The challenge of making a modern saloon agile, comfortable, fast, tenaciously grippy and confidence-inspiring all at once has – to varying degrees – been accomplished by each manufacturer that Jaguar would consider a rival.
Where they have been less successful is in making what is a sophisticated and computer-controlled product feel fun or feelsome in the nominally organic way that a mechanical device ought.
It is this quality, among others, that the XF keenly addresses. A better-tuned chassis, with four doors, a large boot to the rear and a heavy oil-burner at the front, you will not find anywhere.
Separate the whole into any of its constituent parts – traction, turn-in, responsiveness, ride comfort – and from the driver’s seat, the compromise struck by Jaguar seems uncannily well judged.
The electric power steering, although inevitably lacking in granular feedback, is a progressively weighted and delectably quick affair. The previous XF’s rack was dainty and accurate. This one has a real oily, intuitive physicality to it. The rate of response is ramped up to suit the model’s sporting character, although not to the extent that it might overburden its fundamental ease of use.
The suspension, even on the R-Sport’s modestly stiffer set-up, strikes a similar balance. Jaguar has outdone itself with a passive configuration that deftly manages secondary intrusions, flows like emulsion through the primary and yet never gives up so much as a fat thumbnail’s depth in body control when progress is more strenuous.
As good as the new dampers clearly are, singling out specific components for praise almost risks diminishing the broad-canvas job done here. It is as much the cohesion between them that delivers the quintessential rear-drive tuning fork feel, rewarding a driver’s inputs with sensory output that resonates through the column and seatbacks.
It is surely a measure of the XF’s dynamic qualities that neither the Ingenium’s shortcomings nor the changing conditions of the car’s immediate surroundings ever particularly troubled our esteem.
The transition from town to country to motorway driving is remarkable for the conspicuous absence of any actual transition, Jaguar’s marvellous ensemble simply rolling England under its wheels with the same steady, implacable brilliance.
We’ve become well accustomed to Jaguar’s faculty for equipping its cars with a heady mix of verve and forgiveness beyond the limit, and the XF is no different. The car’s innate sense of balance, rear-driven impetus and amenability to being driven hard are practically all givens and as obvious at Millbrook as the colour of the trees.