Past Master: Jaguar XF
The Jaguar XF played a pivotal role in turning around the fortunes of its ailing manufacturer – but why was it so successful? We look back at our 2008 Car of the Year winner to find out...
Jaguar has been struggling of late, due to falling demand for diesels and the decline of the Chinese car market. However, it doesn't have to look too far into its history for evidence of how quickly things can turn around.
Where it all started
At the time, Jaguar had been under Ford ownership for almost two decades. Unfortunately, its range was dominated by underwhelming models – namely the S-Type and X-Type saloons – and with Ford itself struggling, Jaguar's future was genuinely in doubt.
Ford sold the brand to Tata Motors in 2008, with the XF its parting gift. What a gift it turned out to be.
First revealed as the C-XF concept (above) at the Detroit motor show in January 2007, the production version was displayed at the Frankfurt motor show later that year. And while 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.
Our 2008 Car of the Year
Initially available with a 2.7-litre diesel engine and a 3.0-litre petrol, both of which were paired with a six-speed automatic gearbox, the XF went shoulder to shoulder with established German rivals and beat them at their own game.
The XF was named Executive Car of the Year at the 2008 What Car? Awards, as well as the overall winner. And it wasn't a one year wonder, either: it remained our favourite executive saloon in 2009, 2010 and 2011.
Explaining the XF's success at the time, we wrote:
"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 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 Ford underpinnings that were comparatively heavy, but it not only handled better than all its contemporary rivals, but continues to feel impressively precise today.
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 muscle and effortless motorway performance. The six-speed gearbox remains smooth, too.
How much do they cost now?
Being such a capable mile-cruncher means there are plenty of high-mileage XFs on the used market, with many having been lovingly driven into the ground.
Early cars with around 150,000 miles on the clock are available for as little as £2500, but beware: Jaguar has a pretty poor reliability record, so you're better off spending closer to £6000 to get something with a full service history that hasn't been to the moon and back.
Generally, the facelifted car, which was introduced in 2011, is a bit more reliable. Examples of this start at around £7000, but you can pay up to £20,000 for late R performance versions.
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Prefer something modern?
The XF has continued to evolve, of course, but how does the latest version compare with rivals? Here we count down the top 10 models in what we now call the luxury car class – and reveal the ones to avoid.
10. Bentley Mulsanne
Big, brash and showy the Mulsanne may be, but these aren’t necessarily negatives when you’re looking for a car that represents your status. Besides, it's undeniably stately, oozing luxury with a hand-built finish that you can tailor to your heart’s content.
9. Volvo S90
After something a little less ostentatious and a lot more affordable? Then this big, Swedish saloon could be just the thing, because it has a spacious and stunning interior, and comes very well equipped. Just bear in mind that it's not as good to drive as the best rivals.