By 2007, Jaguar was stuck in the doldrums. Ford’s ownership, and membership of the Premier Automotive Group, had not come without its advantages, but the introduction of the S-Type in 1999 and the X-Type two years later had not set the world alight.
The X-Type, manacled to the same front-drive platform as the Mondeo, was no match for the dynamism and verve of its compact German rivals, and the S-Type – in looks, certainly – harked back too plainly to an era that the rest of the country was fast forgetting.
Dramatic change was required, not only to revitalise Jaguar’s line-up and promote much-needed sales but also to point the firm in a new direction that would establish it as a forward-thinking entity rather than one overly obsessed with its heyday.
So the XF, a car distinct from anything Jaguar had built before, was meant as a statement. Presciently introduced just as Ford sold the company to current owner Tata, the XF’s impact was seismic, not only for its determined focus on the future but also for the beguiling way it drove.
Everything that followed has slotted into the groove forged by the XF. Now it, too, is due for renewal. Its success would seem to make that prospect daunting but, in truth, there is much about the old model that Jaguar will have been happy to fix, such as the comparatively heavy, Ford-derived steel architecture.
The latest model is predominantly aluminium. It’s lighter and leaner, yet bigger inside, too – another overhaul prescribed by its predecessor’s shortcomings. It also gets a range of new engines, with four variants of JLR's new 2.0-litre, four-cylinder Ingenium diesel engines, which was further supplemented by a trio of Ingenium petrols for 2017, while the top of the range is dominated by 3.0-litre V6 petrol and diesel engines mainly found in the XF S.
Following the successful launch of the XE, Jaguar is keen to prove to buyers – especially those purchasing through work – that there’s something for everyone in the line-up, none more so than its recent additions to the engine line-up but also with the announcement that the second-generation Sportbrake is joining the XF ranks.
For this Autocar road test we’re testing the 2.0-litre 180PS R-Sport auto to find out if the XF is still worth getting excited about.