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We find out whether the range-topping V6 diesel 'S' version of Jaguar's all-new XF can live up to high expectations on UK roads

What is it?

Would you notice? More to the point, does it matter that the new, lighter Jaguar XF doesn’t look dramatically different to its slightly bulkier predecessor? Given that it was hardly an ugly duckling before, I’d say that sticking to a known recipe makes eminent sense. Those open-mouthed air vents and the slimmer, slightly F-typed rear lights are a big improvement in my books.

Perhaps more critically, as we know from our forays abroad in the new XF, this staple Jag saloon has retained the bright, responsive handling characteristics that always gave it a distinctly different feel to the core rivals from BMW and Audi. What we need to find out here is whether it still feels so well suited to the UK’s patched-up roads. 

What's it like?

Over everything from fast B-roads with typical high-frequency, almost corrugated undulations and awkward mid-corner ruts, to tight, clogged urban streets and then out for long motorway miles, the XF excels.

Our 3.0d S test car rode on 20in alloys instead of the standard 19s, but other than that was the standard dynamic setup that you get with this range-topping V6 diesel. That includes adaptive damper, steering, throttle and gearbox settings, although we’d say it’s well sorted enough in the default mode that you rarely feel the need to venture into the red-lit Sport mode.

There’s always been a sort of fluidity to the ride and handling compromise of modern Jags, and if anything the new XF has enhanced this further. It feels quite firmly sprung, but the damping keeps it from jarring over anything but the most punishing potholes, and there's no unflattering post-bump wobble or shudder form the body, giving the XF a ruthlessly composed yet supple feel over all sorts of surface intrusions. Even big, low speed bumps are smoothed over easily, and expansion joints and the like are more heard than felt.

This well-resolved damping also helps the tyres maintain consistent contact and grip levels with the road, even over fast mid-corner yumps, which in turn brings confidence to the light-footed handling even over scrappy-feeling country roads. Together with the organic-feeling steering, the Jag is a car that keen drivers can really revel in, yet is also easy to judge in a tight spot, and generally enjoyable even in the sort of awkward, traffic-clogged ebb and flow that's often the reality of driving in the UK. 

The powertrain is no hindrance to any of this. Step-off is smooth and predictable, with the eight-speed auto keeping the V6 in a satisfyingly effortless mid-range mooch. Is it the most refined six-cylinder in the class? Not really, and nor is it the most intuitive gearbox, with the odd unexpected heartbeat of a pause just when you don’t want it if you’re dallying with Sport mode. 

Still, there's masses of mid-range urgency, while engine noise isn’t bad unless you really rev it out, road noise is well suppressed and there’s very little mechanical vibration, so this remains a refined exec that would have you feeling fresh even after many hours of motorway slog. 

An excellent driving position is a big part of that, too. The XF S gets full electric adjustment including tilt and four-way lumbar adjustment as standard, plus a seat that drops as low as anyone could want. Heated front seats and suitably top-notch leather, plus various driver aids including traffic sign recognition and automatic emergency braking, complete a pretty comprehensive standard spec.

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It’s just a shame that the general perceived interior quality is still a touch behind that of Audi and BMW, let down by details such as the slightly clicky stalk movement, the fairly aged graphics on the (optional) head-up display, and some unfinished-looking wiring and seat-back release buttons tacked into the boot.

The colour touchscreen, complete with nav, is perhaps a touch slow to respond and not as easy to muddle through as the best rotary-controlled alternatives, but key functions are really easy to access and adjust, and with time it's easy to get on with this system. A fairly stonking, 10-speaker Meridian sound system and every method of media or phone connectivity you could want also means the Jag will satisfy audiophiles.

Rear passengers might feel that it’s a bit dark in the back, since the tapering windowline cuts out the light a bit, but there’s actually more leg room than in a BMW 5 Series, and not much less head room. A broad seat base offers loads of thigh support, too, so even lanky passengers will be fine in the back. 

The boot is on a par with most rivals', and you get standard split-folding rear seats so you can actually squeeze a 2.0-metre-long item into the XF, provided it fits through the narrow, letterbox-shaped opening leading from the boot into the main cabin area. 

Should I buy one?

The XF is not perfect. There are some finer details that would likely irk, especially given the hefty £50k price. However, in all the ways that matter – including equipment levels and the general practicalities of living with one of these big execs – the XF is about as good as it gets.

It’s comfortable, as roomy and functional as any rival, better equipped than most and – critically – oozes driver appeal. It is, perhaps, a tad optimistically priced, especially given the sizeable discounts you can currently get on a 530d M Sport. Give it a bit of time for the newness factor to wear off and the Jag will no doubt be subject to similar savings.

Until then, you need to value the kicks you get behind the wheel to find the extra required for the XF over the remarkably polished and comparably good value BMW 530d. Of course, here at Autocar we do value those kicks. If you do too, then this is the best mid-sized executive out there.

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Jaguar XF 3.0 TDV6 S

Location Bedfordshire, UK; On sale Now; Price £49,945; Engine V6, 2993cc, turbodiesel; Power 296bhp at 4000rpm; Torque 516lb ft at 2000rpm; Gearbox 8-spd automatic; Kerb weight 1750kg; 0-60mph 5.8sec; Top speed 155mph; Economy 51.4mpg (combined); CO2/tax band 144g/km, 25%

 

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Winston Churchill 30 October 2015

Morons

What kind of spesh do you have to be to decide not to buy a car on the basis of the position of the sat nav screen and without even sitting in the car itself?
Winston Churchill 30 October 2015

Morons

What kind of spesh do you have to be to decide not to buy a car on the basis of the position of the sat nav screen and without even sitting in the car itself?
Cobnapint 30 October 2015

@Roadster

Lol. And they said glue sniffing was dead.

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