The West

There are only a few ways to get to use one of the most advanced 2.0-litre petrol engines in the world and if your motoring requirements call for a five- passenger sedan with a high level of comfort and convenience features, that choice comes down to just two.

Particularly if you want something that points and steers like a thoroughbred. One is a Ford and the other a Jaguar. The engine is designed and built by Ford in Europe. The transmission is also European, built by ZF in Germany.

They make a good team and some Australian motorists are already familiar with the combination in the green-themed Falcon four-cylinder - a car that was deemed the best Falcon ever and the judges' choice in the annual Best Cars awards announced last month.

But that's where the similarities end between two cars that share the same heart. Engineered at the company's research facility in Coventry, England, the XF 2.0-litre sedan is very much the quintessential Jaguar, with all the smell, feel, driving dynamics and sensual styling that the brand is renowned for and that owners insist on.

In the process of slipping the engine into Jaguar's new 2013 XF range, there have been some minor adjustments (rather than changes) and the gearbox has eight ratios instead of the six in the Falcon.

I drove the XF Jag for a day out of Sydney and around the scenic treasures of the Hawkesbury recently to see how a relatively small petrol engine would perform in a car whose name suggests pace as much as grace.

This latest cat isn't a true sports sedan, so comparisons with its high-performance brothers aren't really fair. But by matching the high output and fuel efficiency of the i4 single-turbo, four-cylinder engine to the pedigree of the XF chassis and suspension, Jaguar has packaged on-road agility with the atmosphere of a London club - and made it all quite "green".

The engine itself is an all-aluminium design that develops 177kW at 5500rpm and 340Nm of torque from as low as 2000rpm all the way to 4000rpm. Jaguar's blurb claims: "Its low inertia turbo ensures smooth, lag-free power . . ."

Oops, no it doesn't. After a relaxed cruise or enforced doddle in traffic, a decent prod on the throttle results in a delay that's impossible to miss as the engine wakes up the turbo and the gearbox picks the right cog.

Then the XF transforms into the animal its nameplate suggests. Jaguar owners will drive around the delay but it'll take some practice. Nonetheless, it'll still get to freeway speed in 7.9 seconds and, while it has the legs to do 241km/h, it will do all of that using an average 8.9l/100km of premium unleaded. Getting comfy and set up in the XF is so much fun I'd probably deliberately forget things so I could get out, nip back inside, then come back and do it again.

Seat adjustment is powered but silent. There's no sign of ventilation ducts until you press the start button and they rotate into view in unison across the dash, wafting your face with the aroma of leather and timber.

The gear selector is a knurled cylinder that rises from the console after a gentle finger prod and the steering wheel has so many embedded selectors and roller buttons you'll spend a full night pretending to watch the ABC while you're really studying the owner's manual.

The ventilation system has a good idea for when you're stuck in traffic behind a septic tank truck - when it "sniffs" a nasty pong outside, it engages auto recirculation so guests can keep their noses in the (fresh) air.

Jaguar's entry car retails at $68,900 and runs to $75,500 for the premium version. For $74,990 you can drive away in either the petrol model or the 2.2-litre diesel.

No doubt there are good days and many new-to-Jaguar customers ahead.

The West Australian

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