After what seems like years of waiting, Jaguar’s life-changing XF, its first truly avant-garde sports saloon for well over three decades, is finally here. This new four-door Jaguar is available for UK customers to order now; the first deliveries will be made on March 1 2008. And it'll be priced from just £33,900, which will buy you either 3.0-litre V6 petrol power or 2.7-litre V6 turbodiesel power.
A new look for the big cat
Unofficially, the team behind the XF called it “the new Mk2”, both to differentiate it from the S-type and XJ, and to associate it with the charisma, the compact shape and the fine driving qualities of that enduring '60s icon.
This new rival to the Mercedes E-class, Audi A6 and BMW 5-series certainly doesn't need a collection of outmoded styling cues. After the failure of successive retro designs, Jaguar, under the guidance of design director Ian Callum, has found a new look; see it in detail in our gallery.
The XF ditches both the “shield” grille of the old Mk2 and recent S-type saloons, and the “mouth” grille of the XK. Instead, it uses a new “ovoid” shape, related (albeit faintly) to the grille of the first XJ6.
Its stance is low-nosed and confident, full of latent power, with the grille countersunk into the body in the manner of the original XJ, not merely stuck on.
In the cabin
The interior is a confection of simple planes, graceful lines and quality materials. But lest anyone think traditions are being chucked overboard, Jaguar designers point out that the the XF cabin nevertheless contains more wood than any Jaguar since the Mk2.
Front occupants sit low, separated by a high centre console to give the familiar Jaguar feeling that you’ve located securely in a “tub” of your own.
Get into the car, close the driver’s door and the “start” button located on the console pulses red. Press it, and two things happen. The engine starts, and a rotary knob rises out of what you thought was the flat upper surface of the centre console, to become a rotary gear selector knob.
It looks and moves like the polished alloy knob of a piece of top-quality audio equipment, because the driver’s control of the specially tuned six-speed ZF transmission is ‘by wire”. Every XF also has paddle-shift control of the 'box. There is no conventional manual.
Under the skin
Four engines are offered – a 2.7-litre, 210bhp turbodiesel V6; a 3.0-litre 240bhp petrol V6, a 4.2-litre, 300bhp petrol V8 and a 4.2-litre, 420bhp supercharged V8.
The slowest top speed is 143mph in the diesel, and the slowest 0-60 is 7.9 seconds in the 3.0-litre V6. At the other end of the spectrum the SV8 rockets from 0-60mph in 5.1sec to a limited 155mph top speed.
Unlike the latest XK and XJ, the XF doesn't have an integral body/chassis in aluminium. Instead, it uses high-strength steels, plus a wide variety of materials including aluminium, composites, plastics and magnesium alloy.
The XF shares its 2909mm wheelbase with the outgoing S-type, and the same goes for its coil-sprung, double wishbone front suspension and multi-link rear, both mounted on subframes for the best possible isolation.
All but the supercharged SV8 model have ventilated 326mm disc brakes all round, but the top model has 355mm units on the front for extra retardation. It needs them not only because it is so fast, but also as its claimed kerb weight of 1842kg is 160kg above that of the lightest model, the 3.0 litre petrol V6. The 2.7 litre turbodiesel (1771kg) and normally aspirated 4.2 V8 (1749kg) fall in between.
The XF’s most important unseen component is likely to be the sophistication of its ride and handling development, carried out by a team led by Mike Cross. We look forward to finding out.