► This is the Jag XF company car hero
► Lowly 2.0d 163ps manual tested
► 104g/km CO2 rating, decent drive
Chances are you’re a company car driver if you’re considering the entry-level Jaguar XF. This is our first go in the lower-powered 2.0-litre diesel, tuned here to produce a more modest 163 horsepower, or 161bhp in good old imperial ponies.
The Jaguar XF 2.0d R-Sport 4d 163ps on test ditches the familiar automatic transmission for a six-speed manual shifter, the better to trim CO2 emissions down to a very-palatable-but-not-quite-double-digits 104g/km.
The price tumbles, too - down to £34,200, placing it favourably against the new BMW 5-series and Mercedes-Benz E-class executive rivals.
R-Sport trim: the biggest selling spec
Ours isn’t the cheapest Jaguar XF. R-Sport is, however, the bestselling trim and comes one notch up from entry-level Prestige spec.
You get a more muscular bodykit and 17-inch alloy wheels outside, while the interior is pepped up by leather sports seats (nice, but the hide isn’t quite up to exec-class softness) and a multi-function sports steering wheel.
Other niceties include the latest InControl Touch Navigation, which is unspeakably better than the crud that went before; it’s quick to react, has an easily usable interface and finally sports graphics that don’t remind you of a 1980s Atari home computer. Rejoice!
How to spec your Jaguar XF
The R-Sport trim comes with most of what you need, we reckon. Bluetooth phone connectivity, DAB digital radio, keyless start, lane departure warning, rump-roasting heated seats, cruise control and rear parking sensors are all standard here.
Ours had the £970 Sliding Panoramic Roof, too, which makes the cabin nice and airy but robs some headroom for both rows of passengers. Don’t bother if you and your entourage are tall, is our advice.
There’s decent space in the rear of the XF, with good legroom even behind long-legged drivers and there’s a handy pair of 12v sockets to recharge kids’ devices. Just watch out for a high transmission tunnel.
We’d be tempted to pick the automatic transmission, though; Jaguars somehow drive better with a slusher, although the £1750 premium for the eight-speeder may baulk more than the occasionally notchy DIY manual gearshift.
The XF looks for all the world like a larger XE - you may struggle to tell them apart at a distance. This means it’s a stylish, conservative four-door saloon - but you’ll welcome the extra space inside guaranteed by the longer wheelbase.
It’s a polished, classy affair and this theme continues inside. This is a no-nonsense, pampering cabin and feels more expensive than the XE’s tinny interior. The slick new eight-inch infotainment touchscreen helps, as do the smart digital dials and classy Riva speedboat-alike gunwale ring encircling the dashboard.
However, there’s no getting away from the fact that the hyper-modern interiors of the new 5-series and E-class knock the XF out of the park for outright build quality and technological gimmickry.
I ran the CAR magazine Mk1 Jaguar XF long-term test car back in 2008; it had a startling welcome routine, with rotating air vents, a rising gear selector and pulsing heartbeat starter button. The complex air vents have gone, but the rest of what design chief Ian Callum called the start-up ‘handshake’ remains.
Will I feel short-changed by picking the lowly Jaguar XF 2.0d R-Sport 4d 163ps manual?
Not at all. This is a real sweet spot in the range, proving the adage that less is more. Performance is well judged, with enough elastic twang to keep up on the motorway and cross-country roads alike.
If you enjoy traffic light sprints or regularly carry heavy loads, you should consider stepping up to a brawnier engine, but the 163 feels like a fine package to us. Once you forgive its ludicrously optimistic speedo reaching to 190mph…
The best bit is the XF’s ride and handling, a character trait Jaguar happily hasn’t lost. Okay, so the aluminium construction may deliver a disappointing 1585kg kerbweight, but riding on modest 17in alloys it smothers bumps and steers with a rare compliancy and fluidity. The driving position is spot-on, too.
You pour the XF down the road, the car responding deftly to tiny steering inputs. It’s a really rewarding saloon to drive, striking a decent balance of waft and burn. The 2.0d engine may not be quite as refined or sophisticated as the best Germanic competition, but this is still a refined motor.
Reason to celebrate: the humble entry-level Jaguar XF is a winner, bringing many of the benefits of Jaguar ownership to the company car masses. With CO2 of 104g/km and a 70.6mpg combined fuel economy figure, this will be a cheap car to own and run, whether your bank balance or your employer’s is paying the bills.
It’s an underplayed, discreet kind of exec - one sporting more feelgood factor than the sometimes disappointingly mass-market XE.
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