Mind you, there was a moment of mild panic as JLR’s day shift staff returned to their stations after their mid-afternoon tea break and the conveyor belt beneath my XF began to move. Production waits for no man, especially a motoring hack. It meant my first, less than auspicious experience behind the wheel of our car was inching across a factory floor at 5mph with the hazard lights on, under the watchful eye of the plant’s operations director, Nicolas Guibert. Nevertheless, it was a rare privilege to actually drive Jaguar’s new executive saloon off the line in front of some of the proud men and women responsible for screwing it together.
And haven’t they done an excellent job? When the new XF was launched last year, our road test team was quick to install it as the keen driver’s choice in the executive class, giving its German rivals a bloody nose.
Predictably, it was a close-run thing, and with a new BMW 5 Series recently revealed, Mercedes-Benz’s E-Class selling strongly and Audi’s A6 benefiting from a raft of upgrades, we’re looking forward to determining whether or not the XF remains the class best during the year it will spend in our custody.
My most frequent journeys in the car – a twice-daily 43-mile M3 commute – won’t place a premium on the dynamic prowess our road testers enjoyed but it will instead shine a spotlight on its cruising ability and all-round ease of use and comfort.
In going for the XF’s uppermost S trim, our engine choice was limited to one of the two the 3.0-litre V6 units, so we opted for the 296bhp diesel mated to ZF’s eight-speed automatic gearbox. With oil-burners under increasing scrutiny and the threat of stringent legislation, it seems pertinent to debate the merits of a large-capacity diesel engine in 2016 and beyond. For one thing, can we get anywhere near to Jag’s combined fuel economy claim of 51.4mpg?
Already I’m sold on the engine’s capability on motorway journeys, which it tackles with the minimum of fuss. Under light throttle loads in the seemingly infinite 50mph M3 road works zone that is currently the bane of my life, barely a whisper emanates from the engine as it trickles along at low revs.
Full credit to my colleague Mark Tisshaw, who specced our car. He clearly busied himself on Jaguar’s configurator, adorning the XF with a Fiat 500’s worth of extras (£11,925, to be precise). To my mind, he chose well, particularly the Italian Racing Red body paint and black 19in five-spoke alloy wheels, which, I think, add a vivacious lustre that the conservatively styled XF can lack in other trims and body colours.