Jaguar XF R-Sport

2.0 i4

Jaguar XF, front
Jaguar XF, front
Jaguar XF, side
Jaguar XF, dashboard
Jaguar XF, rear
Jaguar XF, rear
Jaguar XF, boot
Jaguar XF, rear
Jaguar XF, rear seats

THE arrival of the second generation Jaguar XF might not have attracted as much fanfare as that of the XE sports saloon and more recently the F-PACE SUV but it still represents a significant step forward for the great British marque.

The XF redefined the Jaguar brand almost a decade ago, signalling a move away from the retro-inspired design blueprint it had religiously stuck to.

It was at the time a bold step but it certainly broke the mould and set the tone for Jaguar's design language going forward - proving a huge success.

Replacing it was always going to be tricky and wisely Jaguar decided not to mess with a winning formula.

While it really doesn't look hugely different to the car it replaces it has a freshness that subtly rather than radically sets it apart in a tough segment and it still stands out as a saloon with a sense of style, giving it a head start over German rivals.

As well as looking good the old XF also offered great driving dynamics and this characteristic has been carried over but for a number of reasons it is even better.

Key among them is its structure. While the old XF was a traditional steel body the new version is made largely of aluminium and is way lighter.

The aluminium chassis and extensive use of the metal throughout, gives the XF a nimble and agile feel and combined with the integral link suspension system means Jaguar have produced a really great driver's car.

On the inside it is bigger than its predecessor and it offers significantly more legroom for rear seat passengers - a previous shortcoming.

It also has a huge 540-litre boot. When it comes to fit and finish it performs well overall, though I sometimes hanker back to the interior old-fashioned opulence that once defined the brand.

On the flipside though this has stylish modernity and a great new touchscreen infotainment system.

There are four trim levels: Prestige, R-Sport, Portfolio and S and equipment levels are generous, with even an entry-level model getting Bluetooth, sat nav, USB, DAB radio, heated electric leather seats, cruise control and dual-zone climate control.

In terms of engines the emphasis is very much on diesel. There's a 296bhp 3.0-litre diesel V6 with a similarly sized 3.0-litre petrol option for purists.

Diesel power also comes courtesy of Jaguar Land Rover's Midlands-made Ingenium engine, with the choice of two power variants - either 161bhp or 178bhp.

This four-cylinder unit is a great first effort at engine making and scores highly in terms of performance, economy and emissions, even if it lacks when it comes to refinement.

This was a manual, though I would probably opt for an eight-speed automatic in preference as I found the need for frequent gear-changing a drawback and also longed for an automatic when I inadvertently put this XF to the ultimate test - driving over the infamous Hardknott Pass in the Lake District - in the dark.

To say it was challenging is something of an understatement but the XF proved up to the task - even managing a hairy hill start after I stalled it going up a one in three slope.

On reflection one of the all-wheel drive versions would probably have made this unplanned adventure a little more relaxing too.

This was the lower-powered diesel but it still proved a more than capable performer overall and on the motorway it made for a consummate and comfortable cruiser.

FAST FACTS

Jaguar XF R-Sport 2.0 i4

Price: £34,200

Mechanical:161bhp, 1,999cc, 4cyl diesel engine driving rear wheels via 6-speed manual gearbox

Max Speed:132mph

0-62mph:8.2 seconds

Combined MPG:70.6

Insurance Group: 32

C02 emissions:104g/km

Bik rating: 20%

Warranty:3yrs/100,000 miles

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