XF looks like a bigger XE, easily identified by glazing in D pillar

XF looks like a bigger XE, easily identified by glazing in D pillar

The XE began what is turning out to to be a major sales revival for Jaguar. Now, the addition of the XF is adding momentum - UK market brand registrations were up 45% in March - just as a long wheelbase body for the Chinese market is announced.

The looks of the new XF are evolutionary compared to the first generation model and that seems a sensible thing to do. Jaguars are now easily recognisable and have a definite style about them. The forthcoming F-PACE hits the mark not only as a Jaguar, but also as what a sporty SUV should look like. Many would agree that it's also a far more convincing first effort than the first Porsche SUV was. 

There are intentional similarities with the XE at the front and rear ends, but from the side you can easily tell the new XF from its smaller brother. That's thanks to the window in the XF's D pillar, differently shaped glazing in the rear doors and front indicators which illuminate like eyebrows above the headlights rather than as circles beside them.

The standard wheelbase sedan is 4,954mm long: at 2,960 the wheelbase is 51mm longer than before,  while the front overhang is 66mm shorter. Though 7mm shorter and 3mm lower than the original XF, there is 15mm more legroom, 24mm more knee room and 27mm more headroom than before. Climb out of an XE and into an XF and you notice this straight away. Meanwhile, the XFL is 5.5 inches (140mm) longer and there is an extra 6.1 inches (157mm) of legroom plus 4.5 inches (116mm) of room for knees in the back.

Just as what has changed on the outside, so too the interior while obviously that of a new car, has quite a few similarities to the old model. JLR's rising transmission mode selector features in this car, as do the air vents which roll open and closed. However, this only applies to the ones at the ends of the dashboard: there are conventional slatted ones in the centre of the dash and the infotainment screen sits below them.

There is an intelligently designed mix of the traditional Jaguar elegance and a cocoon-like feel in the front with lots of lounging space in the back. Wood is present but kept to a minimum and on the test car, which featured the Black Pack, this was matte lacquered with black and dark grey wavy stripes. Combined with anthracite leather and a similarly coloured headliner, the effect was very much modern British luxury. 

As in the XJ, XE and F-PACE, the tops of the front doors have sweeping thick curves which blend into a large and almost semi circular piece of trim which arcs around the base of the windscreen. Something else which you won't find in a rival German car are headlights controlled by a column stalk. Again, this looks and feels as if it's the same one as in all other JLR vehicles. Then there are the central screen controls, are of which are instantly understood. As in the best systems from some VW Group models, there is a combination of touch and hard plastic buttons, i.e. none of this tiresome and potentially unsafe nonsense of having everything on screen with various functions accessible only via lots of eyes-off-the-road presses. 

JLR deserves more points for an HVAC system which has two rows of rectangular plastic buttons, below which sit two circular buttons: on the left, the volume and on/off switch for the sound system and on the right, an ignition switch which glows when you enter the car. Simple, minimalist, safe. The system features a 10.2-inch touchscreen and is called InControl Touch Pro.

Some minor glitches include electric window switches on the driver's door which are positioned too far forward as the trim panel also has to have room for memory seat buttons. The XE has a better arrangement whereby the seat memory options are positioned below the window controls. Something decidedly strange is the absence of any way of flipping the rear seats forward from inside the car. The only way to do this is to open the boot then reach in and pull one or both cables to release them. 

The XF is a good looking car to my eyes at least, the media test model, which had the supercharged 380hp V6, was also fitted with full LED headlights. These were excellent, and like other JLR models with automatic high beam, this worked faultlessly. A nano-second ahead of me wanting to flick them off, the sensors 'saw' approaching headlights and deactivated the bright beams. Impressive stuff, and would that all suppliers' systems were as good. 

I would also say that the car has a fair bit more room inside it than the old XF and you definitely notice how much more space there is in the back, and compared to an XE too. I also hear that there's superior sprawling room in this new model compared to the standard wheelbase XJ.

Like Volvo with its 'Since 1959' tags on belt buckles and the tiny Swedish flags tagged to the seats of the XC90, JLR is finding its Britishness in new and charming ways: the phone function on the navi screen defaults to a photo of what looks like a Highlands sunset with a red telephone kiosk in the foreground. It might seem a small thing but it's a nice touch for the buyers in foreign markets which Jaguar needs to lure in to the brand.

Other delights extend to - praise be - no bongs when you open the door or shut off the ignition. Nor can you be startled by any electronic buzzers from overly sensitive blind spot monitors. A Jeep Renegade you will already have read about and its soon to appear here Fiat 500X twin have this truly awful fault. In the XF, an orange light illuminates in the mirror and there is no nasty buzz.

It's been just over a year since the second generation XF sedan had its world premiere at an event in London's Docklands, but production didn't start for a while after. The motor show debut came in April of last year in New York and the premiere of a long-wheelbase bodystyle is about to happen at the Beijing show.

The standard length car had a development code of X260, while the L is X261. What about the follow-up to the SportBrake? It has been claimed that there won't be one, as while it might sell relatively well in the UK, that seems unlikely to happen in the German brands' home market where buyers are loyal to Audi, BMW and Mercedes' E-segment estates.

28 April update: Jaguar's Ian Callum has now tweeted that his statement ruling out a Jaguar wagon only applies to the XE.

X260 and X261use the same aluminium platform as that of two other Jaguars, the XE and the F-PACE and no doubt an evolution will be the basis of the next generation XJ and XJ L, plus other potential additional Jaguars. 

XF production got underway at Castle Bromwich in the third quarter of 2015. There should also be assembly of the standard wheelbase sedan in India, likely from later in 2016. As for production in China, the XF L will be the third vehicle to be built at the Chery Auto-Jaguar Land Rover factory in Changshu, following the Range Rover Evoque and Land Rover Discovery Sport. The plant originally had an annual capacity of 130,000 vehicles per annum but this has risen with the addition of the XF L and a body shop is about to open at the same time. An adjacent engine plant, which will manufacture Ingenium 2.0-litre petrol units, it yet to come on stream but will do later in 2016. The L cars will have standard all-wheel drive and the choice of three engines: 197hp 2.0-litre turbo, 236ho 2.0-litre turbo or 335hp supercharged 3.0-litre V6. Each is approximately 200kg heavier than its standard wheelbase equivalent.

Model grades are: Pure (SE in the UK), Prestige, R-Sport, Portfolio and S. Next, there should be an SVR, the effective replacement for the old shape R-S saloon. This seems likely to be powered by the supercharged 5.0-litre V8 from other models such as the F-TYPE and Range Rover. 

For the moment, the powertrain line-up is as follows: 163PS and 180PS 2.0-litre Ingenium diesel manual and automatic; RWD, 240PS 2.0-litre petrol (Ford-sourced) automatic; RWD, 300PS 3.0-litre diesel (Ford-built) automatic; RWD and AWD, 340PS and 380PS 3.0-litre petrol (Ford) automatic. There is a six-speed manual gearbox for certain variants or else two versions of ZF's eight-speed automatic. The ZF 8HP45 is for the 2.0-litre diesel engines and the supercharged 3.0-litre petrol, while the 8HF70 is for the 3.0-litre diesel.

The XF might only be in its first year of production so it's possibly a bit early to talk lifecycles but the first facelift is likely to debut at the 2019 New York auto show. However, way before then, JLR's forthcoming in-line six-cylinder petrol engine should become available and expect a plug-in hybrid powertrain too. The third generation XF series would likely follow in early 2023.

I'm still a few weeks away from trying the new E-Class, nor have I had any time at the wheel of the S90 but until then, the Jaguar gets my vote in this segment. I say that for its mix of almost intuitive steering feel, no-nonsense and properly premium feeling interior, what must be best in class space for back seat passengers and a ride on badly maintained roads that is better than a BMW 5 Series or Audi A6.

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