The big news with the all-new version is how little you get for your money - Jaguar has shrunk the XF so that it's 7mm shorter and 5mm lower than before. And thanks to Jaguar's investment in an aluminium-rich platform, the new saloon is up to 190kg lighter than the car it replaces.
Now anyone with a PH mindset will have read that last paragraph and be slavering to skip to the bit about how much faster and better handling it must be - especially the supercharged V8 version that powers the XFR-S.
So go ahead, skip the part about there being more cabin space and better headroom than before. Ignore the fact that the XF looks like a better proportioned XE. And pass over the more appealing cabin that still just lacks the quality of an Audi. Let's talk performance, shall we?
Except there's some bad news: there's no V8 XF yet, and there won't be one until Jaguar's special ops pulls its finger out. With rumours that the next-generation BMW M5 and Mercedes E63 AMG will pack an outrageous 600hp, the new, lighter XF SVR will most likely have to squeeze a lot more from the 5.0-litre V8 that made 550hp in the XFR-S and continues in the Range Rover Sport SVR.
For now, there's just the option of the 380hp 3.0-litre supercharged V6 for those in desperate need of a fast XF. Accompanying it is a less interesting 300hp 3.0-litre V6 diesel, along with the regular 'Ingenium' 163- and 180hp four-cylinder diesels. Predictably, and depressingly, 95 per cent of all XF buyers will opt for the diesels. All come with rear-wheel drive but in other colder markets all-wheel drive is an option.
With specific instructions to 'focus on the fast ones', the noisy 2.0-litre diesel is largely ignored, which has an unpleasant habit of thumping its way through its eight-speed auto. At the same northern Spanish Navarra circuit as the XE launch, there's time to learn how much time, love and knowledge has been lavished on the XF's chassis. With a pleasing 50:50 weight distribution the lightweight underpinnings are the star of the show, but if there was a Best Supporting Role it would go to the XF's new integral link rear suspension.
Bigger, heavier and costlier than the normal multi-link, the new suspension is worth the compromise. It's key to unlocking the handling prowess of the big Jag because it does something cheaper suspension layouts cannot: separate the lateral from vertical loads.This means softer bushes can be used, which is good news for ride comfort. More importantly, the integral link allows a stiffer front double wishbone suspension set up that improves steering feel. On other cars a stiffer front end with rear double wishbone rear suspension makes it feel inert and, worse, understeery
Softer bushes at the rear also allow a degree of passive rear steer, again reducing understeer. The XF also has ZF's latest electric power steering rack and software.
So, with barely a glance at which way the race track goes, I leap into a supercharged 3.0-litre and hit the Navarra circuit. A lack of knowledge makes my driving very poor, much to the amusement of my human ballast and circuit instructor George, who laughs as I demonstrate that any big heavy car, even with a clever rear suspension, is capable of both big under- and oversteer.
But there's little to learn about the XF on this smooth, perfectly surfaced track other than how balanced it feels, and that the transition into a slide is smooth and very catchable. To the road...
Up in the Pyrenees, the XF S is far more impressive than the small diesel. Not a great surprise really. The eight-speed automatic gels better, with less pronounced thumps as it shifts and, in the bumpier real-world conditions, the front-end holds on remarkably well. At the limit the XF is also agile and adjustable, even a little more lairy than you might imagine in the Trac ESP mode.
As we climb steeper the trees die off and the scenery hardens, the road coils into the occasional hairpin. Again, left in Trac DSC mode there's a pleasing amount of slip and plenty of traction thanks to some trick torque vectoring, meaning you won't miss a limited-slip differential the spec may suggest it needs. But with one, the 332lb ft could surely be deployed yet more efficiently and entertainingly.
What's missing is an evocative soundtrack. The XF sounds great from the outside, but inside it's a little plain, with only a dull supercharged whine to keep you company. We're not asking for the F-Type histrionics, but it needs more than this.
The next day, the climb up the Pyrenees is repeated in the 3.0-litre diesel and, well, it's preferable to the petrol. Yes, really. Aside from some very odd resonances on our car, generally it sounds better - which is strange. Riding on a slightly smaller 19-inch wheel and tyre combo it was difficult to compare ultimate turn-in grip with what must be a lighter supercharged petrol 3.0-litre, but it didn't matter.
Even though you lose out in confidence on turn-in, the diesel's greater torque destroys the petrol on the straights and, pleasingly, works those rear tyres harder too. Finally, the diesel also has a silky-smooth eight-speed auto. The petrol V6, and earlier 2.0-litre diesel, use a more compact version of the ZF gearbox that obviously still needs some software work to even things out.
In any case, after two days' driving the new XF over some extremely challenging roads, it's clear Jaguar has proven it remembers how to make a big car endlessly entertaining and engaging. But can the XF V6 S be recommended over Audi's mighty 450hp 4.0-litre twin-turbo V8 Audi S6? Impossible. The German would walk it in performance terms - it's almost a whole second quicker to 62mph.
Instead, if you want a faster, more enjoyable XF until the V8 SVR arrives, go along with 95 per cent of all other buyers and buy the diesel. It's the better, more enjoyable car.
JAGUAR XF V6 S
Engine: 2,995cc V6 supercharged
Transmission: 8-speed auto, rear-wheel drive
Power (hp): 380@6,500rpm
Torque (lb ft): 332@4,500rpm
Top speed: 155mph (limited)
Kerbweight: 1,710kg (EU, with driver)
MPG: 34.0 (NEDC combined)