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.