Big cat shows his claws (Jaguar XF 3.0 V6 Diesel S Portfolio)

Powerful diesel XF S combines elegance with blistering performance

The concept of a high performance diesel car might not be a new one, but with cash-centric subjects such as tax and fuel destined to dominate dinner party discussions, it’s easy to forget that there’s more to the humble oil-burner than low CO2 ratings and wallet-saving economy.

And while BMW might have initially stole a march with its range of performance diesels – it’s 535d 5 Series is an obvious example – the German firm is no longer alone in offering high power, low consumption thrills.

Jaguar has long been a company famous for its petrol-powered performance cars. It’s only the last few years that have seen the Brit car maker fully embrace that ‘other’ fuel. It’s not wasted any time, though. From early forays with the S-Type and previous generation XJ, Jaguar has progressed to challenging its German rivals for superiority.

That situation was made a whole lot easier with the arrival of the firm’s XF, a mid-size executive saloon positioned to challenge the likes of BMW’s aforementioned 5 Series and Mercedes’ E-Class – two companies with plenty of diesel experience.

With its obvious sporting leanings, the critics have raved about the XF. In particular, the high performance ‘R’ variant has attracted considerable praise, as has the diesel line-up. Imagine if you could combine the two.

Imagine no more thanks to Jaguar’s decision to spice up its diesel offering. Packing the firm’s high performance 275 horsepower, 3.0-litre diesel unit this particular XF is not short of poke. Additionally, you can also choose to add what Jaguar calls its ‘Aerodynamic Pack’, which goes some way to beefing up the car’s appearance towards that of the fire-breathing XF R.

But what really makes a difference to this ‘S’ model XF is the other cost option, the ‘Dynamics Pack’. Offering continuously variable dampers and 20-inch wheels, this particular combo is closer to the high performance executive saloon ideal most other rivals’ cars.

While it served a purpose, Jaguar’s 2.7-litre V6 diesel has been replaced by a more powerful 3.0-litre V6 motor. In fact, you’ve got the choice of two units, a 240 horsepower ‘entry-level option and a 275bhp lump.

And it’s the latter that Jaguar has earmarked for use in its high performance S variant. This particular XF promises to upset the likes of BMW and Audi with its subtle yet potent power delivery and refinement levels that rivals can only dream of.

Despite this XF being in the premium sector, considerable emphasis has been put on balancing performance with efficiency – even corporate types want to save money.

The car’s CO2 rating of 179g/km is a big deal and so is the official 42mpg combined figure. Okay, so you can’t go for a blast and expect to return such a figure, but if you drive this XF sensibly there’s no reason to feel guilty.

With its clever dampers and sublime ride plus intelligent six-speed auto gearbox, all that’s left is to exploit the car’s mammoth 443lb/ft of torque. That figure goes a long way to explaining the car’s impressive 6.4 second sprint to 62mph time – make no mistake, this is an incredibly potent sports saloon and one that Jaguar believes will help convince critics that the pipe and slipper image has been well and truly banished to a dark corner of history.

Leave aside the subtle trim and equipment upgrades for a moment – in S trim the XF is now more closely aligned with the flagship XF R, and includes the likes of enhanced trim materials and XF R-themed sports seats – because this XF is all about the driving experience.

Searing in-gear acceleration allows you to make progress like never before; overtaking is safe and swift, B-roads are dispatched with eye-popping ease and all the while the engine feels like it’s barely working at all. All you hear is a muted growl, a distant reminder of how potent this package is.

At the end of the day, you buy a Jaguar because you want to be part of that whole sports luxury movement. Unlike with some rivals, there’s no real hint of a compromise with this XF S: if you want to take it easy you can, if you want to turn up the wick the car will deliver in spades.

And in diesel S guise the XF successfully combines elegance with pace, two attributes enthusiasts of Jaguars’ past will warmly embrace.

Model: Jaguar XF 3.0 V6 Diesel S Portfolio, from £46,900 on the road.
Engine: 3.0-litre diesel unit developing 275bhp.
Transmission: 6-speed auto transmission as standard, driving the rear wheels.
Performance: Maximum speed 155mph (limited), 0-62mph 6.4 seconds.
Economy: 42.0mpg.
CO2 Rating: 179g/km.

By Iain Dooley

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