There’s a nice irony about my first time behind the wheel of the Jaguar XF. It rolled up outside the doors of the Hyatt hotel in Dearborn, Michigan, on a very cold and grey morning, and I drove it along the pockmarked freeways to central Detroit.

Dearborn is, of course, the global headquarters of Ford, the company that is within weeks of off-loading Jaguar to Indian industrial conglomerate Tata.

It’s just short of two decades since Ford swooped in to snatch Jaguar. The Blue Oval paid a huge amount of money for it in 1989, only for company bosses to famously condemn the factory facilities as the worst outside the old Soviet Union.

Well, finally - and after a huge amount of Detroit dollars - Jaguar has nailed down what a compact, executive sporting saloon should be.

On the way along the freeway, we turned more than a few heads. The headlamp treatment might still raise eyebrows, but the XF looks modern and distinctive. And it does look like a Jaguar should.

The driving characteristics are a surprise. It follows in the footsteps of the XK by delivering a surprisingly firm, direct and even uncompromising drive.

And the car's cabin feels snug and the driving position tightly cocooned between the door trim and high centre console. Although this car is priced to rival the BMW 5-series, it feels more like a sporting 3-series to drive. Actually, it feels like a good, driver-focused coupe might.

Ford and Jaguar have finally achieved what they singularly failed to do with the 1999 S-Type. That lost decade means Jaguar has to prove itself again with a new owner.

40 years after the company was forced into British Leyland, Jaguar might finally pick-up where Sir William Lyons left off.

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