09 May
Jaguar XF

When TATA bought the iconic Jaguar and Land Rover brands from Ford in 2008 for £1,5-billion, motoring aficionados worldwide shrugged their shoulders and prepared to either pour derision on the India carmaker’s efforts to build classy British cars, or look the other way and ignore them in the hopes they’d go away. The products (already hugely improved by Ford) were very good, but that wouldn’t last now, would it, asked the naysayers.

The anticipated decline towards lower-budget products with costs shaved wherever they could be never happened, but the pessimists pointed out that it would take a while for the quality to fall once the British and American influence wore off and all-new designs arrived a generation later. Tata did the unexpected. They left the assembly plants where they were in England and, in March 2011, hired an additional 1 500 staff while signing £2-billion worth of supply contracts in the UK to enable production of the Range Rover Evoque. Later that year, the company announced that it was investing £355-million in a new engine plant in Wolverhampton and creating 1 000 new jobs in Solihull in the English Midlands. And so it went, on and on without losing momentum, with Tata pouring cash – estimated to be around £11-billion – into its UK subsidiary and the cars getting better and better while the 2008 £41,6-million pre-tax loss turned into a £2,6-billion profit in 2014. While this all went on, staffing in the UK almost doubled to 36 000.

When the previous middleweight executive luxury Jaguar XF was launched in 2008 as a replacement for the S-Type, it was well accepted worldwide, but cynics pointed out that it had been designed and developed by Ford. The new XF, introduced here in February this year, is the first new Jaguar to shake off the brand’s Ford lineage in its entirety and take on its German rivals fairly and squarely under its own colours. Colin Chapman, founder of Lotus Cars, once said that to make a car faster on the straights you add power, but to make it faster everywhere you should add lightness. Jaguar has adopted this doctrine for the new XF, using aluminium extensively in its bodywork and underpinnings, and shaving up to 190kg off the weight of the previous car, depending upon the derivative.

The car comes with a choice of three engines in South Africa – a 2.0 turbodiesel with 132 kW of power and 430 Nm of torque, a turbocharged 2.0 petrol with 177 kW and 340 Nm, and a lusty supercharged 3.0 petrol V6 with 250 or 280 kW of power and 450 Nm of grunt.

All South African models come with eight-speed sequential shift auto transmissions driving the rear wheels. Depending upon the model, there is a raft of electronic driver aids available, but all of the essentials are present in all derivatives. Some of the additional features available are a laser head-up display, adaptive cruise control with queue-assist, lane keep-assist, an intelligent speed limiter and semi-automated parking.

As with all Jaguars, the interiors use superb thickly-stitched leather upholstery, and trim quality is excellent. Jaguar’s unusual retracting rotary dial gear selector and rotating air-conditioning vents are present across the range.

The Jaguar XF is right back where it belongs as a luxury sporting sedan with good looks, high build quality, and, to quote the old Jaguar advertisements, space, pace and grace. It can hold its head high amongst brands like Audi, BMW, Lexus and Mercedes-Benz, which makes the pricing look reasonable. The model range kicks off with the XF 2.0d Prestige at R714 800 and peaks at R1 186 803 for the supercharged three-litre 280 kW XF S.

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