It’s a curious one, this. How do you make a extravagance product sit easily in the minds of the car-buying public (and EU emissions regulators) when the zeitgeist is in favour of eco badges, small engines and lightweight models? You pinch Ford’s 2.2-litre diesel engine and put it in your big bar, which, until now, has been running with a choice of 3.0-litre V6 diesel or 5.0-litre supercharged petrol engines, and hope that shuts up your critics and wins you more fuel-conscious patrons.
The problem is, Jaguar has built its standing on big, fast, commanding cars, and so does this 2.2-litre diesel version make the XF a more, or less, beautiful proposition?
I love the XF, having run a 3.0-litre V6 edition for six months a duo of years ago. It belies its size and weight with wonderfully delicate steering and handling that allow the driver to place the car accurately where he/she wants it. Nothing has distorted with this latest version, and the car looks a lot better for its facelift, which has given it meaner headlights and a sharper rear. I got jealous glances from the deprived souls who bought MkI models, which abruptly look dated.
But when you begin the engine (we had the higher-powered 187bhp version of the 2.2), you get the nasty diesel jangle of a car several rungs down the class ladder. “Oh dear,” I thought, “They’ve ruined it.” Sure enough, the engine grumbles originally in first gear, and seems unwilling to go anywhere, so off we rumbled down the road, me thinking Jaguar had sold itself down the river with a clangy, rattly old banger. But build up speed, say to 40mph, and all reverts to incredible type: it becomes a quiet workhorse with enough power for fast overtakes, and smooth, creamy delivery. In the space of one intersection on the M3, I went from hating this car to punishing myself for not gullible Jaguar to get it right. Of route it has got it right: it’s got practically the whole thing right since Indian firm Tata took over in 2008.
So I still love the Jaguar XF, and yes, it would emerge this is the one to buy (I can’t help feeling the 161bhp account would be just too feeble). With 149g/km of CO2 and a quoted 52.3mpg on the combined cycle, versus 169g/km and 45mpg for the 3.0-litre trade, plus a cheaper cost by three or four impressive, it’s the one to have.