But as impressive as the outside undoubtedly is, the interior really hits you between the eyes. Packed with new technology, the XF's cabin sets it apart from all its competitors. Classy, uncluttered and totally tactile, you won't want to get out once you're in. Eschewing the done-to-death cliff-face dashboards of every Jaguar over the past four decades, this one is clean and modern. The dash sits lower and swoops around in one simple, graceful line. Once the car registers that the driver is on board (thanks to the keyless entry fob), an illuminating ring surrounding the start button pulses red, just like a heartbeat. Press it and the engine rumbles into life, but something else happens: the air vents swivel around to do their job and a cylindrical metal gear selector rises effortlessly from the center console. It's totally, utterly cool.
Wood and leather still abound (there's more timber here than any Jag since the 1960s' MkII), but the look is contemporary. The front seats are smaller, giving a greater sense of space. The center console is nice and high, making the driver feel as though this is a sports car rather than a sedan. The steering wheel has been poached from the XK. It's at night, though, when the XF really comes to life.
Using cellphone technology, the controls are outlined in a solid neon blue. 'Theater' lighting spills upwards from the door pockets (again in blue) and the whole vibe is high-class nightclub. Everything looks and feels gorgeous-just like a Bang & Olufsen hi-fi system-you can't help touching everything. Jaguar has also been working closely with Apple to provide the coolest iPod integration ever seen in a car.
All this would be a complete waste of time if the XF drives like a dog. We won't get to test it for a few months, but the video footage we've seen shows chassis development guru Mike Cross powersliding, tire-smoking and generally behaving like a hooligan. The XF's sporting credentials seem to be intact and official performance figures are impressive.
Four engines will be available: a 210-hp V6 diesel, a 240-hp gasoline V6, a 300-hp V8 and the flagship 420-hp supercharged S-V8, which rushes from rest to 60 mph in just five seconds. Prices are in line with the outgoing S-Type (retired dentists can expect serious discounts on those). Rumors in the UK are that an M5-baiting R version with at least 500 hp is waiting in the wings. That really will be a Jag worth waiting for.