Today, Jaguar is a company in fine fettle. With a deeply impressive and ever-expanding range of models along with healthy profits, it’s easy to take its success for granted.
Where it all started
Jaguar was on its knees. Almost two decades under Ford ownership had left the company close to the brink by 2007. A succession of underwhelming cars – namely the S-Type and X-Type – had resulted in poor sales, and with Ford itself struggling at the time, the company's future was genuinely in doubt.
Ford sold the company to Tata Motors in 2008 and the American company’s parting gift for the new Indian owner was the Jaguar XF. What a gift it turned out to be.
First revealed as the C-XF concept at the Detroit motor show in January 2007, the production version was displayed at the Frankfurt motor show later that year. Where previous Ford-built efforts had failed to set the world alight, this replacement for the retro S-Type proved a perfect springboard for a Jaguar renaissance that continues to this day.
Our 2008 Car of the Year
Why was it so good? Well, in a highly competitive class, the XF went shoulder to shoulder with many more mainstream and established German rivals and beat them at their own game.
It was initially available with a 2.7-litre diesel engine, as well as a 3.0-litre petrol, both of which were paired with a six-speed automatic gearbox. There was lashings of equipment as standard, including cruise control, alloys, dual-zone climate control, 10-way electrically adjustable leather front seats and a heated windscreen.
The XF was named winner in our executive car class in 2008 and scooped the overall Car of the Year title that year. It wasn’t a one-year wonder, either. The XF remained our favourite executive saloon in 2009, 2010 and 2011.
What we said at the time:
"Next to the German giants, with their prolific output, Jaguar is a bit of a cottage industry. So it’s all the more impressive when a new Jaguar matches a Mercedes for refinement, a BMW for driving dynamics and an Audi for interior wow factor.
"Step inside, soak up the ambience created by the wood, leather and titanium trim, press the pulsing engine-start button and, hey presto, the facia vents revolve open while the rotary drive selector ascends silently from the centre console."
“Need more than just theatre? Select drive, set off down the road and immediately it’s clear that you’re behind the wheel of something very special indeed."
“Around town, the steering is limo light and the ride, although taut, has a smooth, unflustered quality that belies the ensuing agility as speeds increase."
“Jaguar has not forgotten that its cars must always be lusciously refined and calmly sporty. The XF more than meets the brief. It out-drives the previously unbeatable BMW 5 Series, which is saying something, but it is also more supple on poor surfaces.”
What’s the Jaguar XF like today?
The tech inside the first-generation model is now decidedly old hat compared with that in modern saloons, with the infotainment system clunky and distracting to use, and the slow-witted sat-nav system only slightly more useful than an A-Z.
In most other respects, though, the XF still has the same air of luxury now as it did then, feeling both special and different.
It's a particularly comfortable cruiser, and although refinement isn’t up to the supremely polished levels of modern executive cars, it is still impressive.
The XF was built on a Ford platform that was comparatively heavy, but it still handled better than all its contemporary rivals, including the BMW 5 Series that had previously been the benchmark. And even today, the steering feels nicely weighted and precise.
Our test car had the 3.0-litre V6 diesel engine, which replaced the 2.7 in early 2009, and it's a real peach, offering plenty of low-end torque and effortless motorway performance. The six-speed gearbox remains impressively smooth, too.
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