Jaguar might not sell many cars. But with a first strike into the popular four-cylinder segment of the premium market , the new XF 2.2 D is set to change the fortunes of the prestigious British

Thus sang the Hollies, on their 1970 hit single boasting a 23-year-old Elton John on piano. The band’s previous big success, a year earlier, was He Aint Heavy, He’s My Brother. The phrase is said to have been in use for almost a hundred years by the time the Hollies showed up. There’s also an anecdote, published in 1918 by Ralph Waldo Trine, about a young Scottish girl carrying a boy as big as herself. When reminded of his size and weight, she replied: “He’s na heavy. He’s mi brither.”

On the face of it, Land Rover can say pretty much the same thing about Jaguar at the moment. Last year, the two marques – both now owned by Tata (who bought them from Ford in 2008) – sold less than a quarter of a million vehicles in total, worldwide. Less than one third of those, meaning not even 77,000 units, were Jaguars.

Compare that to Mercedes-Benz’s passenger car sales of 1.17 million during the same period. Benz, in fact, sells more cars in a month than Jag in a year – which sounds catastrophic for the Coventry car maker. Not quite. Merc’s annual sales rose by 15% in 2010; Jaguar’s by 19%.

And it ain’t over yet. For here’s the rub: half of Europe’s premium market segment is made up of four-cylinder cars, with no Jaguars in sight. A dog fight, then, without any Leaping Cats – which has been the case ever since the demise of the S and X-Types. That’s just changed with the launch of Jaguar’s XF 2.2D, a 2.2-litre four-cylinder turbodiesel with common rail injection via piezo crystals, plus stop/start technology.

Power wise, the mill (140 kW, 450 Nm) won’t blow your socks off, especially as it pulls a big heavy car. But, boy, is it refined, especially for a four-cylinder oil burner. Sample, also, the easy and ultra-smooth 8-speed ZF auto box pumping power to the rear wheels, and you’ll love the Big Cat all over again. Suspension has also been re-tuned for a wonderfully smooth ride, even on optional 19” alloys with low profile tyres. And yes, the 2.2D gets the XF’s beautifully re-sculpted face-lifted look.

The end result? A great re-entry into the four-cylinder market via Luxury and Premium Luxury models, selling for just under and over half a million green ones. Jaguar’s certainly been able to tell the bottom end of the market from the top. Four cylinders are where their future’s at. To this purpose, they’re about to invest £355 million into a new factory near Wolverhampton, England, for advanced low-emission diesel and petrol four-cylinder mills.

In the meantime, the XF 2.2D has made a very decisive first flying leap in the right direction. It might be that the nose will be carrying an extra couple of kilos, courtesy of the engine’s iron block. But I’m sure the rest of the range won’t be bothered by this. “He’s na heavy. He’s mi brither,” would more likely be a response, exactly because the Leaping Cat can now fight and strike again in the most popular segment of the premium market.

By Egmont Sippel

Published Playboy SA November 2011