2015 Jaguar XF 3.0 AWD Sport review: Not a lion, but a Jaguar in winter

2015 Jaguar XF 3.0 AWD Sport

2015 Jaguar XF 3.0 AWD Sport

We’ve driven conventional rear-wheel drive Jaguars in the snow, and we’ll confess that, well, there are times when it’s time to bring the Land Rover out of the garage. Well, not necessarily. Jaguar, with the XF and XJ sedans can be equipped with all-wheel drive.

The Jaguar XF is Jaguar’s small sedan, in the U.S. available with even a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder rated at 240 horsepower. It’s called, appropriately enough, the Jaguar 2.0 T Premium, the addendum because Jaguar made last year’s Premium Pack standard. So there’s no 2.0 T Ordinary.

At the other end of the Jaguar XF spectrum are the supercharged V-8s, appropriately enough (again) the XF Supercharged, then the XFR and the XFR-S, making 470 horsepower, 510 horsepower, and 550 horsepower respectively.

2015 Jaguar XF 3.0 AWD Sport interior

2015 Jaguar XF 3.0 AWD Sport interior

In the happy middle—although we could be very happy with a supercharged V-8, actually—are the three-liter V-6 duo. Both are powered by a 3.0-liter supercharged V-6 that makes 340 horsepower. The difference between them is that one is rear-wheel drive, designated the XF 3.0, while the other is the Jaguar XF 3.0 AWD, with the aforementioned all-wheel drive and the one Jaguar loaned us to get through a week of this year’s relentless northeast winter.

Jaguar has an advantage over other carmakers when it comes to all-wheel drive systems, and it’s called Land Rover. With decades of off-road and four/all-wheel experience, the Land Rover half of Jaguar Land Rover had plenty to share.

A second edge over some carmakers is that the Jaguar XF’s engine is aligned longitudinally. This arrangement helps in allowing the Jaguar XF 3.0 AWD to bias torque via the all-wheel drive system to the rear wheels. That’s better for maintaining Jaguar’s superior handling in the change from rear to all-wheel drive, and definitely better than some competitive sedans that are nominally front-drive and engage the rear wheels only when traction is necessary.

2015 Jaguar XF 3.0 AWD Sport all-wheel drive system

The 2015 Jaguar XF 3.0 AWD all-wheel drive system has a transfer case and shaft on the left side of the transmission. (click to enlarge)

With the Jaguar XF 3.0 AWD, power is sent to the front wheels via a transfer case on the left side of the transmission with a shaft going forward to the front differential, and then with the prop shafts extending through the engine sump. That allows the engine to be kept low to maintain a low center of gravity. A multi-plate wet clutch apportions torque between the front and rear as directed by a Transfer Case Control Module, which monitors grip levels and driver inputs. The system isn’t passive, just reacting to tire slip, but for example will shift torque to the front wheels during hard acceleration or situations where a loss of traction might occur, preventing it before it happens. Jaguar calls it a “feed-forward” element of the control algorithms.

The Transfer Case Control Module also works in winter mode, selectable by the driver, to bolster the torque transfer to the front for a stronger all-wheel drive effect. Jaguar’s Drive Control also has a Dynamic mode sharpens throttle response and makes the transmission shift more quickly and at higher revs, but it doesn’t change operation of the all-wheel drive system.

2015 Jaguar XF 3.0 AWD engine

The 2015 Jaguar XF 3.0 AWD engine is hidden under a plastic shroud. (click to enlarge)

The engine’s ECU was recalibrated to accommodate the all-wheel drive system, with changes to fuel lines, hoses, air intake and exhaust, along with a new engine undertray and heat shield adding a new acoustic pack to prevent any additional noise from getting to the cabin. A new a new front subframe, cross member, engine mounts and exhaust system were also fabricated to accommodate all-wheel drive.

Jaguar wanted the system to be unobtrusive, and it is, to a point. A driver won’t notice anything different behind the wheel on dry pavement. Let the pavement get slippery, snow covered or otherwise compromised and the rear-drive panic a thing of the past. No more wishing you were in a Subaru…

2015 Jaguar XF 3.0 AWD instrument panel

The 2015 Jaguar XF 3.0 AWD instrument panel is as British as they come. (click to enlarge)

There’s no doubt from the exterior styling, however, that the Jaguar XF isn’t a Subaru, or anything else, for that matter. The rounded-rectangle grille is pure Jag, and the hood, roof and trunklid contours, if not wholly unique, are sleek. One observer looking at it from the side thought it was a Maserati. Not bad company to keep, but not, well, not just and only a Jaguar.

The angle of the A- and C-pillars, however, makes getting in or out of front or back a remember-to-duck-your-head affair. The back seat is snug, not unexpected for this size of sedan, but the distance between the B-pillar and the front of the back seat makes it difficult for back seat occupants to slide their feet through the gap when getting in or out. The front seats have an odd bottom, deep and almost sat-out feeling. It’s a different kind of bolstering, perhaps, low in the middle rather than high on the side. It takes some getting used to.