ANY explicit show of nationalism has always made me feel uncomfortable — from excessive flag waving to the disturbing image of erstwhile Labour leader Neil Kinnock’s infamous “triumphalism” rally before the 1992 general election.
However, when I get behind the wheel of a Jaguar, a certain Britishness comes over me. This patriotic feeling comes bubbling to the surface from somewhere deep inside, the mere name of the big cat conjuring up a motoring heritage long since past.
Jaguar, of course, is no longer British-owned and has not been for some time. The Coventry-based car company’s current owner is the giant Tata Motors of India. Along the way there have been other episodes of ownership since Jaguar was formed in 1922, including British Leyland in the Sixties, a period from the early Nineties under the Ford umbrella, and now Tata since 2008.
And yet Jaguar has had an incredible renaissance in recent years. The car maker, now branded Jaguar Land Rover, achieved record sales in the last quarter of 2013, profits for the period soaring to £955 million, according to figures released by the company.
So it was nice to get behind the wheel of a Jaguar once more. Whoever the owner might be, it is good to see the marque more than just surviving.
And what a sea change has occurred since I drove Jaguars passim: gone now is the image of the big, heavyweight V8 monster favoured by the bloke in the dodgy check suit and pencil-thin moustache that populated just about every 19th hole in golf clubs across Britain. The G ‘n’ T set may once have laid claim to the Jaguar as their own particular status symbol but this can no longer be the case in 2014.
Sure, there are the enduring emblems of the Jaguars of old: the big cat badge for a start that adorns the grille.
But in place of the gas-guzzlers came this week’s drive — the Jaguar XF — a sleek, lighter-bodied saloon with an economical and green 2.2-litre diesel engine and a stop-start system for even greener motoring around town.
Fings definitely ain’t what they used to be at Jaguar and there are many — including the majority of its shareholders who, I imagine, wobbled in 2008 at the sight of a new owner — who find blessed relief in the fact.
I found relief for new Jaguar drivers in the fact that I didn’t have to sit there in the XF watching the fuel needle slowly but inexorably making its way to empty as I did once on a long drive to the wilds of Pembrokeshire in a straight-six Daimler Jaguar. Though I love V8 engines I did enjoy this new 21st century Jaguar experience.
This XF — the Premium Luxury version — is a car that shows that on the modern stage, Jaguar has finally got its act together on both design and corresponding power plants.
The 2.2-litre diesel engine I found a revelation: it was very able and not at all wanting, especially for motorway driving, and handling is superb. Sure this Jaguar does not have the atmosphere generated by a V8 at full tilt but there is plenty of power available and more if you want it in sport mode.
The inside of the car is consummately comfortable, as one would expect but not overdone: in fact this luxury version was quite understated on that front. But as a complete car, the XF fits the bill. You might be paying close to £43,000 for the test car with options fitted but the £35,000 basic price for the XF is realistic and affordable in this day and age for one of the best luxury saloons around.
The message to Jaguar must be to keep producing cars of the quality and vision of the XF. This is no time to rest on the laurels of record sales, because the competition is too fierce. What is true is that the XF is well worthy of the great Jaguar name.
Car tested: Jaguar XF Premium Luxury
* Basic price (on-the-road): £35,795
* Price as tested (including options): £42,985
Standard specification includes:
* JaguarDrive Control TM with Sport Mode and Winter Mode
* Dynamic Stability Control (DSC) with Trac DSC mode
* Electric Parking Brake (EPB)
* Intelligent Stop/Start
* Cruise control with Automatic Speed Limiter (ASL)
* Exterior mirrors, heated with electric adjustment, auto dimming with approach lamps and side repeaters
Bi-function HID Xenon headlamps with LED daytime running lights and automatic levelling
Bright Upper mesh grille
LED tail lamps
Rear parking aid with Touch-screen visual indicator