Jaguar has finally unveiled its long-awaited replacement for the S-type - the fully redesigned XF sports saloon.

Ironically, the attractive new car, much more aggressively styled than its predecessor, may be going on sale around the world just as Ford decides to sell the famous British brand - a decision is due late this year or early in 2008.

Under Ford ownership, the company has launched several new or redesigned models with mixed success. The 'baby Jaguar' X-type, launched in 2001, never achieved its original sales forecasts, particularly in the US, and early examples were also plagued with quality problems. The all-alloy XJ, launched in early 2003, was criticised for looking too much like its predecessor and was not initially launched with the diesel engine essential for success in the European market - that arrived in 2005.

Replacing the 1999-2007 S-Type (which was styled to resemble the 1960s Mark Two sedan much preferred by UK police forces, and the bank-robbing villains they were often chasing), the XF will be launched in the UK in six versions priced from GBP33,900 to GBP54,900 ($US68,300-$110,700). Dealers began taking orders today (28 August) for first deliveries next March.

Engine choices are familiar: the 2.7-litre turbocharged diesel V6 developed and built with PSA and shared with other Jaguar and Land Rover models, a three-litre petrol V6, and naturally aspirated and supercharged 4.2-litre petrol V8s.

The 2.7- and three-litre V6 engines come with a choice of Luxury or Premium Luxury trim, the 4.2V8 is Premium Luxury only and the supercharged motor is combined with a unique SV8 specification.

Based on prices currently asked for the outgoing outgoing S-type models, and other Jaguar/Land Rover products, just-auto expects that prices in the key US export market will be considerable lower than in the UK. Only the 4.2-litre petrol V8 engines will be offered there, at least initially; with the non-supercharged V8 having Luxury or Premium Luxury trim.

UK managing director Geoff Cousins said: "We are very excited the new XF is now in the public domain and we are confident it will be a great success for our dealers here in the UK. The [redesign] combines the emotional appeal of a contemporary, modern Jaguar with all the rational appeal of a spacious five-seater sports saloon with high levels of standard equipment, innovative functional features and competitive pricing."
Cousins also cited the new model's expected residual values - critical for lease pricing here in the UK. Pricing specialists CAP and EurotaxGlass's have both quoted residual value after 36 months/36,000 miles of 50% of original value for the 2.7-litre diesel Luxury model which, Jaguar said, makes this entry-level model best-in-class against rivals from BMW, Mercedes, Lexus and Audi. CAP said the nearest rival, the BMW 525d SE, would retain 45.3% of its original value over the same period.

As is usually the case with redesigned Jaguar models, the XF introduces new technology - every version has shift-by-wire transmission control linked to the automaker's proven sequential shift from the XK sports coupe line used here for the first time in a saloon/sedan model. The shift-by-wire system replaces manual shift linkages with electronic commands.

The system also gives the driver the option of one-touch manual gear changes via steering-wheel mounted paddles and there are also multiple transmission modes, including 'dynamic' and winter settings, which interact with throttle progression, dynamic stability control thresholds and shift strategy to match mood and conditions.

Having launched the famous J-gate shifter (aka the 'Randle Handle' after its designer) two decades ago, Jaguar has now come up with 'Drive Selector' - an industry-first rotary shifter that combines precise control with space-saving packaging. In essence, it's a P-R-N-D twist knob that rises out of the centre console when the ignition is turned on, much like the pop-out knobs you get on some audio systems.

It isn't an original idea, because Volkswagen did it first with the Phaeton, but the air-conditioning vents present a flush dashboard surface until the ignition is switched on, when they rotate to the open position.

Another new technology - JaguarSense - introduces touch or proximity-sensing control for overhead console lights and the glovebox release. And, as you'd expect, the new navigation/driver information system is also a touch-screen unit.

Even the base audio system (of three) has eight speakers and a premium Bowers & Wilkins system is optional on top models. Factory-fit radio options now include Digital Audio Broadcasting (DAB) for the UK and Sirius Satellite Radio for North America while other technology includes Bluetooth connectivity and optional iPod and MP3 player connectivity with full-function control through the touch-screen - and an auxiliary port on all models for other portable audio devices.

Other technology - standard or optional - includes JaguarVoice control for audio and telephone functions, blind spot monitor, front and rear parking aids and rear camera parking aid, adaptive cruise control, automatic speed limiter, tyre pressure monitoring system, electronic parking brake, electronic brake and brake force distribution, anti-lock brakes, dynamic stability control, cornering brake control, engine drag torque control and, for the first time in a Jaguar, understeer control logic which decelerates the car and helps to restore grip to the front wheels when required.

The XF also gets the brand's new pedestrian contact sensing system which can reduce pedestrian injury by firing actuators that deploy the bonnet, resulting in a cushioned space between the bonnet and engine hard points.

Jaguar said the XF body is best in class for torsional stiffness and reckons there is sufficient room for five adults plus 540 litres of luggage space. Minus some of those passengers, rear seats fold to add up to 420 litres more.