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Late last year, Jaguar introduced a new option package for the XKR and XFR called the “Black Pack,” an appearance group made up of 20-inch dark gray (why not black?) wheels, gloss black window surrounds, and red (again, not black) brake calipers, all for just $1500 extra. When one showed up at our office this month, it was painted white, adding to the Black Pack’s list of many non-black colors. Inspired by this, we set off on a weekend trip to one of our favorite roads — Michigan’s M-22 — where the blacktop is surrounded by any number of other colors depending on the season. In August, it’s all blue and green.
M-22 leaves Traverse City to the northwest and winds almost 30 miles up Michigan’s pinky finger before cutting through some of the state’s most interesting switchbacks and popping out the other side, riding Lake Michigan’s coast down from Leland and on past Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, Good Morning America’s new “Most Beautiful Place in America.” When the Jaguar XF was previewed in concept form, it too promised to be one of the most beautiful sedans offered here, but its production form leaves a bit to be desired with a face that’s more house cat than jungle predator. The reworked 2012 model coming in just a few short months corrects this problem. It also addresses a few interior details we find to be shortcomings on the current model, like the dated display screen between the gauges.
Though it does know how to reduce itself to a soft purr, there’s never any doubt that the XFR has the heart — and vocal cords — of a wildcat. All 510 supercharged horses are ready and willing to go to work at a moment’s notice, something we find incredibly useful on M-22’s frequent low-speed corners. We blow through an S-curve with a sign denoting its position half way between the equator and the north pole with such fury that Santa Claus likely starts hiding our presents away, preparing for a visit. One thing our road of choice is missing? Tunnels. The XFR might even scare itself downshifting in the echoing underground.
The XFR continues on a Jaguar trajectory away from cars that talk a big game but can’t exactly back it up. Brakes, handling, steering, and the automatic transmission’s shifts all support, rather than work against, the V8’s emotional appeal. At the same time, the car just seems comforting in every way, from a suspension that’s playful but also refined to a cabin that’s so inviting it should probably have a fireplace, a pot of tea, and slippers for every passenger.
Really, there aren’t many cars as ideal for every condition as the XFR, provided you’re able to feed the thirst of a sedan that drinks a gallon of fuel every 15-21 miles. The engine is just as happy providing enough torque to power up a hill silently and without shifts as it is going full-tilt between northwest Michigan’s cherry orchards and vineyards, startling wildlife along the way. Provided Jaguar can continue polishing its reliability reputation, add-ons line the very stylish Black Pack and next year’s cosmetic updates should help keep it not only relevant but class-leading for years to come.