Its fair to say were big fans of the Jaguar XF. Four years on from the cars launch and its victory in our 2008 Car of the Year Awards, its still our favourite executive car even in the face of competition from the brilliant new BMW 5 Series.
However, the XFs appeal has been limited to some by the lack of a small-capacity diesel engine to rival the big-selling BMW 520d. Not any more, though. In September we'll get a face-lifted XF, complete with a four-cylinder 2.2-litre diesel engine.
Its still some months before we get to drive the finished product, but Jaguar let us have a sneak preview and early drive of a heavily-disguised version of the 2.2-litre car that mechanically at least was representative of the car youll be able to order from April.
Apparently, there has been some angst at Jaguar about fitting a four-cylinder engine to the XF it hasn't done that since the X-type disappeared a few years ago. It shouldnt have worried the four-cylinder diesel works a treat.
In fact, its very Jaguar-like: quiet, refined and with a delightfully smooth power delivery and an almost-seamless stop-start system to keep emissions low and mpg high. A new super-efficient eight-speed auto gearbox helps.
Performance is brisk, if not scintillating the XF is a big car, after all. The 0-62mph time of 8.5 seconds is reasonable enough and only marginally slower than the BMW 520d automatic. On the move, you get a more of a gentle push back into your seat if you accelerate hard, rather than a forceful shove. It feels a little sedate at times, but you still make decent progress.
At motorway speeds, a firm poke of the throttle makes the gearbox move down a few cogs and the revs rise to around 4000 revs as it hunts for more power. Thatd be fine in a petrol engine car, but in the diesel 4000 revs is just when the torque you need is dying away. Less enthusiastic use of the accelerator is more effective the gearbox chooses to put you closer to 3000 revs where theres a lovely, smooth stream of extra torque.
The engines quiet at whatever speed youre travelling, which combines with the now even more compliant ride to make the XF a relaxing car to drive. Jaguar has improved on what makes the XF so brilliant, though, with a superb blend of body control and steering to give an unbeatable balance of agility and comfort. Even this lower-powered model is a joy to drive.
For company car drivers, these cars are as much about the figures as the performance, and the Jaguar loses out slightly against the BMW 520d. The XF isnt quite as fuel-efficient as its German counterpart and its CO2 emissions of 149g/km put it in the 22% company car tax bracket compared with the 20% BMW. The Jaguar will cost only around £500 less than a standard 520d auto, so the BMW will work out cheaper as a company car.
However, youll need to plunder the 5 Series options list to get it to a similar level of equipment as the Jag, at which point the tax costs start to even out. The XF should be better equipped as standard, with navigation, MP3 connectivity, leather seats and the auto gearbox.
Other than the dynamic changes we can talk about, we cant say what the car will look like official pictures will be on whatcar.com later this month. However, take a look at the C-XF concept car that previewed the original XF and throw in a dose of XJ and youre about there. Tweaks to the interior quality and tech will improve the picture, too.
This new diesel version could be the car to keep the XF at the top of the executive tree. Its comfortable, fun, refined and the numbers stack up well pretty much the perfect ingredients for a great executive car.
What Car? says
A great addition to the great XF range