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Click to view road test review picture galleryJaguar’s S-type is
  consigned to history.
  It’s replacement —
  the eagerly-awaited,
  all-new Jaguar XF
  saloon — has come
  out fighting...”

EVEN BEFORE IT'S LAUNCH, JAGUAR'S GROUNDBREAKING XF SALOON successor to the S-type had already attracted 3,000 firm orders, although this is expected to rise dramatically over the next few weeks as owners scramble for the 08-plated newcomer.

The rear-wheel-drive Jaguar XF will be available in six versions —
based around a 207bhp six-cylinder 2.7 turbodiesel, a 238bhp V6 3.0 petrol, a normally-aspirated 298bhp V8 and a supercharged 416bhp
V8 4.2-litre engine, all equipped with a six-speed automatic transmission.

Prices will start at £33,900 for the diesel and V6 petrol (an interesting pricing structure — diesel models are generally more expensive),
rising to £45,500 for the V8 and topping out at £54,900 for the SV8. There will be Luxury and Premium Luxury specification models, as well as a stand-alone SV8 pack for the flagship of the range.

Over the past 18 months, Jaguar has been working with assessors to establish outstanding residual values for the new models — a key selling point for showroom 'traffic'. Geoff Cousins, Jaguar's UK managing director, confirmed that: "Buyers of Jaguar's new mid-size premium saloon will enjoy class-leading residual values, in addition to owning a very well-equipped vehicle with a driving experience that matches the excitement of Jaguar's bold new design language."

Residual value assessors CAP and EurotaxGlass's are quoting the 2.7
XF for 36 months/36,000 miles at retaining over 50 per cent of original cost, thus comfortably beating the BMW 525, Audi A6 3.0 and Mer-cedes-Benz E280 diesels.

These residual value predictions by the two foremost authorities has enabled Jaguar Finance to put the car on its business user plan for £499 a month — compared to £508 for the Audi A6 2.7D SE, £589 for the Mercedes-Benz E-Class 220D and £638 for the BMW 530D SE.
The Jaguar Finance figures for the other models in the line-up are 3.0 Luxury (£559), 2.7 Premium Luxury (£579), 3.0 Premium Luxury (£629), V8 Luxury (£799) and range-topping SV8 (£999). All figures shown are ex-VAT.

While taking over from the similarly-sized former S-Type, the chassis and dynamics of the new XF are based on those underpinning the Jaguar XK sports model but retuned for its role as a four-door, five-seater with a minimum 540 litres of boot space.

The XF is brimming with advanced technology and is, for example,
the first appearance on wheels of a UK-made Bowers & Wilkins 440W 16-speaker sound system for the top audio choice.

Touch-sensitive interior lights and glovebox opening feature and the interior is illuminated by selective background lighting of the type now regularly seen on mobile phones. Leather, wood and aluminium are
used throughout the cabin, and it comes with standard Bluetooth connectivity. Adding to the state-of-the-art feel of the cabin is the new shift-by-wire JaguarDrive 'selector' (gone is the long-serving J-gate gearlever) for the standard ZF autobox, hooked up to Sequential Shift paddles.

The JaguarDrive Control blends engine, transmission and traction controls to give three levels of grip to the driven rear wheels for standard, winter or sport modes.

Jaguar XF uses twenty-five different grades of steel combining mild, high-strength and ultra-high strength steel, aluminium and magnesium, making it is the most rigid model ever made by the company — the XF weighs in from 1,679kg. Tough, yes. But pedestrian-friendly, too, thanks to a contact-sensing 'deployable' bonnet that on impact 'lifts'
a pedestrian to reduce injury. Fitted to the XK sports car, the system won an award.

Styled as a coupe but designed to deliver saloon practicality, the successor to the S-Type is less retro and more radical — exactly what the brand needed.

Not only is the XF brimming with some of the very best technology but it packs in traditional Jaguar cues for comfort to deliver dynamic appeal alongside the emotional element. The 'entry-level' Luxury models are well kitted-out with leather upholstery, climate control, SatNav, rear parking sensors, cruise control, CD player, four electric windows and powered door mirrors, power steering and alloy wheels — that's more standard equipment than any of its competitors.

The familiar 2.7 diesel, 3.0V6 petrol and V8 4.2 and supercharged V8 4.2 engines are all carried over — but in the XF they are mated to
the latest shift-by-wire, six-speed automatic transmission with paddle shifts, as already mentioned. Sophisticated electronics match the powertrain to the rear-wheel drive and traction control to provide drivers with various grip/dynamic modes.

I was most impressed by the ride quality of the new Jaguar XF, as tested over a variety of surfaces in the South of France this week — from smooth motorway to coarse country roads with broken tarmac.

Not only did the XF absorb the imperfections under its wheels, but its handling was entirely assured, inspiring confidence — and playing
with the DSC settings meant one could enjoy the Jaguar's responsive chassis more than in the 'normal' mode.

There is a roomy boot and the split/fold back seat accommodates three and allows the boot's 540 litre capacity to be expanded to 923 litres. The front seats have a very good range of adjustment along with excellent support — although headroom may be tight for taller users, due to the low set header at the top of the windscreen.

The only real intrusion on the models I drove came from the big wheels and tyres; and there was also some very low level wind turbulence around the door mirrors. However, there were no disturbing noises from the powertrain — only a pleasant exhaust note.

The 207bhp diesel is expected to be the best-seller, taking about 70 per cent of sales. It's an excellent unit, promising around 37mpg with an 8.2 second 0-62mph time and a maximum speed of 143mph. The turbodiesel powerplant pulls easily and strongly, and so long as you make the best use of the automatic 'box you would never feel it lacked anything in performance terms for a medium-sized four-door saloon.

At the other end of the performance envelope, the SV8 comes with a first-rate engine that punches out 416bhp for a 0-62mph time of 5.4 seconds and a top speed limited to 155mph. The flagship's combined consumption works out to 22.4mpg.

Depending on how it is used, the SV8 can be either docile or downright quick; and changes can be soft or sporting. And, for the record, I thought the ride quality was even better in the range-topper than on the entry-level model.

Not only will the smart new Jaguar XF — its coupé-saloon styling works a treat in the metal — give its rivals a real run for their money, it will also appeal to XJ owners who want to downsize from the marque's bigger saloon without sacrificing refinement, and who would appreciate a sportier package as well. — Robin Roberts

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Jaguar XF 2.7D Luxury | £33,900
Maximum speed: 143mph | 0-62mph: 8.2 seconds
Overall test MPG: 37.6mpg | Power: 207bhp | Torque: 320lb ft

CO2 199g/km | VED Band F £205 | Insurance group 16
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