Chris Russon puts the new Jaguar XF through its first test drive.
Jaguar has created its own X-Factor with an executive express straight out of the top drawer. Never before has a car made its debut with so much new technology being brought into play.
The XF is the car with no gear lever, with 'sixth sense' switches and fighter jet-style electronics and it can set your pulse racing even before the engine starts.
It sets a bold new style for Jaguar, drives like a sports car and pound for pound is more competitive than any German rivals.
The XF has to be this good. If ever a car was a last-chance saloon this is it.
With Jaguar and sister company Land Rover about to be sold off by parent Ford, the XF is the car on which the future of the legendary British brand, and thousands of jobs, depend.
Inspired by the flowing lines of the 1950s' Jaguar Mark 2 and the rectangular front grille of the original XJ6 from 1968, the XF is a masterpiece of ultra-modern design.
Styled in Coventry and built in Birmingham, the XF is also the standard bearer for what remains of Britain's motoring heritage - and it's up against the world's finest.
However, the XF is crammed with never-before-seen features and it's going to be the talking point of the car world for months after it goes on sale in March.
The XF's unique experience starts the moment the door is opened when the driver is greeted by a pulsing red light from the starter button.
It's the fast cat's heartbeat.
Begin the ignition sequence and the rotary gear shifter glides from the centre console into your hand.
Simultaneously the colour touch-screen in the centre of the dash flashes into life, the instruments flick through a systems check and the air vents emerge from hidden panels in the facia.
No car in the world has a welcoming handshake like this - and that's before it's even turned a wheel.
Unleash this Jaguar - and there is 420bhp on tap from the range-topping supercharged V8 engine - and the XF is a driver's delight.
Somehow the engineers have managed to blend the fun and thrills of the XK with the spaciousness of a saloon.
Although large and accommodating - the front seats have been thinned to create extra head and leg room - the cockpit encloses the driver in a functional fashion. The steering is beautifully weighted and the XF handles with precision.
Noise levels inside are akin to a limousine costing thousands more while the ride is smooth and sophisticated.
The styling of the dash is simple but functional - a minimalist approach of aluminium facings highlighted with a choice of wooden trim.
Cup holders - a weak point of the S-Type which damaged its appeal especially in the important US market where they are a vital feature - are a key ingredient of the XF. It has two in the front, two in the rear and even an oversized third container in the centre console capable of taking a two-litre slush bucket - that's more than any other car on the market.
The XF replaces the now ageing S-Type and will compete against the likes of the Audi 6, BMW 5 Series, Mercedes C-Class and the Lexus GS saloons.
The Jaguar will feature a choice of four engines and three trim levels priced from £33,900 for the 2.7-litre diesel to £45,500 for the supercharged SV8 flagship.
Unlike Jaguars of old which lost money hand over fist, experts predict the XF will retain as much of 50 per cent of its value after three years - something which will boost the new car's appeal with fleet operators.
Not only is the XF bigger than its rivals - it's some two inches longer than the Audi - it has a family sized 500-litre boot and can take almost the same amount of luggage as an estate by folding flat the rear seats.
Jaguar's new sports saloon is also very well equipped. Satnav is standard, so is leather upholstery, cruise control and Bluetooth connectivity.
There is an array of electronic safety aids in advanced stability and traction control while the pop-up bonnet which made its debut as a pedestrian crash safety device on the XK is now used for the first time on a saloon.
Top range models have even more goodies such as air-conditioned seats, ultra-bright xenon headlamps, a 440-watt Bowers & Wilkins hi-fi system and the SV8 is the only car in its league to come with 20-inch alloy wheels.
The SV8 makes use of Jaguar's CATS computerised suspension set up and electronic understeer prevention - another Jaguar first.
Voice control - almost old hat on a Jaguar - is an option as is a rear view camera to help reversing and a rearward facing radar to monitor the driver's blind spot.
In another first, the XF has proximity switches on the glove box and interior lights which work at the slightest touch.
The feelgood factor runs throughout the XF and that theme carries on at night with blue phosphor mood lights picking out the instrumentation and bathing the interior in a soothing glow.
The handling from the rear wheel drive set up is as superlative as is now expected from the latest generation of Jaguars but fuel consumption remains on the high side.
The normally aspirated V8 will average only 25 miles to the gallon while the supercharger takes that down to a claimed 22. Emissions are high as well - close to 300g/km in the SV8. Not surprisingly it is the diesel which is likely to have the most appeal with fuel economy much more respectable at 37.6mpg and CO2 emission of 199g/km.
All XFs are fitted with six-speed auto boxes which, thanks to the rapid shift-by-wire system developed from the aerospace industry, are class leading when it comes to response.
The XF is not only a great car to drive it is also packed with delights and surprises. I cannot think of another car which has been launched with so many original features.
Jaguar has produced a world beater with this car - something which must be appreciated by the new custodians of this great British marque.