Our cars: Jaguar XF update
Target Price: £32,722
Run by: Roger Stansfield
Test duration: 3 weeks/2000 miles
We're running our overall Car of the Year winner, the Jaguar XF, for a year to find out exactly what the car is like to live with.
There are two good ways to get to know a new car. One is to clean it inside and out, forcing it to reveal all its little nuances and secrets.
The second, and infinitely more enjoyable, is to spend hours behind the wheel, finding out how it drives on all manner of roads and how everything works.
I had the chance to do just that with the first of two trips I had to make to Europe. Three countries (France, Belgium and Germany) and 900 miles in two days gives a pretty solid grounding in what a car is all about.
The XF excels at long-distance European travel. It's what I would call a GT saloon – so good to drive that you're always alert and interested, but comfortable and quiet enough while lapping up miles to ensure you don't get fatigue.
I love driving in Europe, and the roads seem to suit our Jag. They're better surfaced than ours (except in Belgium), so the ride wasn't compromised, as it occasionally can be in the UK, by the 19-inch wheels we chose largely for the sake of appearances.
Speed limits are higher, too, especially in Germany, so I had a chance to stretch the V6 diesel engine legally.
It's not the hottest diesel in town, but there's never a time when you feel short-changed by the way it performs.
Ironing out the niggles
As I discovered, a certain amount of preparation is necessary before undertaking a mini-globetrot such this, though.
Take the sat-nav, for instance. Germany and Belgium are mapped on a different disc to the UK and France, so you'll have to stop at some point and fumble behind a removable trim panel in the boot to change things over.
Then there's the problem of adjusting the headlight beam for driving on the right. The handbook shows you how to do it, but then says you have to remove the headlights first, and that it's a job for a skilled technician. This is not helpful if you're returning to the UK in the dark, before you can get to a dealer.
Of course, I only found this out at Dover while waiting to board the P & O ferry (so much more civilised than a cattle truck beneath the Channel, I think), which meant I had to confine my European driving to daylight hours.
The sat-nav is pinpoint accurate, though. It even flashes up the flags of new countries as you cross borders and sends out a verbal 'welcome to…' message.
The automatic speed limiter is a real boon, too, especially in France, where the gendarmes will use any excuse to relieve British tourists of a few euros.
Anyway, I'm back home now and the car's filthy, so it looks like I'll have to get to know it a bit better still by cleaning it.