What’s it like?
The car has two fundamental problems and any prospective purchaser will have to convince themselves they either don’t matter or can be lived with even before the car is worth taking for a test drive. Once surmounted, there is very little else about this XF that will not delight anyone who fancies the idea of a thoroughly modern British sports saloon.
Problem one you can see for yourself: its looks split opinions like no other car launched in the last year. It’s not something I am any better qualified to judge than you but, for what it’s worth, I think the entire car rearward of the front wheels works brilliantly, but the nose is all wrong. It’s not like the XK which looked a trifle odd on the page but brilliant in the flesh: to me, that grille and, in particular, those headlights simply don’t belong to a car that’s otherwise as elegant as this.
Problem two is the modest amount of room in the back seats. It’s more spacious than an old S-type but that’s hardly saying much: there’s less room here than in the back of a 5-series which itself has a smaller rear cabin than a Mercedes E-class.
Get over these issues and the rest of this XF is fairly wonderful, good enough for sure to make you question the wisdom of shelling out almost another ten grand for the supercharged version. The V8 is smoother and sounds fantastic in the upper reaches of its rev-range. Jaguar continues to be able to extract more raw ability from ZF’s automatic gearbox than any of its rivals from BMW or Audi and it covers the engine’s relative lack of low down torque almost completely.
On smaller wheels and tyres, its ride is definitely a rung up the ladder from the already impressive standards set by the Super V8, while the lack of a limited slip differential – which seriously impeded press-on progress in the supercharged car even on dry roads – is much less of an issue here.
This XF is beautifully poised on the right road, offers the best steering in the class and, in that clearly conceived and impressively executed cockpit, the perfect place from which to view the action.
Should I buy one?
There’s no doubt in my mind that this is the better of the two XFs sampled so far and, if there is any justice in this world, should carry on the good work of the XK coupe in furthering the recovery of a marque that’s gone to hell and back in the last ten years.
It doesn’t stack up that well on paper, either in the photographs or its technical specification, but in the environment that matters – on the open road – its character and charm more than make up for any statistical or visual shortfall. In short this is a car that deserves to succeed.