Jaguar has finally dived into the entry-level executive luxury saloon market with the competitive 2.2-litre diesel XF.

There’s a new kid on the entry-level executive luxury saloon segment block. With the four-cylinder diesel version of the Jaguar XF, Jaguar manages to plug the gap in its Indian portfolio. With just a 3.0-litre, six-cylinder diesel on offer so far, Jaguar missed out on the hugely lucrative entry-level executive luxury saloon market, one where Audi, BMW and Mercedes-Benz have so far, made a killing. Now, Jaguar has finally rolled up its sleeves and dived into this part of the pool with the competitive 2.2-litre diesel XF.

In the XF’s favour is its sheer desirability. Also in its favour is the fact that this XF is assembled in India and attracts lower duties.

Like the 3.0-litre diesel, this 2.2-litre motor is mounted longitudinally and powers the rear wheels. It makes 187bhp and a healthy 45.8kgm of torque and this translates directly into a responsive and adequately powerful car. In fact, it is so nice, the only time you will probably realise the engine’s smaller capacity is when you want more urge at high speeds. Otherwise, this engine is eager to rev to its redline and pulls in a linear manner while it is doing so. So it pulls convincingly and, once at cruising speeds, stays there easily. The performance figures back this up – 0-100kph takes 9.1sec, which is pretty much on par with the rest of the competition. Its in-gear times are impressive too, which points to why this engine felt so flexible in Mumbai’s traffic.

A part of this flexibility is also down to the eight-speed automatic gearbox and its broad spread of ratios. It’s a gearbox that blurs its shifts effectively, changes gear rather intuitively and tries to keep the engine spinning as efficiently as possible. The only minor hitch comes when you want a quick downshift to slot into a gap. Adding more pressure on the throttle doesn’t help, and only if you hit the kick-down switch or tug at the paddle does it jump down gears.

What’s also impressive is the engine’s relative refinement, considering it’s got four cylinders. Sure it’s not as supremely quiet or smooth as its six-cylinder brother, but the difference is marginal. More importantly, it feels a whole lot quieter. So the XF 2.2’s smooth shifts, linear power delivery and refinement make for a car that feels rather relaxing to be in and entirely fitting with its character.

Oddly, though, the ride seems to be on the lumpy side at low speeds, but the higher-profile tyres and smaller, 17-inch rims help it handle sharp bumps impressively. It also has a flat, composed high-speed ride, and body control is good too. That apart, the handling is nothing special. The steering isn’t as sharp or direct off centre as a 5-series and it doesn’t feel particularly involving to drive, which is fine – this car is for the more economy-conscious owner who’s unlikely to push it to its limits.

What owners will expect are comfortable, special interiors, and that’s what they will get, largely. The XF still gets Jaguar’s ‘handshake’, where the rotary gear selector rises out of the centre console and the air-con vents slide open electrically. They will also find a simple, well-built and uncluttered dashboard that looks a bit too traditional, with its acres of wood. Some might also be disappointed by the fact that the interiors don’t feel as avant garde as those of its more modern competition. That aside, Jaguar has added satellite navigation and a switch that allows rear passengers to slide the front passenger seat back and forth; small but significant additions to an equipment list that also includes dual-zone climate control, paddle-shifters, keyless go, a sunroof, Bluetooth connectivity and USB and aux-in ports.

We can only regret that Jaguar didn’t liberate any more cabin space along with the recent mid-life facelift. Though the front seats are quite spacious, there is noticeably less space at the rear as compared to its rivals.

Now for the anoraks. It’s rather easy to tell a passing four-cylinder XF from the 3.0-litre one.

Simply look for the smaller wheels and the single tail pipe. The 2.2-litre car doesn’t get the ‘S’ badging on the boot lid either.

At an expected Rs. 44.5 lakh (ex-showroom, pre-octroi, Mumbai), the XF is the most expensive car in its class; a BMW 520d is a significant Rs 4 lakh cheaper.

However, because it is assembled here, you can also expect it to be a sizeable Rs. 10 lakh cheaper on the road, in some cities, than the 3.0-litre XF S. This in itself will attract those who have been eyeing the relative exclusivity of the XF, but have been put off by the high entry price.

This car will no doubt become the best-selling Jaguar in India, and we are convinced it has the potential to take the fight right to the Germans.