FINALLY it’s happened – the deal that has been talked about for the best part of a year has been done, and those most revered of British badges, Jaguar and Land Rover, are no longer in American ownership, but Indian.
The deal, clinched at the end of March and worth $1.15bn, saw Ford sell off its two British subsidiaries to the rapidly expanding Tata. And the arrival of the Indians was welcomed by just about everyone connected with the two brands, including the unions.
Tata fully appreciates what it’s buying, and head man Ratan Tata has already announced he intends the two companies to ‘preserve and build on their heritage and competitiveness, keeping their identities intact’.
Mr Tata has clearly spent some time in the XF – Jaguar’s newest, most significant and most exciting car for some time. The XF actually replaces the S-type but is nothing like it. The S-type might have been a good car but it was also a clear example of a Jaguar design rut, a conviction that owners of cars bearing the famous leaping cat badge liked to hark back to a glorious past.
The XF, however, is a thoroughly modern machine that looks like a coupe yet has four doors, space for five adults and the biggest boot Jaguar has ever offered.
The cabin will force a smile into the hardest-set face. Not only is it of excellent quality and bang up-to-date, but also oozes care and sophistication, along with a pleasing lack of Ford general components. Then you notice the fun parts, the start button pulsating red like a heartbeat, and once pressed the gear selector rising to meet your hand as the air vents rotate smoothly from their closed to open position.
That gear selector is a big aluminium knob, allowing a simple selection of the six-speed auto gearbox and making for a much cleaner console arrangement. Every XF comes with the auto, but it’s combined with steering wheel paddles for manual commands when you feel like some fun. They shift swiftly, and so smoothly, as we proved on a challenging route around mountain roads close to Monte Carlo.
At the launch we tried three of the four engines available, these being the 2.7-litre V6 diesel, the 4.2 V8 petrol and its awesome supercharged sibling. We missed out on the entry-level 3-litre petrol. Of course the supercharged car impressed the most, its 409 horses pumping this Jag through 60mph in just over five seconds – but we particularly like the diesel. You get just over 200bhp, a sub-eight-second 0-60mph time but also 38mpg fuel economy and a 199g/km emissions figure.
In the XF, Jag has laid down its plans for the future – plans to seriously shake up the premium sector – and long may it continue!