Executive car winner

* 17 categories of awards * All the winning models featured here * What Car? Car of the Year 2011 revealed...

Executive car winner

What Car? Awards 2012 website

The winner
Jaguar XF
3.0D V6 Luxury
List price 35,900 Target Price 32,558
Not so long ago, German brands completely dominated this class. However, that was before Jaguar launched its game-changing Jaguar XF.

The XF had only just gone on sale when it scooped our overall Car of the Year award back in 2008, and although Audi, BMW and Mercedes have since responded with brilliant new execs of their own, its the Jag that continues to be the benchmark.

For starters, it manages to make most of its rivals look frumpy, thanks to its sleek, coup-like styling. Then you climb inside, and its even more of a visual treat, because the elegantly styled cabin blends wood, metal and leather in
a cool, contemporary way, and the switchgear is backlit in a vivid blue.

Jaguar raises the funk-factor further with a red starter button that pulses like a heartbeat. Push it and, as the engine fires into life, four air vents swivel out of the metal fascia and a puck-shaped gear selector glides up out of the centre console.

Of course, all of this automotive theatre wouldnt be enough on its own, but its only the start of the enjoyment. Jaguars 3.0-litre diesel engine is as smooth as a single malt and significantly stronger, even in the lower state of tune that we recommend. Meanwhile, the standard six-speed automatic gearbox is so
slick that you rarely notice its shifts.

The comfortable ride and fantastic high-speed stability make long motorway journeys effortless, and the outside world always stays outside thanks to excellent refinement.

Find a more interesting stretch of road, and the XF gets even better. Its surprisingly nimble for something that weighs close to two tonnes, theres bags of grip, and the steering provides a constant stream of information to your hands.

The XF is a car that youll love to drive, then, but Jaguar hasnt forgotten about the practical stuff. Theres plenty of room for two adults in the back, and the 540-litre boot can swallow all of their luggage with ease. You even get a split-folding rear seat for added versatility.

True, running costs are on the high side compared with four-cylinder executive saloons like the 520d, but we reckon the XFs sublime mix of quality, style and dynamic talent make it worth every penny.