI-Joe beard to exotic locations with bikini babes, handguns, and the occasional alligator. His house parties have become legendary in their bacchanalian debauchery, all of which may have given rise to his observation: “The only issue with living this kind of lifestyle is that it takes quite a lot to get me genuinely fired up. It used to be a lot easier to get excited…”

JAGUAR acquired: July 2018

Price as tested: $120,000

This month: 1994km @ 11.9L/100km

Overall :3215km @ 11.6L/100km

003601 WEEK 11

Nice work, Sport

The mark of a good transmission calibration is delivering an Eco mode that’ not moribund, and a Sport mode that doesn’ hang on to ratios like a randy labrador latched to your leg. The Jag’ ZF eight-speed delivers on both counts. I was initially a little bummed to find there’ no manual mode, but Sport holds gears aggressively but not ridiculously, and use of the paddles in this mode will see the engine hold revs to the limiter, rather than auto upshift.

I feel your pain, Dan, I really do. Because by any measure, the AJ200 four-cylinder turbopetrol in my XF is an excellent unit, but – and you may have sniffed this coming – it’s just a little lacking in aural involvement and redline-chasing thrills.

Don’t for a second think this stems from a lack of technical sophistication; quite the opposite. As part of the Ingenium family it’s an all-aluminium construction featuring a twin-scroll, variable-geometry turbocharger that spools up incredibly quickly, helping deliver peak twist of 365Nm at an astonishing 1200rpm – barely faster than idle speed – and maintaining that until 4500rpm. The inlet side of the electro-hydraulic valvetrain is fed by direct fuel injection, while an ECU-controlled oil pump matches the flow rate according to engine speed, load and temperature, so the switchable cooling jets only spray oil onto the underside of the piston crowns when required. That reduces parasitic losses, and the mere mention of the word ‘parasitic’ makes me feel as though I’m in my own warm oil bath.

Yes, all the requisite tech is in place, to the point this engine landed a spot in the Wards Auto (USA) 10 Best Engines for 2018.

So while it’s possible I’m just suffering from a bit of Bilzerian syndrome – and the engine is smooth and lag-free, no question – I don’t think it sounds especially exciting, which seems at odds with other engines in the Jaguar line-up. In this engine’s higheroutput guise when fitted to the F-Type sports car (221kW and 400Nm), it rasps, crackles, and drops a cheeky volley of lowfrequency pops on overrun.

Sure, I understand those characteristics may not be an ultra-high priority for XF wagon buyers, but when specced as an R-Sport, as this car is, it seems a slight miss to not at least include a switchable exhaust to allow owners a richer, more involving soundtrack when having a pedal. Jaguar aims to position itself as a more daring, edgy alternative to its German rivals, so it needs to grab opportunities to actually deliver on this.

Then there’s the idle, which (I’m being very picky here) is just a fraction more chuntery and audible than you may expect from a car in this class. A friend recently jumped in, and, at the first set of lights, as we sat idling and a song ended, he perked up with, “Is it a diesel?” Then again, he’s half a clown who really should be locked in a small room with Dan’s alligator.