IN these straitened times we have come to realise that posh badges aren't everything.
All around, cut-price names and budget stores are thriving while many well-known prestige brands struggle.
But there are exceptions to every rule. The name Jaguar is synonymous with British motor racing heritage and quality sporting cars...and it's good to see the marque thriving and making deep inroads into the heartland of the established German prestige trio - Mercedes, BMW and Audi.
The XF is at the core of Jaguar's business - a luxury, sports saloon that's the spiritual successor to the S-Type, itself a descendent to the great Mark Two saloon of the Sixties.
I drove the XF 2.0d R-Sport, a cosseting express that combines swift acceleration and a 150mph-plus max with economy that can rival a family hatchback.
Powered by a 2.0-litre twin turbo diesel four cylinder, it could easily be mistaken for a petrol version, such is its refinement and general quietness.
Matched to a silky eight-speed automatic gearbox complete with steering wheel paddles it delivers a smooth flow of power with scarcely detectable changes.
Unless you've been fortunate to sit behind the wheel of a Ferrari or a Porsche, you are unlikely to have encountered such perfect steering as that in the XF.
It's well weighted with a precise turn-in and tells you as much about the road as is possible without actually getting out of the car and crawling on the ground.
With standard four wheel drive and a 50/50 weight distribution, handling and road holding is a match for any of its rivals. Despite its considerable size, the XF R-Sport with its wide alloys and low profile rubber can move confidently into bends with the sort of enthusiasm normally reserved for hot hatches.
Bump suppression is good but could be still better if the wheels were marginally smaller diameter and the tyre profile was less extreme.
Although it's a large car at nearly five metres long, it appears smaller thanks to clever tricks by designer Ian Callum.
Cabin space in the front is more than ample but legroom in the rear is a tad cramped if the rear seat are carrying three adults.
The passenger environment is restrained but stylish in typical British fashion. Flashes of aluminium lift the sweeping fascia which is dominated by a touchscreen in the middle. It is more muted luxury than outright opulence and probably suits the car's nature.
The boot is really spacious with 560 litre of luggage room but it's shallow with a relatively small aperture through which to lift cargo.
Despite giving way to the temptation of press-on driving I averaged 37mpg during the drive which compares with an official combined consumption of 51.4mpg.
Standard kit is generous enough and includes mood lighting, heated door mirrors, twin zone climate control, lane departure warning and front/rear parking sensors. The car came with electric sliding sunroof, which was a worthwhile extra at £990, and power boot lid which at £665 was not.