Jag's least expensive car is by no means an entry level experience

2011 Jaguar XF Luxury(Photo: Justin Couture)

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What is it?
You'd never guess — looking at it, sitting in it, or driving it — but this is the least expensive Jaguar on sale today. It's the XF in the Luxury trim level, which starts at $62,800. That also makes it the least-expensive V8-powered premium luxury sedan.

What's new?
Not a whole lot — just a few minor adjustments to specification levels. The biggest is the adoption of the 385-hp 5.0-litre direct-injected V8 to the base trim level (it formerly made do with the old 4.2L AJ-V8). The engine itself isn't new, though, having been in duty for two years now.

Going for the base XF doesn't mean skipping out on equipment — standard is a power steering column, iPod integration and navigation. You don't, however, get xenon headlamps, and the proximity key only works to start the car, not to unlock the doors. The XF's 18-inch wheels are standard, and while we're not against shelling out for 19-inchers ($1,800), skip the chrome finish that inflates the price by a further $1,000.

Bigger changes are on the horizon for the XF, with a restyled nose, eight-speed automatic and a revised cabin due next year.

What's it like to drive?
In one word: delightful. Since its arrival, the XF has always been one of the best-balanced cars and opting for the base trim level doesn't change that. The ride is controlled, smooth and beautifully damped. Equally as satisfying is the way it corners; the quick-swiveling rack delivers crisp turn in, and something that's becoming increasingly rare, even amongst premium brands: steering feel. Combined with a serene cabin and a silken engine that also happens to pull with the strength of a race car, and what you have is an excellent touring car that'll put a smile on your face.

Should you buy it?
If you don't mind the fuel bills from the standard-fit V8, you aren't insistent on all-wheel drive and you aren't going to be carrying passengers taller than six feet in height with regularity, absolutely. The XF is a unique experience that really puts Jaguar's strongest foot forward as a luxury auto manufacturer, proving that going entry level doesn't mean having an entry-level experience. While we're not too keen on some of the aluminum-looking (but thin-feeling) switchgear, or the slow navigation system — both of which will be addressed next year. Yet, the fact of the matter is this car feels and performs like one costing twice as much. A luxury car is about feeling pampered, and the XF certainly does that.

2011 Jaguar XF Luxury
Base price / As-tested: $62,800 / $65,600
Type of vehicle: RWD midsize luxury sedan
Engine: 5.0 L, 32-valve, DOHC V8
Power/Torque: 385 hp / 380 lb.-ft.
Transmission: Six-speed automatic
Fuel consumption (city/hwy/as-tested): 9.9 / 7.5 / 9.3 L/100 km
Competition: Audi A6 4.2 FSI, BMW 550i, Mercedes-Benz E550, Infiniti M56

QUICK SPIN SUMMARY

PROS
Standard V8 power
Lavish, well-equipped cabin
Feels like a million bucks, but doesn't cost it

CONS
You'll pay for that V8 power in fuel
Silly proximity key
Some minor, thin-feeling switchgear