IT’S A very busy time over at Jaguar, what with the F-Type Roadster now prowling the streets and the just-announced Coupe version ready to do the same.
There’s the high-performance XJR to come as well, but it’s the more mainstream models that are relevant to most of us – which is why the XF is so important.
Jaguar has given the XF a few key updates for 2014 and, reflecting the times we live in, the most important change is the introduction of a more frugal new diesel engine.
The 2.2-litre four cylinder unit improves on the previous version with impressive figures of 129g/km of CO2 and 57.7mpg, the kind of numbers that appeal to your wallet rather than your heart.
Part of the reason for the improvement is some clever techy stuff in the shape of a revised cooling system and a bigger EGR valve, but what makes greater sense to you and me is the stop-start system that cuts the engine out when not needed.
If you’ve not experienced stop-start before, it might feel a bit weird, but once you trust that the engine will start again the instant you release the brake pedal, it becomes second nature.
And it all helps to eke out a few more miles per gallon. It’s clever too – pull up and put the transmission in Park and it goes into stop mode, but release your seat belt and it knows you’re home and switches off completely.
You still get the XF’s bit of theatre when you start up, as the air vents glide electrically open and the previously flush circular gear lever rises up from between the seats. The gearbox is a new addition too, with eight forward ratios. That might seem like an awful lot, but it also helps economy; out on the motorway, the engine is barely above tickover at the legal limit, which keeps noise levels down and fuel economy up.
Despite appearing focused on economy, the XF still offers a driving experience that is a cut above the norm. Whether the speed is high or low, it remains poised, filtering out bumps so that you are aware of them, but with no discomfort. Yet the flip side of this is that when you start to press on, the XF is every inch the sports saloon, gripping strongly and staying level and controlled through corners.
The XF is a car you’d be happy to live with day-to-day. The seats are supportive and comfortable – and, heated, they will toast your behind if you leave them on full power – and the top-drawer audio system can make the worst traffic jams seem irrelevant.
Once upon a time, Jaguars were all about the cut and thrust and weren’t so easy to justify on a financial basis. But the 2.2 Diesel XF is as economical and easy to live with as a fairly humble family hatchback, yet gives you so much more in terms of comfort, style and driving pleasure. It’s hard not to be very impressed.