The winner is…ExecutiveJaguar XF 2.7 V6 Diesel LuxuryList price £33,195 Target Price £30,711 The superb Jaguar XF is the car that whisked Jaguar into the 21st century and straight to the top of the tree.
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The XF is so good that we voted it our overall Car of the Year last year, and it remains at the pinnacle of the executive pile this time around.
How does it manage this? Well, simply by being beautiful to look at, brilliant to drive, an event to be in, and worth every penny of its running costs.
The old-fashioned wood-panelling and smoking-jacket styling that Jaguars have championed for so long has been consigned to the nearest skip, and replaced with a blend of class and style that manages to be both efficient and achingly cool.Class and style
Drop yourself into the standard-fit electrically adjustable and leather-bound driver's seat and you'll notice the starter button on the centre console pulsing red with a ‘heartbeat'. It's only a tiny taster of the theatre that comes after you've pressed the button to bring your Jag to life. The engine starts to hum in the background, the vents in the dash swivel around of their own accord, and the puck-shaped gear selector glides up out of the centre console.
That's only the start of the enjoyment. Select ‘D' and as soon as you pull away you know you're in something special. Jag's twin-turbo 2.7-litre diesel engine is as smooth as warm honey, and the six-speed automatic gearbox is sweet, too. On the road
The Jag isn't a light car, so it tends to ease itself away from rest, not leap forward eagerly, but once you've got the foot down and the revs up, you'll find it's plenty quick enough. Incidentally, there'll be a 271bhp 3.0-litre turbodiesel engine later this year, which will have 67bhp more than the 2.7 and be cleaner and more frugal.
On long straights, it's serene, stable and sumptuous. The ride is comfortable enough to make big mileages meaningless, and the soothing refinement means the outside world is always exactly that – it's never allowed into the car to disturb you.
On twisty roads, the XF comes alive: the steering is sharp, the body control is tight, and the car will grip long after your bravery has run out.The basics
The Jag does practical stuff well, too – it'll seat four people in comfort, and the 540-litre boot will take all of their luggage easily. There's even a split-folding rear seat.
Running costs are a little on the high side, but we reckon the Jag's sublime mix of quality, style and driving talent are well worth it.