*There's probably no new car on the market today more significant to its parent company than the new Jaguar XF. While the two-plus-two XK sport GT may be considered a success, the XF is the pendulum on which Jaguar's fortunes will swing. If the carmaker is to become profitable again, the XF is the car to make it so.

Replacing the long-running S-Type, the XF is completely new, conceived and built from the ground up as a 'thoroughly modern vehicle.' Design director Ian Callum is quick to point out that Jaguar is not a company which needs to be chained to its past, rather one which needs to forge into the future. Working within the constraints dictated by the spatial needs of a midsize passenger sedan, the design team worked closely with engineers to create a viable coupe profile. Their hard work paid off. Interestingly, the rake of the windshield and slope of the rear window are identical to those on the XK. "Clearly, something right is happening here," says Callum. Classic Jaguar design elements, like a strong shoulder line and twin-cluster headlamps are present, along with cues like the power vents behind the front wheels. And you'd have to be blind not to see a little Aston Martin in the taillights.

The attention to detail, however, is most evident inside the cabin. One of the car's design inspirations was a jet fighter cockpit and it's fairly evident in the finished product. Certain details might be considered gimmicky if they weren't so damn cool, like an ignition button that pulses red with a heartbeat cadence as soon as you get in (my personal favorite), or the way the JaguarDrive gear selector rises out of the center console and the air vents twist into position after start-up.

The phosphor blue interior lighting is a particularly cool feature, which both the design team and the engineers went to great lengths to preserve from the earliest concept studies. Switches and buttons on the dash and center console have been kept to a minimum through use of a touchscreen display, but those that are present have been grouped in clusters and surrounded by thin chrome bezels which turn a cool, luminous blue in the dark. Other details, like touch-sensitive overhead lights, stitched leather and brushed aluminum accents-even tiny Jaguar logos embossed on the vents-illustrate the amount of thought gone into this interior. Regarding comfort and atmosphere, the new Jaguar fits the bill of 'sporting luxury.'

And the driving experience follows suit. The car is remarkably poised and planted on the road, especially at high speeds and in long, sweeping bends. The cabin is virtually silent at speed, with wind noise negligible even into triple digits.

Six-cylinder and diesel variants will be available in Europe, but both North American XF models will be powered by the 4.2-liter V8, either a 300-hp naturally aspirated engine or a 420-hp supercharged version. The supercharged model feels slightly sharper in terms of both handling precision and throttle response, but there's little doubt that even the entry-level XF has hit its mark as a dynamic and extremely capable sport sedan.

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