Perhaps most significantly, this MK2 model’s aluminium-intensive architecture provides for weight savings that have delivered sharper handling and class-leading efficiency. In short, it’s a very complete package.
On the move, the weight savings achieved in the design of this second generation model quickly make themselves felt, with sharp corner turn-in aided by a responsive electric power steering system, a much stiffer body and standard torque vectoring that eliminates understeer and keeps you on your chosen line. A ‘JaguarDrive Control’ driving modes system offers you ‘Eco’, ‘Normal’ and ‘Dynamic’ settings that tweak throttle response, steering feel and gearchange timings, depending on the way you want to drive, plus there’s a ‘Winter’ mode which on automatic models includes an ‘All-Surface Progress’ set-up for easier take-off on slippery surfaces. If you want adaptive damping too, you can get it via an optional ‘Adaptive Dynamics’ system.
Engine-wise, most users will want the ‘2. 0-litre i4’ ‘Ingenium’-series four cylinder diesel powerplant, offered in either 163PS or 180PS guises. The lower-powered variant offers class-leading supermini-style efficiency figures (70. 6mpg on the combined cycle and 104g/km of CO2) but has less torque than the pokier 180PS derivative I’m trying here, a car that makes 62mph in 8. 1s en route to 136mph. There’s a choice of either six-speed manual transmission (a first for XF buyers) or the 8-speed auto ‘box that most will want. If you want a pokier XF, you’ll have to find the substantial price premium for one of the performance-orientated six cylinder XF S models. There are two of these, a 300PS twin-turbo diesel and a supercharged 320PS petrol version.
From almost any angle, you’d know this was a Jaguar. You’d know this was an XF. It’s a very different one though, in ways you simply won’t appreciate if all you offer this car is a cursory glance. The sweeping coupe-like profile that defined the original model has evolved, the roofline lower, the rear deck longer and higher.
I should talk about the dimensions too. Think it looks a little smaller than before? You’re right, it is. Jaguar knew this second generation model had to be more spacious inside, but that didn’t mean the car itself had to be bigger. Hence this slightly more compact shape. It’s 7mm shorter and 3mm lower this time round, yet at the same time, more length has been freed up between the wheels thanks to shorter front and rear overhangs. That means a substantial 51mm wheelbase increase that’s given the designers a proper shot at addressing the biggest issue that owners had with the first generation version of this car: it’s very restricted rear cabin space.
Sure enough, there are massive improvements here, with 15mm more legroom, 24mm more kneeroom and 27mm more headroom than before: it’s all made a huge difference.
A seat in the front of an XF has always been a special experience. This time round, the brief was to retain that sense of occasion but mature and simplify the design language a little. So there’s a classier, more modern look as Jaguar’s designers have sought to find more interesting and contemporary ways to say ‘luxury’: largely, their efforts seem have worked. The rising circular gear selector remains on automatic models: so do the cartwheeling airvents, though they’ve been reduced in number and thrown to the edges of the cabin, with the centre of the fascia now freed up for this 8-inch ‘InControl Touch’ infotainment system.
As you look around, the height of the waistline and the centre console gives the safe, driver-focused feeling of being sat in the beautifully supportive leather seat, rather than on it. At the same time, the strong horizontal theme of the instrument panel, the layering of it and the materials used for each layer creates the kind of rich, luxurious, hand-crafted ambience you just don’t get in this car’s Teutonic rivals.
Time to take a look out back. Do these shorter rear overhangs necessitate a smaller boot? Actually no – quite the reverse is true. Lift the lid (here, I’ve got the rather pointless optional power opener fitted) and a 540-litre space is revealed, a 40-litre increase on the previous model accessed via a larger aperture than before.
Lighter, more spacious, better-looking and a whole lot more efficient, this car will worry the German makers more than any model Jaguar has brought us so far. But then perhaps we should have expected that based on the company’s recent near-flawless record under Indian ownership. Investment from TATA goes in: excellent cars come out. It seems to be as simple as that.
Are there issues? A few. The range of variants on offer still isn’t as wide as you’ll find elsewhere. And we wonder what effect this car will have on sales of its smaller XE stablemate, given that volume versions of the two models are so similarly priced. Ultimately though, what's so masterful about this second generation XF is how cleverly Jaguar has kept and built upon what was good about the original version, while being realistic about where the old car's weaknesses were. As a result, you now really can have a beautiful Executive class car that offers cutting-edge technology and a dynamic driving experience but which is also built in Britain and sips fuel like a supermini. These truly are amazing times.