Car of the Year 2008
Jaguar XF 2.7D V6 Luxury
List price £33,900 Target Price £33,900
There is one constant when we come to choose our Car of the Year. The winner must have done more than anything else from the past 12 months to move things on.
Sometimes progress is modest - hardly surprising given the high standard of most cars today. At other times it is a leap of huge proportions - think Bob Beaman breaking the long-jump record by 21 inches in the 1968 Olympics and you're close.
That's the measure of Jaguar's achievement here. Jaguar is a mere cottage industry alongside German rivals Audi, BMW and Mercedes-Benz, yet it has created a car to beat the best they can offer, and all against the backdrop of uncertainty over its own future, with divorce from Ford imminent.
What we most admire about the XF is the way it is still very much a Jaguar, but altogether more modern. You are, for example, virtually entombed in wood and leather, but this time it doesn't make you feel time-locked in a bygone era.
The piece de resistance is the choreographed start-up procedure. A rotary gear selector and fresh-air vents emerge from their resting places, to the accompaniment of a pulsing red starter button and the glow of blue mood lighting on the instruments, in the doors and around the controls. This really has the feeling of a concept car become production reality.
Jaguar has also finally shaken off the styling straitjacket it had been wearing since the original XJ, the last car designed by the company's founder, Sir William Lyons. Not everyone will instantly like the XF, but please don't judge it from pictures alone: in the metal, it's a stunner.
Some things, fortunately, do not change. 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.
With an eye on running costs we have gone for the 2.7-litre V6 diesel model. It is not, we admit, the most potent or the most frugal and CO2-friendly engine of its ilk, so it makes the XF a little more costly than rivals to own, but it adds to the car's supreme refinement.
Anyway, some things are worth paying that little bit extra for. The glorious XF is one of them.