Each week our team of experienced senior road testers pick out a new model from the world of innovative, premium and performance badges, and put it through its paces.
The lineage of the all-new XF can be traced back more than 60 years to the introduction in 1955 of what became known only in retrospect as the Jaguar Mk1. At the time it was called the Jaguar 2.4-litre, and in perfected MkII guise when fitted with a 3.4-litre or, ideally, 3.8-litre twin cam straight six form, it became a Jaguar archetype. Beautifully styled, very fast, great to drive yet surprisingly affordable it contained all the elements of Jaguar’s promise to the public, starred in dozens of television programmes usually in the role of getaway car and became an icon.
But so too did it make a rod for Jaguar’s back which struggled to the replace it. The S-type was intended to do the job when introduced in 1963 but it was uglier than the MkII, heavier and failed to capture the hearts and minds of the public.
By 1968 Jaguar’s hands were full with the XJ and the mid-sized saloon line was dropped until 1999 when a new S-type was revealed, its inadvisedly retro styling concealing the state of the art Ford-derived engineering beneath. So good was this platform it was deemed sufficient to underpin the first generation XF when it was introduced in 2007 and stayed in production until now.
The new XF may look like the old XF and for good reason: the styling of its predecessor was so well received it effectively set the design template all subsequent Jaguars have since followed. Beneath those quite familiar lines lies an extended version of the all new aluminium-intensive platform which made its first appearance in the XE saloon and will underpin the new F-Pace SUV. So although this XF is longer than the last and far more spacious, it is also up to 100kg lighter.
For those looking for further surprise and delight, features like the rising gear selector and rotating air vents that brought so much occasion to the last XF will find themselves out of luck. Barring Jaguar’s new and improved infotainment system this will be an interior familiar to any Jaguar customer of recent years. An Audi may be more stylish, a Mercedes more plush, but if what you want is a classically beautiful yet rather understated interior, you should look here first.
The all new XF comes with an all new engine. While 3-litre six cylinder petrol and diesels are available, the 2-litre diesel ‘Ingenium’ unit will outsell all others combined, largely because of its phenomenal fuel consumption and CO2 figures which will keep tax bills to a minimum. Officially at least the lowest power (163bhp) manual version returns over 70mpg, giving it the lowest CO2 number in the class, until the new E-class Mercedes arrives. But it’s best in 180bhp specification when allied to an eight-speed automatic gearbox, where it provides punchy performance (0-62mph in 8.1sec) and still manages over 65mpg.
For pure driving pleasure, there is not another car in the category to touch the XF; its dynamics engineers have truly excelled themselves. Jaguar has actually created quite a firmly sprung car, but damped its wheel movements so deftly the car not only exercises iron control over all its body movements, but also sponges away most of those irritating lumps and bumps that can disturb progress in even the most luxurious of cars.
With a super stiff platform to work upon, the suspension provides a degree of control and accuracy you’d scarcely credit to a car in this class, and while that might sound a rather dry description, its effect is anything but: this is the recipe for pure driving pleasure.
What we have here then is a car that is fully competitive with others in the class at all the boring but essential duties of everyday life on the road, but on those all too rare occasions when the traffic dies away and you see a ribbon of empty tarmac spooling out ahead of you, exists in a class of its own. In other words it is a Jaguar, or how you would like a Jaguar to be.
Price tag of our car £35,100 (XF 2.0d R-Sport)