Test drive: Self-parking in the 2016 Jaguar XF S

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I recently had the opportunity to test drive the 2016 Jaguar XF S, which is a stately four-door luxury sedan with comfortable leather seats and supercharged V6 engine that could get a person in a lot of trouble. But not too much trouble — the new XF has the latest in Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS), which includes adaptive cruise control, traffic-sign recognition and automatic emergency braking (AEB) with queue assist. I wanted to try all these things.

The tricky part of testing many ADAS features is that they’re designed for safety. Rather than focusing on the convenience aspects of autonomous driving, the sensors and computers work together to create a kind of force field around your car. The idea is that the car can detect and react to a potential accident before the driver can. You will not be surprised to learn that manufacturers are less than keen to have journalists raging around in their cars trying to nearly hit things in order to test these systems.

But the Jaguar XF S I tested had ADAS features that were not only safe to try, they were fun. The best? Park assist.

Jaguar Park Search

Searching for a space

Say you’re crawling along city streets (under 18 miles an hour, in the XF) looking for a parking space. Hit the button in the console, and the vehicle’s sensors will look for a space along with you. As you pull past a spot that looks maybe a bit tight, a message will pop up in the dash telling you that the XF has located a spot into which it will fit. It will ask you to put the car in reverse and gently press the accelerator. The driver is still in charge of the gas and brake pedals, but the car does all the steering into the space.

You can put your hands in your lap, clasp them in prayer that you do not ding your bumper or curb your rims or wave them in excited glee because you live in the future. But you do not need to steer. The system will tell you when to stop and put the car in drive to finish the job. When you’re ready to leave, it will steer you out of the spot.

Preparing to leave a space

Preparing to leave a space

This is not autonomous driving; I still had to work the pedals. It’s not like getting out of your Tesla and letting it park itself in the garage. But it is convenient driving, and the XF S does a good job. I never got stuck in slow enough traffic for queue assist to kick in, nor did I need the AEB to save me from a fender bender. (You’re welcome, Jaguar.) But the lane-keeping and forward-collision alerts definitely came into play. These settings seemed a bit sensitive, which can lead some owners to disable them. No one wants the car to be a nagging nanny, but turning these features off defeats the purpose of alerting you to potential trouble.

All this cool tech does not come cheap, either. The MSRP of the 2016 Jaguar XF S (the S is for that supercharged engine) is $62,700. The Driver Assistance Pack alone adds more than $3,000 to the price tag. With some other luxury bits added to the already luxurious sports sedan, like the very useful head-up display, the car as tested was $73,035. If the XF’s price tag is already in your ballpark, the added safety and convenience of ADAS is probably worth the money.

Featured Image: Kristen Hall-Geisler