The disused runway of a former airfield in the Midlands is currently lined with neat rows of what look like gift-wrapped cars, swathed in chic white tailored covers. Each one bears a label showing its soon-to-be-sent destination, ranging right across the world from the US to Australia.
This is the post-production temporary parking for Jaguar’s latest arrival in its glamorous car range, the new XF, awaiting imminent delivery to a global audience of eager customers. The cars are carefully protected for shipment, with cushioning anti-scuff protection for all the door edges and body protrusions, and with even the brake disc callipers swathed in protective covers ready for transit.
This is an important car for Jaguar, celebrating its 80th anniversary this year. The XF is the lynchpin of the big cat line-up, its mid-size saloon with predatory intentions against a trio of German rivals: the BMW 5-Series, Mercedes E-Class and Audi A6. The current XF, which first went on sale in 2008, has done very well for the brand. Its desirability has been widely recognised in strong sales around the world and a string of international awards, and now here is the second generation car with a UK starting price of £32,500.
Jaguar’s design chief Ian Callum and his team are rightly proud of the new XF’s style, with its flowing lines and subtle sculpting. With the new model, there has been a tweaking here and there to achieve a minor improvement in aerodynamic efficiency, rather than any kind of fundamental re-design. The body is aluminium, and the car’s structure is both lighter (by 11 per cent) and stiffer (25 per cent) than the previous model, making it tauter with improved body control and better refinement. You can definitely feel the difference in the car’s road behaviour.
There is something about a Jaguar cabin that is pleasingly sybaritic. The theatrical features for which modern Jaguars are known – the circular transmission selector that rises up out of the central console when you switch on, and the closed air vents that simultaneously swivel open – are still there and a gratifying little touch in a very elegant cabin.
The XF has good stretch room inside, with big enough cabin dimensions to accommodate tall adults pretty comfortably. It’s a prestige model and it feels it, with classy décor and plush materials cladding all the surfaces. Older Jags used to have a boardroom-style ambience awash with leather and walnut. This newest one has leather in abundance in the upper models, but wood veneers have given away to chic brushed aluminium trim.
Suited and booted
Past Jaguars have routinely been criticised for having small boots compared with those of rival models. That isn’t an accusation you can point at the new XF. It has a 540-litres boot, the same as a Mercedes E-Class, 10 litres larger than an Audi A6 and 20 litres larger than a BMW 5-Series.
Jaguar have enough confidence in the way the car drives to have staged part of the press launch driving on a demanding Spanish test track often used for Formula One testing, and the rest on some fabulously fast-flowing and twisty mountain roads in the Basque country of northern Spain. This is a five star car for driving calibre.
It drives with poise and precision, and pretty decent refinement in the likely best-seller, the two-litre, 178 bhp turbodiesel. With an eight-speed auto transmission, it has a 136 mph top speed and 0-62 mph sprint time of fractionally over eight seconds. Want some more figures? Here you go: a combined fuel figure of 65.7 mpg, CO2 output at 114 g/km, and the price at £36,850.