The updated Jaguar XF is sharper and bolder than before and very comfortable for steaming down a wet German autobahn or climbing alpine ways.
But while the style team has lifted the British car's appeal inside and out with a number of design tweaks, while there remain sporting V8s and diesels, it's the little diesel engine joining the ranks that adds extra substance at a keen price.
Arriving in Australia around October, the quiet achiever of the refreshed range could well be this 2.2 litre, four cylinder engine claimed to deliver 5.4 litres per kilometre. The engine is the third generation of this powerplant, used before in the likes of the Freelander and here turned north-south and mated to an eight-speed auto.
Along with the parsimonious fuel consumption comes a very competitive price tag - $78,900 for a premium sedan designed to fire a shot under the bows of the German diesel executive offerings from BMW, Mercedes-Benz and Audi.
Fitting that the Jaguar launches the refurbished range in Germany where driving remains a privilege, not a right, and the new cat can show off its full potential.
Indian-owned Jaguar is chasing new markets and new segments with rumours of a smaller Jag, perhaps an SUV and a wagon (or estate) to join the stable at some point. Between Jaguar and sister Land Rover there are plans for 40 new cars in five years.
For now it's about the reworked XF, a car that's helped bring life and customers to the brand since its original launch four years ago. The current petrol V8 and V6 diesel versions have been given a polish, some of this thanks to the trickle down of technology from the larger XJ Jaguars, some of it thanks to style and interior upgrades.
But today it's all about the new little 140kW jigger, strategically critical for Jaguar and XF.
From the showroom floor this 2.2 Luxury looks like a handsome buy. The 'entry level' Jaguar lacks for little and, in fact, outdoes the competition in the style and substance stakes while undercutting current prices of the German rivals.
There is a host of technology, the 8-speed auto and thrifty diesel engine. These are wrapped in a stylish sedan with a plush interior that shows up the blandness of some of the competition's cabins.
The XF was always a handsome car; the 2011 version adds extra sparkle and boldness with more aggressive front end from the windscreen forward. New headlights, a J curve of LED running lights, more pronounced bonnet lines give the Jaguar more snarl. (This is most marked in the XFR versions with huge air intakes below the front bumper.
A deal of work's been done to ensure this engine is worthy of a Jaguar, most importantly on noise and vibration levels with new materials and construction for externals such as sump and timing cover. There's reduced piston friction and water-cooled turbocharger to ensure this motor matches the V6 diesels.
And there's the clever eight-speed ZF gearbox which drops out of drive when the car is stationary plus a Tandem Solenoid Starter for 'intelligent' stop-start. It's claimed to allow quicker re-starts in stop-start traffic and can refire the engine before the stop cycle is complete if needed. Among wow bits is Jaguar's Easy Off - when a driver undoes the seatbelt, takes the foot off the brake, the Jaguar engages Park and shuts down the engine.
The current XF has a four-star safety rating and there's no reason the 2012 models won't match that. There are six airbags, ABS, traction control, stability control and electronic brake force distribution.
It's a wet, sometimes crowded day on the autobahn so we don't see Jaguar's claimed 225km/h though 180km/h is pretty effortless with two on board. Moving on to those flowing German country roads shows the XF as a quick and comfortable sedan.
What's impressive, aside from the general willingness of this little motor, is the Jaguar's composure at decent speeds. It is not a sports sedan but it is a very competent sporting sedan with balanced dynamics; it turns in neatly and the rear sits squat as the car is powered out.
The diesel, helped by the smooth auto, is rarely caught out. At 100km/h in eighth it's ticking over at 1200rpm. Yet there's little hesitation when asked to accelerate from cruising speeds; the motor delivers with surprising refinement from low down in the rev range, if not as smartly as the 3 litre V6 diesel nor as explosive as the XFR V8s.
Sport mode on the transmission further sharpens the deal with steering wheel-mounted paddle shifts keeping the show on the move. Whether crawling through towns, belting down highways or attacking hillside climbs this XF's ride comfort, and cabin comforts, are much appreciated. From previous experience with the outgoing XF the 2011 Jaguar's ride and dynamics should not be compromised on Australia's rougher road surfaces.
The 2.2 XF diesel is a surprise package, refined, economical and keenly priced. Jaguar is a bullish company in 2011, looking to make inroads into rival territory with product such as this.
JAGUAR XF 2.2 LUXURY
WARRANTY 3 year/unlimited km
SAFETY 4-star NCAP, 6 airbags, ABS, traction control, stability control
ENGINE 2 .2 litre, 4-cylinder turbo diesel, 140kW/450Nm
TRANSMISSION Eight-speed automatic
THIRST 5.4 l/100km, CO2 149g/km
BODY Four-door sedan
DIMENSIONS 4961mm (L);1877mm (W);1460mm (H);2909mm(WB)