Jaguar XF Saloon reviewed

Jaguar XF Saloon

Jaguar XF Saloon - Credit: Archant

The big cat’s mainstay model has made the difference as the British executive brand leaps back up the sales charts

Jaguar has emerged from the doldrums by showing the innovation that first made the British performance marque great.

For so long fettered by what I call ‘trad Jag’ thinking – following styles and regimes from the glory days, which failed to sell in modern times – the big cat has leapt back with a range far removed from what went immediately before.

Most credit goes to its mainstay XF saloon and market pragmatism in the form of diesel power, something that Jaguar traditionalists can squabble about but cannot deny.

Firstly we had the creamy 275bhp 3.0-litre V6 diesel – an engine that would have pleased Jag founder Sir William Lyons – and then the latest four-cylinder 2.2-litre.

“Four-cylinder!” you can hear the old Jag duffers explode over their G’n’Ts, but brands like BMW, Audi and Mercedes-Benz have ‘dieselled’ their way into Jaguar’s old market and sales by churning out executive motors with four-pot diesels.

Smooth, straight and V6 petrol engines and even V8s may power the German brands’ halo cars – the ones that grab space in fancy motor mags and on TV - but sales of big mileage, high-economy diesel fours tot up volume and profits.

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And Jaguar has done that too with four-cylinder 2.2 diesel versions of the XF, targeting the Audi A6, BMW 5-Series and Merc E-Class. First there was a 200PS (198bhp) variant – the one tested here – but Jaguar followed with a 163PS (161bhp) ‘cooking’ version to offer company car user choosers more choice and a sub-30 grand entry price for the XF range.

Admittedly, our test car is a big cat’s leap up from there at £42,195 – it’s the 200PS model in flagship Portfolio trim. But one of the obvious things on an XF is how all models maintain an air of luxury. Get this wrong and the cheap models don’t live up to brand image, while no amount of toys on top-end models can make them seem worth the cash if the accompanying standard trim is downmarket.

The XF avoids that trap by being generously specc’d from the off and looking and feeling good inside; hit the start button and the closed alloy air vents sigh open while the chunky auto gearbox selector knob rises from the centre console – pure class. Needless to say, everything also feels well-made and screwed together.

The Ford/Peugeot-derived engine could never seem as smooth as the already familiar V6 diesel, but it’s a nice piece of work and the eight-speed auto ‘box allows seamless shifting whether in fully auto or using the highly effective manual-change paddles on the steering wheel. Ride and handling is up to the usual high standard, even when the car is driven aggressively.

Selecting Sport mode will give you faster auto changes and weight up the steering slightly. Driven sensibly, however, it should average over 50mpg, but I wanted to test it across the board, leading to the car’s computer recording average consumption in the mid-40s – still not bad.

For me, however, it’s the Jag’s overall sense of wellbeing that wins on top of the relative eco-friendliness.

Jaguar really is back. n

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