For car lovers, few things can match the thrill of seeing your new car on the forecourt for the first time.
But one of the things that rivals it, perhaps, is seeing your new car sitting at the end of the production line upon which it has recently been built.
Okay, I admit it: being on Autocar’s editorial team opens many doors, but being able to drive a freshly built £60k car straight off the build line isn’t something we’re able to wangle. Rather, our XF, with the odometer nevertheless reading just a couple of hundred miles, was returned to its birthplace – Jaguar Land Rover’s history-drenched Castle Bromwich site – in order for our Luc Lacey to photograph it doing so.
On the day of our visit there was a buoyant mood, for that same morning it had been confirmed that the facility was to receive £100 million in new investment to help it absorb production of the XE from Solihull, bolstering the futures of the 3000 people who work at Castle Bromwich.
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.
I’m glad we forewent the optional 20in wheels. With the M3 being sliced to ribbons by the long-term works, I’m happy for any contribution towards a comfortable ride that I can get.
It’s early days so I’m still getting used to the standard and optional kit. Adaptive cruise has already proven useful on my commute and I’m very impressed with the way the system can be engaged or cancelled with just one press of the steering wheel-mounted buttons. Some other cars force you to master a combination of controls to engage their systems.
The XF and I are still in the honeymoon period so there isn’t yet much to report in the debit column. The dramatic plunge of the rear roofline and window looks great from the outside, but rear visibility is poor – although that’s a scourge of many modern cars. It adds an extra challenge to reverse-parking the 4954mm-long XF, so we’re already getting our money’s worth out of the 360deg surround view parking camera. It’s a £1655 outlay but the option is useful if you frequently have to park in awkward spaces.
Fingers crossed there won’t be a whole lot more to moan about than rear visibility over the coming year, but if there is, you’ll read it here first.
JAGUAR XF 3.0 TDV6 S AUTOMATIC
Price £49,995 Price as tested £61,920 Options InControl Touch Pro Navigation pack with 825W Meridian stereo £2095, Advanced Parking Assist pack and surround camera £1655, adaptive cruise £1430, Head-up Display pack £1245, sliding panoramic roof £970, Italian Racing Red paint £690, 19in five-spoke alloy wheels £820, Active Safety pack £840, Black pack £665, Rear Comfort pack £525, privacy glass £385, illuminated side door tread plate £310, 18in alloy spacesaver spare wheel £185, air quality sensing £55, cooled glovebox £55, Jet/Light Oyster stitch no cost option Economy 41.9mpg Faults None Expenses None