What is it?
A four-cylinder diesel Jaguar XF. Which doesn’t sound like much but it is in fact the model that Jaguar needs most right now, with sales burgeoning everywhere except for in the fleet-friendly, low-emission diesel saloon sector, which the company has been absent from in recent years.
This 2.2-litre turbodiesel motor (which you’ll know from the Freelander amongst many others) is the company’s answer to that void in the lineup. Putting out 188bhp and 332lb ft, the engine is fitted here for the first time in a longitudinal configuration and is mated to a new eight-speed ZF auto gearbox, which goes a long way to helping provide the entry-level XF’s headline figures of 149g/km and 52.3mpg.
Though we’ve driven a prototype model, this is our first steer in a final production car. Our test car came in Premium Luxury trim, which looks a little expensive but does come fully laden with kit including sat-nav, keyless entry and heated seats amongst other luxuries.
What’s it like?
Seriously good. What comes across immediately is that the new XF, despite its under-cylindered stature next to the rest of the range, is still characterised by the same unflappable, serene sensation that you get in every other XF. Intangible as that is it is significant because it means that this base car feels as well-polished as any other model in the range. The mild upgrades to the interior switchgear and more noticeable changes to the front end undoubtedly contribute to that impression.
In more quantifiable terms the XF proves as thoroughly hassle-free as you would hope. The engine responds well and offers as much urge as you would expect of a car of this class, specialising in the sort of calm, swift in-gear progress that comes from an over-indulgence of torque. Equally, if you choose to slot the gearbox into ‘S’, the whole powertrain perks up a bit, the ZF box responds well whether in auto or in manual, and you can really make good use of the well-sorted chassis.
But the XF 2.2d is not flawless. Though ride quality is settled much of the time, manages bigger bumps very well and benefits from well-restrained body roll, it also pick up high-frequency undulations or disturbances in the road surface – particularly at low speeds – even on the 18-inch alloys that our test car rode on.
Equally, engine refinement is acceptable but not exceptional. The diesel grumble does encroach into the cabin and is unmistakably that of a four-pot. It’s particularly noticeable on re-start, though otherwise the stop-start system is effective at responding to the well-judged brake pedal feel, with very little hesitation before the engine fires up when required.
Still, the steering remains nicely weighted and in general this XF feels exactly as composed and absorbing as you would hope.
Should I buy one?
Absolutely. It’s a shame that the XF falls short of the 520d’s benchmark emissions because for many fleet buyers that will be the biggest deciding factor – particularly given that the BMW is well established as an excellent proposition. Even so this is a very rewarding car that offers an extra element of exclusivity that could help make up for that shortfall. A mid-spec Luxury model would make more sense for most given its sub-£34k price and decent spec, but regardless of trim it’s clear that the XF is an immensely competitive and recommendable car.