But ever since Indian corporate giant Tata stepped in, the leaping cats have been clawing their way back up the food chain, doing what they were always meant to do - create beautiful, fast cars.
The XF is a prime example; it offers something different; a Jaguar that was every bit as dynamic as it was modern. Even conservative South Africans are catching on and XF sales are steadily carving out a market share.
I got behind the wheel of the Jaguar XF, one of the most elegant looking cars within its segment. The XF features a more rounded off front-end, which gives it an added aggressive stance, with much slimmer, XJ-style headlights incorporating LED daytime running lights arranged in a distinctive ‘J-Blade’ signature pattern. It looks really sexy at night. Our test model featured the Aero-kit as well as the Black-pack, which includes gloss-black detailing. Items such as the grille, lower bumper blades, window surrounds and the rear detailing on the boot lid were finished in gloss-black. These items can be selected with a chrome finish. I think the gloss-black gives the Jaguar a sportier look. However, the chrome has been described as being like fancy cufflinks on a tailormade suit.
The taillight clusters feature LED lighting and are extended into the central portion of the boot lid, making the XF - in my opinion, anyway - one of the finest looking cars available today, especially in full XF-R trim.
Inside the sleek looking Jag, the cabin is uniquely welcoming, spacious and stylish, with dramatic ‘surprise and delight’ elements such as the JaguarDrive selector that rises from the centre console and air vents that rotate to their open position when the starter is pressed – and yes, the button still pulsates like a heartbeat. Jaguar has also sorted out some previous interface issues and the XF has a new touchscreen and media interface system. Ample amounts of leather and more gloss-black finish off the interior nicely. Wooden inserts are on offer as well. The unit that I was driving came with Jaguar’s Meridian Surround Sound system. You want this…trust me! You can blast your favourite tunes with no inkling of distortion.
The Jaguar was fitted with a 2.0-litre turbocharged engine, which produces 177kW of power and 340Nm of torque. It’s economical considering the size of the car that it has to pull around and the eight-speed automatic gearbox is silky smooth. Don’t think that this Jag is lazy, it’s not; it’s got enough grunt to get you where you need to be on time.
Throw the Jag through some corners and you’re in for some fun; the XF admirably retained its composure. But it was the comfort of the ride that impressed me - smooth, quiet, and at high speeds the Jag digs its claws into the road and feels completely planted.
At R688 126 for the Premium Luxury model, I feel that the Jaguar XF is a well accomplished car, to say the least. I do however feel that although the infotainment interface has been upgraded, it still needs some work when looking at what the competitors are offerings.