Arguably a better XF than the SV8 and, if you can overlook a small rear cabin, a class-leader

What is it?

After the forced induction ‘SV8’ tested by Steve Cropley last week, this, the normally aspirated V8 version, is the second variant of Jaguar’s new XF to come under our scrutiny. The two remaining lower-end engines – the 3.0-litre V6 petrol and all-important 2.7-litre V6 diesel - were unavailable at the car’s launch in Arizona; we'll have to wait until early '08 to sample those.

Mechanically it is all very familiar: the 294bhp V8, six speed ZF transmission and suspension comes straight from the XK coupe while enough of the old S-type’s floor remains in the design to ensure an unchanged wheelbase.

In the past Jaguars have had a tradition of using price to position themselves as value alternatives in the premium market, but not this one: at £45,500 it costs just £245 less than a BMW 550i SE – a fact we’ll be picking up with a twin test in the not too distant future.

The Jag has an auto box and satellite navigation as standard but many will consider that things like that pale alongside the German’s considerably superior performance yet better economy and emissions.

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.

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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.

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Jon Hardcastle 6 February 2008

Re: Jaguar XF 4.2 V8

Not convinced by Jaguars in general, the ones that really appeal to me are the E type era. The new ones leave me cold.

terryfried 5 February 2008

Re: Jaguar XF 4.2 V8

I used Jags website to build 3 typical XFs as I would like them. noted the cost. then found equivalent (engine and performance) BMW and Mercedes models. They were both cheaper model for model by an average of £5,000 for BM £2,000 for Merc. BUT I then went through there build site and matched the equipment to how I had the Jags. and the final prices were both dearer model for model by an average of £5,000 for BM £2,000 for Merc. Thats right model for model the BMW start £5,000 cheaper on list but end up £5,000 dearer equipped. On the Jags I was adding aprox £5,000 of extras on the Merc £10000 and the BMW £15,000 this to get the others close to the XFs equipment. on the top of range model take every option and the SV8 is still less than £60,000 unlike the BMW 550 M Sport. So be careful about model comparisons The XF is so well equipped as standard there will always be a temptation to make unfair comparisons with the wrong model from competition.

adriver 28 January 2008

Re: Jaguar XF 4.2 V8

Drove this at the weekend, superb car I think it looks better in the flesh than in the pictures. Though I do think possibly some of the paler colours don't suit it. Only downside was the space in the rear. Friends I was with who unfortunately for them weren't allowed to drive had to sit in the back and with me being over 6 foot the space wasn't great.