Farewell to the Jaguar XF

Just when I was getting used to my wayward car the snow and ice came. It made divorce inevitable. Today I am swapping it for a 4×4 in the hope that that might work in these Arctic conditions. With any luck such a move might also bring the micro Ice Age to an end. It is reassuring to remember that it is just cold weather, after all, and not climate.

It was one cold night when there was slush on the main road that I decided I had had enough. I had been driving the car as well as it would let me in difficult conditions. I held back before any incline so we could get a bit of a run at it. I kept trying to get it to change up, but of course the car knew best and wanted to stay in a low gear because the speed was low. I tried to find any bit of wet tarmac that might give it some grip. We came to a long gentle hill. Momentum needed renewing to keep the car going. Instead the accelerator refused to give power to the wheels thanks to the traction control, and the gear box refused to take the higher gear. The car shuddered to a halt half way up a slushy main road. It would not budge forwards. All I could do was roll it a little backwards and sideways into the snow drifts on the side of the road and leave it for the night.

It took two attempts the next day to dig it out and to get it to work. The following days have either seen me operating the car from as near to home as I can get it, or not using it at all. It doesn’t take much slush, let alone ice on the road for it to slip or slow to a halt.

I feel a great sense of relief after months of fighting the gear box and the map displays, with the car always having a different view to me on which gear it needs and what picture to show. The replacement will not be as good looking. So let’s hope it works. It was made in the UK. It should be much more economical on fuel because it is a diesel.


  1. Mick Anderson
    January 12, 2010

    I've been rather enjoying my Audi Quattro in the snow and slush. The ground clearance lacks a certain something (no worse than the XF!), but the Avant (estate) is very practical, the 3.0 diesel is reasonably economical, and the manual gearbox does exactly what I tell it to.

  2. Kevin Lohse
    January 12, 2010

    Dear John. Most vehicles are more economical than an XF – an MBT for instance.

  3. savonarola
    January 12, 2010

    I live in a 150yd cul de sac with steep run down to the 246. Front wheel drive Merc Estate. Same experience. Wife's front wheel drive Honda no problem.

    Despite official admonishments to the contrary we hacked out a channel and we are no longer snow bound. Council(Guildford) removed our grit box in August because we are not a rural community.

    We are buying our own box and supply and have informed council. Undecided whether to deduct from Council Tax.

    We have become a nation of serfs.

  4. Adrian Peirson
    January 12, 2010

    For the time being at least, technology cannot be relied upon 100% of the time to make the 'best' decision.

  5. Chris
    January 12, 2010

    Any car that makes those decisions for you has got to be useless in snow.

    4×4 though ?

    Now its all melting ?

    Hmmm. I managed perfectly well here in snowy Scotland with a normal FWD only hatchback.

    Its a little like the bedroom – method more than equipment is the key to success.

  6. Chris M
    January 12, 2010

    Buy winter tyres and keep the XF. They'll transform your car in conditions under 7C.

    1. Steve Baker
      January 12, 2010

      Quite right and what a delight to discover a fellow tyre bore! My mud and snow tyres have been magnificent in this weather, allowing me to go through in a saloon where 4x4s on sports tyres have been stuck.

      1. Paul Farley
        January 13, 2010

        Totally agree, I have a spare set of wheels (bought relatively cheaply from ebay) with winter tyres for my 5-series and have passed an X5 struggling for traction on a moderate hill covered in packed snow.

    2. J P
      February 18, 2010

      I did 2500 miles over Christmas and New Year in my XF with winter tyres on. Absolutely no problems and the car went places friends 4x4s wouldn't go. The snow setting for the gearbox helps also. Much cheaper to have two sets of tyres than swap cars.

  7. David Cooper
    January 12, 2010

    Sorry to hear about this. I have had a similar experience with my Jaguar S-Type this year and last, with a steep hill close to home proving impossible to negotiate in the face of black ice last year and thick snow and ice this year (at least, until I managed to fit the snow chains I'd bought last year). Not much fun either for my two BMW driving neighbours.

    Leaving aside the fact that my wife's 4×4 Dodge Nitro shot up the hill with the greatest of ease, what was perhaps the most galling was when I mentioned this problem to a Jaguar dealership rep last summer, only to be told "Yes, it's rubbish in snow and ice". I'd have been better impressed with a fuller explanation and a recommendation to invest in a set of snow chains rather than have to resort to eBay off my own initiative.

    Maybe the XF will have an estate version with 4×4 capacity before long?

  8. Stuart Fairney
    January 12, 2010

    As a recent convert to 4×4's myself, welcome.

    Personally I enjoy the scowls from lefties in the supermarket car park.

    1. old fogey
      January 12, 2010

      Its not only leftists, in fact in my experience it tends to be old Tories, like me, who really, really hate 4×4's and the intimidating manner in which they are driven .Alright in Arizona, but not in England.

      1. alan jutson
        January 13, 2010

        You would refuse a tow with one if you were stuck in snow, or needed meals on wheels then.

        Two people who I rescued last week were rather pleased.

        Not all 4×4 drivers just do the School run and are intimidating, some of us need 4×4 for business, Agriculture, Voluntary rescue, Park rangers, Construction personel, etc, etc

        Its also personal choice.

      2. Lola
        January 13, 2010

        It's only a certain type of 4×4 that tends to be driven in an intimidating manner. Mostly it is the large shiny ones driven by small blond soccer mums. Their intimidating driving is not intentional. It's just that they just haven't a clue what they are doing or what their vehicles are really all about. If you watch closely I think you'll find that most 4x4s are driven just as courteously, or even more so, as most other cars. Especially BMW's.

      3. Stuart Fairney
        January 13, 2010

        I would agree, driving that is intimidating is poor form. But don't throw the baby out with the bath water, you can get idiots in all sorts of cars.

  9. Richard
    January 12, 2010

    You don't need a 4×4 for these conditions – just snow tyres. Unfortunately most garages in the UK don't know what that term means and talk about 'all weather' tyres – which means summer tyres. Obviously it would also help if local authorities simply swept snow from the roads (the fuss about grit is a nonsense) – by pursuading (or if really necessary, paying) farmers to do it in country areas. Save the money & get a spare set of tyres for the winter instead!

  10. Josh
    January 12, 2010

    I note with relish that the warmists are very quick to distinguish between 'weather' and 'climate' when just a few years ago they attributed every freak weather event to 'climate change.' Every hurricane, drought, tornado and monsoon was supposedly the work of the mysterious 'climate change.' But we've had three consecutive very cold winters and cooler than average summers. This is an indication, not an anomaly.

  11. Andrew Parker
    January 12, 2010

    I suggest a cheap manual car with a £80 Tom Tom sat nav would not only have saved you thousands of pounds but been easier to drive and been less of a disaster if you had an accident. I drove a Vauxhall Astra that I paid £130 for, added said Tom Tom and had absolutely no problems other than those caused by other motorists. In the last week I have driven 450 miles.

  12. kinglear
    January 12, 2010

    Your experience mirrors mine many years ago in Switzerland. Then, the Jag had the ignominy of being dragged up the hill by a VW Beetle…

  13. Mike Stallard
    January 12, 2010

    This is fascinating! Just a few months ago, Chelsea Tractors were utterly "unacceptable"!!!!!

    1. savonarola
      January 12, 2010

      We have 2 Chelsea Tractor owning neighbours. BMW X5 4×4. Cannot negotiate our icy road. Unlike wife's fwd Honda Jazz. Milk Float made it, too.

      Snow tyres the answer.

  14. Stronghold Barricade
    January 12, 2010

    Seems very simple to blame the tools we use

    Almost always better to fully understand the whole situation and better prepare yourself

  15. Bob
    January 12, 2010

    How come the traction control didn't work?

    1. Mick Anderson
      January 12, 2010

      In short, you have to have some traction to control!

      Most cars with ASR and ESP traction control systems rely on the power to the engine being reduced when one of the driving wheels starts to spin. If there is no grip at all on one wheel, such as when it starts to spin on ice, this power reduction trick just can't do enough to regain drive.

      Some performance cars also have a limited slip differential, which may be either a fully mechanical system, or one with electronic control. These will grip for longer – you have to lose traction on both driven wheels to grind to a halt.

      My car has a mechanical four wheel drive system with a very capable traction control system (Audi Quattro A4 B7), but it was still possible to "beach" the car in snow, or to find sheet ice and lose traction on all four wheels. It doesn't have any more ground clearance or knobbly tyres, although I do have a spare set of wheels with narrow tyres if I need them to bite through the snow. I didn't find they were necessary for the last week.

      It's worth noting that some cars with the newer "paddle" gearboxes can struggle disproportionally in snow and ice. Reducing the tyre pressures by a little (the amount depending on conditions) can improve the situation drastically. Don't forget to reinflate the tyres as the roads clear!

      1. Lola
        January 12, 2010

        I used to drive a Lotus 7 style kit car with an LSD. It heartily annoyed other drivers that it just kept going in slippery conditions. It only weighs about 525kg!

  16. John Moss
    January 12, 2010

    I am looking to buy a BMW X3 and will fit it with mud and snow tyres as I need it to cope with trips to the countryside (as in off metalled roads) and to the alps. I can be reasobale patriotic and claim the transmission was at least invented in the UK, if not built there, as BMW nicked the technology from Land Rover before they sold them on!

    I might seek out a second set of wheels and shod these with "normal" tyres for general use, as the fuel penalty on the M&S tyres is 5-10%.

    Alternately, I will buy an old Panda 4×4 for occassional use!

  17. Lola
    January 12, 2010

    OK so what have you bought? A LR Freelander perhaps?

    I drive a 1996 LR Defender as my daily transport. This weather has been a hoot in it. I particularly enjoyed driving down the outside lane of the three lane dual carriageway overtaking everythuing that normally overtakes me.

    More snow please.

    1. Lola
      January 12, 2010

      Sorry, but reading your post again do I understand that your XF was a petrol one? If so, why?

      Reply: It was petrol because there was a good deal on its purchase when I scanned the web for a car.

      1. Lola
        January 13, 2010

        Cooo, I bet there was a good deal. Now you know why!

  18. Demetrius
    January 12, 2010

    Doesn't diesel freeze at minus 15?

    1. Mark
      January 12, 2010

      You can depress the cold filter plugging point by adding some kerosene. Avoid biodiesel in cold weather – it is more inclined to misbehave. As a first approximation, assume the CFPP of diesel is -15C (though "summer spec" can be much higher). Domestic burning kerosene (the usual oil central heating fuel) typically has a freeze point of -45C. A reasonable working assumption is that you will depress the CFPP by 3C for every 10% kerosene blended, although the effect is not truly linear. You should probably avoid adding more than 20% kerosene without getting advice from the car manufacturer – and also because HMCE start getting suspicious that you are trying to evade road fuel duty. Marker dye additives allow HMCE to identify fuels that contain kerosene blended outside the refinery.

  19. James Matthews
    January 12, 2010

    Schadenfreude time for Chelsea tractor owners I think (sadly, beyond my means).

  20. Olaf
    January 12, 2010

    My car with it's 18" road rollers has actually been ok in the snow but it does have a manual box and does what it's told.

    Snow tyre are expensive so what about some snow socks? http://www.autosock.co.uk/

    I also had a rather ancient Vx Astra that was remarkable in the snow, pretty much unstoppable. Even more remarkable as it was diabolical in most other road conditions. This was probably due to it's skinny little tyres which dug in a gripped.

    Might be worth buying an original Fiat Panda 4×4 to keep in the garage for bad weather. Old tech carbs will keep the engine going after the body has rusted away.

  21. jeff todd
    January 12, 2010

    The wife's 14 year-old Discovery (V8 on LPG) has been impeccable.

    My daily hack is a Suzuki Jimny – it's impossible not to grin like an idiot when driving one, absolutely briliant in the slippy stuff.

  22. TomTom
    January 12, 2010

    Some nice Nokian WR-G2 tyres or Vredenstein Snowtrac and a front-wheel drive car and you would be fine. Why aren't winter tyres made a requirement – or at the very least why are there no Public Service Ads on TV telling people how best to drive in snow ?

    1. Stuart Fairney
      January 14, 2010

      Because like most else the government does these days, it would be unnecessary as you can get the info from Youtube if you are to look!

  23. Brian Tomkinson
    January 12, 2010

    At least you will be able to help deliver meals on wheels in snowy conditions! Strange how the 4×4 demons of the road have become life savers this winter. Some people would be dead now without them.

  24. Mark alexander
    January 12, 2010


    Now you have a 4X4 these won't be necessary but I can recommend Snow Socks which are perfect for the two or three days of snow we normally get.

    They are a fabric cover which fit over your car tyres and they work on the same principle as putting wooly socks over your shoes. They are light enough to carry in the car and pretty easy to fit.

    Im sure they will come up on a google search.

  25. English Pensioner
    January 12, 2010

    I bought a Honda 4×4 a couple of years ago because it was the only type of car that I found comfortable and easy to get in and out of with my back problems. I got quite a bit of flack at the time, including a couple of abusive notes stuck on the windscreen whilst in supermarket car parks.
    But it was the first car that I've ever had that I've been able to get out of my upward sloping drive without shifting the snow first, and I doubt if I would have been able to manage to do so this year.
    So really I can blame the lack of decent NHS physiotherapy services for my choice of car!

  26. Kevin Peat
    January 12, 2010

    My front wheel driver Suzuki Alto performs well in all conditions – including Haldon Hill which made BBC Traffic Reports today because of a blizzard. It delivers superb economy and surprising power-to-weight at 1100ccs.

    Such a shame that people react appallingly when I overtake them or they find me in front – I'm not meant to be able to do this, you see. There's not much street-cred to be had in driving one – in fact it's quite embarassing. But I have more fun driving it than I ever did the V6 or the 3L injection.

  27. William Grace
    January 12, 2010

    This is serious, this is important, this should be something that someone should raise questions about?

    How about you?

    (ref to site about the actions of Social Services and the handling of child cases -ed)
    I know its bad, I know its True, as I was threatened for allowing a post mentioning this problem.

    Secret Courts sending people to jail? Excuse me?

    Targets for removing children? Shouldn't the target be that children at safe and at home?

    Try getting the BBC to start its new broadcasts with its x o'clock do you know where your children are?

    Come on John, step up to the plate, get Dave on board do something FOR the people, not AT the people.

  28. David Price
    January 12, 2010

    A friend tried to convince me to get an XF when it was launched but I prefered the utility, high driving position and lower stress of an auto diesel 4×4. I grinned like an idiot the first 6 months I had it particularly during flooding. There's been a lot less flak and a lot more grinning recently though as the only cars moving out of our road before Saturday were the 4×4's.

  29. David Eyles
    January 12, 2010

    It sounds as if you have bought either a Freelander or Discovery. We have a Land-Rover 90 for the farm and a Freelander. The older Freelanders were dreadfully unreliable with transmissions, but I understand that the new ones are much, much better. They are super to drive, nippy enough, comfortable over long distances and will tow a full 2 tonnes if you want it to. Off road, although not equipped with a full transfer box and centre diff like the Discovery, Range Rover etc, they are still very, very good because of good ground clearance.

    All that said, technique and ground clearance are vital in the snow, as is low tyre pressure if you are stuck without chains or proper winter tyres.

    Sadly, Land Rovers are not as reliable as their Japanese equivalents, but their off-road performance is far better and their have been many, many occasions on the farm, where the Land Rover often operates as a second tractor, when I have realised I have just done something with my battered green goddess that nothing continental would have pulled out of.

    Incidentally, if you manage to get stuck and you are on your own, then put into low ratio or lowest gear available, and just let the clutch out gently, whilst you get out and push. The combined effort of very low torque on the wheels, maintained by a chugging diesel, with your human power applied to the ground, might just be sufficient to get out of the hole you are in.

    Modern diesel does not wax up because of the additives put into the diesel, so even conditions of very low temperatures, should not affect it.

    1. Mark
      January 13, 2010

      Your comments about "modern diesel" aren't quite right. The cold properties of diesel depend on the source it is manufactured from and the manufacturing method.

      Most crude oils contain a significant proportion of long chain paraffins that form wax at low temperatures, which cause the clogging problems. There are a few so called naphthenic crudes that have a low paraffin content: some of these come from the Norwegian North Sea and from Nigeria. Diesel from those crudes has much better cold properties. Biodiesel is sourced from a variety of crops, and contains esters that have poor cold properties – some crops are worse than others.

      Manufacturing processes also produce diesel by "cracking" heavier oil fractions. Cracked oils tend to have a high aromatic content (potentially carcinogenic) and lower cetane, so although they have reasonable cold properties, there are limits on blending them. Both cracking and distillation processes can be tuned to alter the properties of the components that are blended to make the fuel: however, there are trade offs between different properties, and the quantity of product produced. There is also production of diesel from synthesis from natural gas via Fischer Tropf processes. This can produce a very high cetane component that is imported and used to improve cetane in other blends, although it can also produce a regular diesel (as SASOL does from coal at Secunda).

      There are specialised cold property improvers sold which refiners do use when their particular manufacturing processes can benefit from it. They are expensive, and therefore used sparingly. Some have been specially tailored to help with biodiesel, but there are limitations on what they can achieve in more extreme conditions. Kerosene blending is often cheaper, although it depresses cetane. In general, the difficulty with achieving good cold properties is the reason why there is a much looser "summer spec". The UK winter standard for CFPP is -15C maximum – which means that it is rare that cold properties become an issue. However, it can still become an issue, depending on how it was made.

  30. Cliff.
    January 12, 2010

    Sadly John, as more gadgets are fitted to a car, so the skill level of the driver is less important but, these aids and gadgets assume good conditions and thus fail when conditions are less than perfect……In actual fact, it sounds like your former car mirrors what is happening in the country as a whole; The state (car maker) takes more and more responsibility away from the individual (driver) and we see people less able to cope when confronted with anything different.
    I no longer drive due to disabilty but I suspect an ordinary manual car would cope far better with the current conditions than an all singing, all dancing, fly by wire, automatic, powered everything, top of the range Jaguar.

    Just a further general comment about the weather conditions and their affect on our lives here in Wokingham…..We had no post for best part of a week, we've had no rubbish collection for a week or so, our schools were closed for best part of a week, each of these groups saying it was due to 'Elf'n'safety reasons however, although the adults that collect bins and deliver post found it far too dangerous for them to do their jobs, our weekly paper was delivered to our door at the normal time by our regular paper girl who is about fourteen years of age. I wish to extend my admiration to her and her dedication to duty and hope some of it rubs off onto our postmen and bin men.

    Reply: Indeed. I went to the Post Office to try to pick up my own post,. There are piles of black bags with rubbish all over the area.

  31. alan jutson
    January 12, 2010

    Yes, Jaguars are not meant for the snow.

    Problem with cars now are that they are too regulated with micro management, which is not relevent to the real World.

    Hang on, that rings a bell.

    My reason for having to go to Maidenhead on Thursday (last weeks post) to rescue a Jaguar in my 4×4.

    Certainly no problems with me getting about last week.

    So have you bought another Indian takeaway (TATA) Land Rover Discovery or similar.

    My son in Law has been beaming all week about his wonderful Disco 3.

    Only problem you will have now, is if all of the cars in front of you are stuck in the snow, and completely block the road. So do not forget the basics like a spade in the boot, helps others who are not so prepared to dig themselves out, to let you through.

    As soon as you have got used to the high driving position, you will soon forget the Jaguar, comfortable though it was.

    Best of luck.

    Re[ly: Thanks. It's a Freelander.

  32. Mark M
    January 13, 2010

    "with the car always having a different view to me on which gear it needs"

    And that is the reason UK cars are felt to be generally worse than others. I would love someone at Jaguar to explain how they can design a car that won't let you put it in whatever gear you want, whenever you want. If you want the car to be in 3rd gear, then you should be allowed to. Our manufacturers seem to delight in making cars think they know better than the driver. That's why I drive a Nissan.

    1. Lola
      January 13, 2010

      I thought the XF gearbox was made by ZF?

    2. HD
      February 1, 2010

      I have an XF and it will let you put it in any gear you want. In snow I have been advised you should select winter mode and sports mode and use the paddles to change gear. Thus allowing you to choose when to go up and down through the gears as appropriate. I am amazed no other XF owner has mentioned this before now.
      A lot of modern cars are useless in snow, whether they are rear wheel drive, front wheel drive or even 4 X 4's.
      Many are useless simply because they have wide low profile tyres.
      You can always improve a rear wheel drive car's performance in snow by putting something heavy in the boot.
      Ice on the other hand will defeat most vehicles especially when it is unseen.
      No doubt there are many cars that perform better than mine in snowy conditions, but how many days of snow do we get? On any if the other 340 plus days of the year I will be glad to arrive at work or some other destination relaxed and ready to get on with the day after the therapy that is – driving a Jaguar.

      Reply: My XF still changed down on whim even in sport and winter modes

  33. J Cooke
    January 13, 2010

    My 4 wheel drive X Type has seen excellent service as a snow plough. Not been stuck once and the look of surpise on peoples faces is priceless.

  34. Neal
    January 13, 2010


    You won't regret getting a 4 x 4. When it snows badly you may have a smug moment as I recently had . I drove past a sports BMW trying to get up a hill. Watching him curse and get frustrated as he kept sliding all over the place was priceless, giving him the royal wave as I went past him was sublime. My 4 x 4 has more than earned it's money since I've had mine.

  35. Mrs Mary Webster
    January 16, 2010

    Dear Mr Redwood,
    People in the Shetlands own more 4 x 4 vehicles than anywhere else in the UK. Annual mileages are less than 10,000 – and pollute less than the average company rep. Nevertheless they are singled out for the punitive rates of car tax
    Something needs to be done about the BBC. I think you have my address if you have produced a paper on that organisation
    Yours sincerely,
    Mary J Webster

  36. David Price
    January 18, 2010

    My XJ6 4.0 Sport and XK8 have sat beached outside my house. My wife couldn't get to work, so in desperation we spent £200 on a '96 Rover 200 Diesel (heavy 2.0 diesel engine directly over front wheels, otherwise very light). We dropped the front tyre pressures down to 12PSI; result, it has been magnificent. As a neighbour's BMW X5 spins and shudders, we've driven right past them up the hill.

    The Freelander is very good is snow too; you'll enjoy it. Better than my Range Rovers, IMO. You'll be able to smoke around like it was summer. It doesn't have the character or sex appeal of a Jag though – although such things are not important in this cold snap!

  37. Tim W
    January 19, 2010

    Er, if your traction control is over nannying – then just turn it off! That's what the button is for and that's what it says to do in the handbook. Not just Jags but everything.
    And why not try turning the auto 'box into 'Winter Mode'? The buttons right next to the gear selector and forces the car to operate in a higher gear.

    OK, big fat tyres and rear wheel drive are never going to be great in snow but you knew that when you bought it, didn't you? Because the Jag is built with compliant suspension for the real world it will be less bad than a German car set up for racetracks. I wonder how the self-righteous have been getting on in their Prius s? Having loads of dead weight (batteries) over the non-driven wheels can't be ideal. Oh, and the heater will only work when the nasty petrol engine is wasting energy anyway!

    I hope you have bought a proper 4X4 with a green oval badge and not one of those that even the handbook tells you not to take off road!

  38. Peter
    February 8, 2010

    You should do as has been suggested and change the tyres not the car.
    XF owners have discussed this at length, with a valuable contribution from an owner in Canada here: http://www.xfforum.co.uk/forum/viewtopic.php?f=26

  39. SouthernSkye
    February 10, 2010

    Good day one and all,
    I have not read all replies but I would advise the following;
    Keep the XF
    Add GOOD winter tyres (I have SotoZero, Pirelli I think, on my XJ)
    Switch traction control off in snow
    Go to a DIY store/builders merchant and get a couple of bags of sharp sand in the boot.

    This has allowed me to travel the Highlands and islands all winter, down to Nottinghamshire and back (to where I work) in Germany.
    Driving in -18 degs C. Snows, Ice slush and rain.

    Best wishes and good luck for the election.

Comments are closed.