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Jaguar XF: first drive

Replacing a successful model is no easy task, so the fact that the all-new Jaguar XF is so good is worth shouting about.

Launched in 2007, the original XF was a landmark car for Jaguar, and marked the renaissance of the company after some tricky times.

Some 250,000 were sold and it became the most awarded Jaguar in history. In fact, its sales continued to grow throughout its lifetime, while the Sportback version is still (in my opinion) the best looking estate out there.

XF12

At first sight the new XF doesn’t look radically different to the model it replaces. Nor does it look dissimilar to its recently launched little brother, the XE. First appearances can be deceptive.

Jaguar’s design team, led by Ian Callum (who also designed the 2007 XF) has gone for evolution over revolution , which is no bad thing sometimes – and if it’s good enough for BMW…

The reality is that if you compare the two cars, the old XF looks dated. Job done.

Jaguar XF

The new XF is definitely sleeker with a lower, more aggressive stance dominated by a gloriously long bonnet, complete with awesome power bulge, and topped off by Jaguar’s signature mesh grille. At the rear, the LED tail lights echo the F-TYPE and XE (which in turn are a homage to the E-TYPE).

There’s now also a third side window behind the rear doors, while the car itself is more aerodynamic with a drag coefficient down from 0.29 to a very slippery 0.26.

The new XF is something of an optical illusion too because it’s actually 7mm shorter and 3mmm lower than the outgoing car, yet it’s more spacious inside thanks to its 51mm longer wheelbase.

Jaguar XF

The differences don’t stop there. The XF utilises Jaguar’s new “aluminium intensive architecture”. In fact, 75% of the car is made from aluminium, which makes it stiffer and safer while also saving up to 190kg compared to the old XF.

As if all that isn’t enough, you can choose from three diesels and one petrol engine.

Jaguar Land Rover’s new Ingenium four-cylinder 2.0-litre diesel is offered with either 163PS and 180PS. Jaguar claims the lower powered of the two is the “most efficient four-cylinder in the business segment” with a claimed 70.6mpg and low 104g/km CO2 emissions.

Jaguar XF

The V6 diesel will accelerates from 0-60mph in just 5.8 seconds yet returns 51.4mpg and 144g/km CO2, while the 3.0-litre supercharged petrol V6 (straight from the F-TYPE) delivers 380PS, covering 0-60mph in 5.1 seconds with an electronically-limited maximum speed of 155mph.

Add Jaguar’s new In Control Touch infotainment system (the most expensive version features an impressive 10.2-inch touchscreen), plus a long list of tech goodies for improved safety and handling, and you’ve got a great all-round package.

Inside the XF isn’t a million miles away from the Mk 1 with that familiar rotary gear selector rising up from the centre console, air vents revolving into position and mesh aluminium fascia. In other words, it’s a good place to be.

Jaguar XF

Overall there’s a real sense of space and light, though if I have one criticism, which is that a few of the materials used are slightly too plasticky for my liking.

Back on the plus side, there’s now easily space for two six-foot adults to sit comfortably in the back, there’s a handy 40:20:40 split on the rear bench and the boot is a generous 540 litres.

The really good news is that the XF isn’t just eye candy – it drives well too. I sampled three cars with different engines – the 1809PS 2.0-litre diesel, 300PS TDV6 and 380PS V6 petrol.

Jaguar XF

We drove the XF models over a range of roads in northern Spain, plus the Formula One-test accredited Circuito de Navarra, and I was hugely impressed.

The XF 380ps we drove on track was the all-wheel-drive version, which sadly is not available for the UK market – certainly at launch. A shame, because this is the kind of car that gives you the confidence to push it hard – it was sure-footed and gave out a Jaguar roar. We will get the RWD s drive version for now.

That said, the XF 300PS TDV6 Portfolio I drove on the road had more than enough power. Smooth and mated to a ZF eight-speed auto box, it coped effortlessly with everything that was thrown at it.

Jaguar XF

Rewarding to drive, refined, it felt totally poised on the twisty mountain roads, providing plenty of grunt for those tough uphill stretches and flowing motorways. And with a claimed 51.5mpg economy and CO2 emissions of 114g/km. it’s a sensible choice.

But it’s the new 2.0-litre diesel that will impress the fleet managers and cost-conscious private owners. It can’t match the V6’s power, but it’s still punchy and one of the more refined diesels available and seems well sorted on the road.

You can choose between three standard driving modes (Normal, Winter and Dynamic) and these alter the engine/transmission/handling characteristics.

Jaguar XF

And as if all that is not convincing enough, Jaguar claims the all-new Jaguar XF offers best-in-class residual values, insurance costs and total cost of ownership.

Well built and spacious with a strong range of refined engines, dynamic handling, premium build quality and sleek design, Jaguar looks like it’s onto a winner with the impressive new XF.

As Jaguar celebrates its 80th year, here’s a sporting saloon worthy of the badge. It’s going to be fascinating to watch the XF battle it out in the executive sector with the Germans in the shape of the Audi A6, BMW 5-Series and Mercedes-Benz E-Class.

The Jaguar XF range starts at £32,300 for the 2.0d Prestige, rising to £49,945 for the 3.0 V6 Supercharged S and 3.0d V6 S.

About Gareth Herincx

Gareth is a versatile journalist, copywriter and digital editor who's worked across the media in newspapers, magazines, TV, teletext, radio and online. After long stints at the BBC, GMTV and ITV, he now specialises in motoring.

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