The XF isn’t so much a new chapter as a whole new book in Jaguar’s history. Think about this car’s provenance; it comes at a crucial time, coinciding with the Indian takeover and an urgent search for a new identity. There’s a reasonable consensus over what Jaguar stands for, clubby luxury meets sporting elegance, a classy British antidote to Teutonic asceticism, but the problem is nobody buys into this ideal in the 21st century. Global sales have halved from 2002’s peak to a rather forlorn 60,485 last year. Time for a remedy. Time for a change. Time for the XF. It’s impossible not to judge the XF against this industrial context. This car is laden with new intent, from its shockingly different look and gadget, infested cabin to its edgier marketing and new badge. Just the sort of car should be testing for a year, then. We want to find out if Jaguar is successfully reinventing itself, or whether it might be throwing out the baby with the bathwater. After all, who wants a Jaguar that’s too modern? Isn’t olde-worlde charm they very essence of Jaguar?
Still, you can’t have it both ways and we hope to find out if the XF is really a beater of BMW’s, a master of Mercedes and a worthy adversary of Audis. I passed numerous happy hours speccing the Jag. Two mystery shopping trips to Marshall Peterborough provided my first experience of the brand’s dealers and I was mightily impressed. Airy, cool, modern, and the salesman remained attentive and helpful even after I’d made clear that I wouldn’t buy from him.