Sound the trumpets and clear some space in those dusty Jaguar history books; this, ladies and gentlemen, is the long-awaited Jaguar XF saloon concept. It’s the boldest car in decades to bear the Leaping Cat, the very first to show the design direction Jaguar has chosen for its best-selling models over the next decade, and a pretty good guide to the form of the S-type replacement due next autumn. No British concept car of modern times has ever been so vital to a company’s future. Jaguar sales have flagged disastrously since 2000, and the outmoded styling of the first S-type, then the X-type and XJ has been mainly to blame. A new design team led by Ian Callum since 1999 has been working at top speed to produce a pure, distinctive Jaguar design style which can afford to ditch the outmoded styles of recent Jags, by having something equally distinctive to replace them with. This XF study, to be unveiled in Detroit in a few days’ time, displays in three dimensions many of the decisons the company has made about its future. The XF concept shows the traditional cat-like stance and the confidently sweeping lines of Jaguars are all still there — in spades. There are even discreet references to Jaguar traditions in some of the body creases and the shapes around the lights. But this is a confident, all-new car. Indeed, it could be fairly described as the first post-Lyons Jaguar saloon. The challenge for its designers, says Callum, was to take Jaguar where it would now be, had the evolutionary sequence of superb Jaguar saloons leading up to the 1970s XJ6 not dissolved into a series of retro designs. "Think of the XF as the Jaguar Mk2 of the future," said Callum. “Any good car has to have a visual heritage; it has to come from somewhere. But we’re just not interested in retro designs any more."