Cool cat that really gets the cream
The Jaguar XF was a revelation in 2008 but in the intervening years, its rivals have come back with ever stronger offerings. In certain respects, the Jaguar still feels like the top pick in its class. Its ride and handling are brilliant, its steering superb, and its sense of occasion is second to none. Other rivals offer more space and, if reducing carbon dioxide emissions is an overwhelming priority, the XF still comes up a little short.
Since the spring 2011 facelift, the XF has had a much sleeker look, something that's also a feature of the newest derivative in the range, the Sportbrake estate. It's got a 1675-litre total loading capacity and there are nearly 100 different ways to configure the interior.
The interior of the XF was always one of its strong points and with not a lot being wrong, there isn't a great deal to fix. You'll find a restyled steering wheel, a new infotainment system, better quality air vents and uprated seats. Jaguar hasn't been able to do anything about the XF's slightly compromised rear headroom, although legroom remains better than you'd expect. The boot measures 500 litres which is less than the class standard albeit not by too much. Cabin quality is extremely good with a feel that's modern British in all the best ways without lapsing into cheesiness or caricature.
The entry-level 163PS XF will stop the watch at 9.8 seconds. But the 200PS version, which is actually just as clear and economical, manages it in a far more sprightly 8.0s, on the way to a 142mph maximum. With 450Nm of torque available from only 2,000rpm, there's no shortage of muscle with this engine, and the XF eight-speed auto transmission means you're always plugged into the meat of it. Across the new XF range advances have been made in refinement with active engine mounts (diesels) and new sound deadening material featuring on the car as well as redesigned wing mirrors to reduce wind noise. As with its rivals from BMW, Mercedes and Audi, at no point does it occur to you that the 2.2-litre oil burner under the bonnet has just four cylinders. Prices for the 200PS version of this 2.2-litre diesel XF start at around £34,000 in saloon form. The least expensive way you can order this variant is in high-spec 'Luxury' form, in which guise it's around £1,000 more than the feebler 163PS version of this model. There's a premium of around £2,500 for the Sportbrake estate model.
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Of this Jaguar's rivals, the latest Audi A6 offers probably the most aggressive value proposition and when the four cylinder diesel variants are compared, it's the Audi that's packing a smaller, less powerful engine and charging you a couple of thousand pounds more for the privilege. Small wonder that Jaguar seems so confident about this car's chances.
Go for the Premium Luxury version that has proven popular and you'll find it fitted as standard with soft grain leather seats, a 600w stereo, Bluetooth, cruise control with speed limiter, hard disk satellite navigation, a heated front window, heated, electrically adjustable front seats and 18-inch alloy wheels.
Otherwise it remains a formidable contender. Upping the power of the pokier 2.2-litre diesel featured here to 200PS and adding a Sportbrake estate to the model line-up was a good move. Hardly a sluggard, this XF will stop the watch at 8.5 seconds en route to 60mph and hit 135mph. With 450Nm of torque available from only 2,000rpm, there's no shortage of muscle, and the XF eight-speed auto transmission means you're always plugged into the meat of it and before you measure the XF against its key rivals, consider this. The entry level XF is now £5,000 less expensive than in 2008, is just as quick and is significantly cheaper to run.