700 miles, 10 countries, 1 tank

How far will it go to prove it’s Jaguar’s most efficient engine ever?

The car noses to a stop where Austria runs out and Liechtenstein begins, as a uniformed man with a sidearm pulls a car off the road ahead.

Forward momentum is the natural state of a Jaguar, but when obliged to stop, the new XF 2.2D does it with style – the muffled hum of its engine disappearing completely into a perfect silence. I worry I’ll have to fill that silence and explain it away to the man eyeing me quizzically from the doorway of the border control: it isn’t a guilty silence, says the voice in my head, and I haven’t killed the engine and parked up so as to declare contraband or because I’m eager to confess that in my imagination your country is a mountain stronghold where spies and financiers act out the plots of thrillers.

I will tell him that this silence is a beautiful thing made by a high-performance engine that has been lovingly modified to save every drop of fuel – and thus a most useful silence given the nature of my journey. But I don’t have to explain, because the car’s new facelift speaks for both of us. The border guard appraises what it has to say with his eyes and raises his arm to wave us through.

We lift off smoothly and I watch in the rear-view mirror as the car behind is pulled over for inspection; then I check the mileage and smile until I look at the road ahead to Switzerland and spot the barrier and the diversion sign. My heart sinks. On this road trip, every mile counts. I check the onboard computer again: 83 miles left of the diesel I put in the tank over 600 miles ago in Dover, which would be fine except I need the car to get me to Italy on one tank. An extended tour of Liechtenstein could leave me marooned with the goats in the Swiss Alps.

  • PART I

    The day before, I had stood watching Dover’s White Cliffs from the deck of a ferry and pondered the banality of measuring a Jaguar’s performance in mere miles per gallon. That was more a question to ask of the four hulking diesel engines that were powering us away from the English coast than the very special engine parked below deck – the most fuel-efficient engine Jaguar has ever built. I could measure the car’s performance by counting the number of filling stations we didn’t have to stop at, but that would soon grow dull. Instead, I wanted to count the landscapes’ forms, the architectural styles, the pretty farmsteads.

    As the car and I left the ferry at Dunkirk en route to Belgium, back at the Jaguar plant they were preparing to put into production the first 2012 model, which will be for a Chinese customer. If the fancy had taken me I could have raced it to China along the E40, the longest route in Europe. So I pointed the car towards Kazakhstan and settled into a cruise.

    Collecting observations while cruising a flat, washed-out landscape of young trees and pale green grassland takes practice. This car will prove very popular with business-class travellers hurrying from A to B, but it’s a first class car that will also help them rediscover the art of the journey. It helps to be clear in your mind what to enjoy along the way: admiring glances as you glide by, or thrilling bursts of speed? Unfortunately, as I’m nursing my one tank of diesel we’re only overtaking truck drivers. So I begin to measure the miles in the many towers that rise above the Belgian polders, reclaimed from the North Sea.

    It was impossible to forget that I was driving this car but it was noticeable how quickly it became effortless to look at the scenery, the neat fields of corn and the farmsteads corralled by stockades of Poplar trees. We leave the E40 at Brussels following instead the road towards the copper green dome of the National Basilica of the Sacred Heart atop Koekelberg Hill and the trip computer confirms that we have been averaging 54mpg (5.2l/100km). Italy here we come.

  • PART II

    On the dullest road we can indulge a fascination with industrial design, with road lights and street furniture. We live in a world that is so incredibly homogenous that it’s pleasing to see pylons unlike the ones we are used to – red and white like lighthouses – and to take delight in the detailing on Brussels’ street lamps.

    It’s impossible not to draw parallels with the new XF, which avoids the homogeneity of other cars. The details count at Jaguar, which is why this is the most extensive mid-cycle refresh in Jaguar history. Everything forward of the side vents is new: a new bonnet, new lamps and a new grille. There are new bumpers, new tail lights, new rear valances, new seats, a new boot lid finisher, a new entertainment and navigation system, a new touch screen, and of course the new engine with a new eight-speed gearbox and Intelligent Stop/Start system, both essential to its fuel economy.

    Free of Brussels, the car heads towards the Dutch border, chasing the dark clouds that have left a spray on the road. Once across we head south, the road crossing old farm tracks and the canals and rivers around the Port of Liege. Beyond the industrial heartland of the Meuse Valley, the car skirts the chimneys of Verviers, where houses sprout from the hillside below us in the former hunting ground of kings. At a small roundabout, the voice of the navigation system welcomes us to Luxembourg.

    It’s intriguing how the XF seems particularly at home amidst the elegant and dramatic forms of Luxembourg’s Kirchberg plateau where the European Court and Parliament occupy buildings designed by some of the world’s most celebrated architects. We drive past two golden towers rising like giant Dupont lighters about to burst into flame in the late afternoon sun.

    If you drive for long enough you begin to journey inside yourself, cocooned in the luxury of a car that responds so intelligently to your driving style, watching the smooth motion of the needle on the speedometer, shifting your hands around the steering wheel, listening in vain for the automatic gear shift. I am daydreaming.

    And back in the moment, I am treasuring the fleeting glimpses of long views over a valley. Inside Germany the autobahn is shielded from the quiet villages and farmsteads and for a moment I wonder why they would want to hide such lovely countryside from us, and then I realise that they are hiding us from the countryside and I’m affronted: some cars add to the view.

    Germany speeds by in a series of impressions: bare rock faces, red sandstone rock, red sandstone buildings. The foothills are rounded and softened by trees. They are storybook hills, dense and dark green and brooding, like vast life forms.

    A moment later I’m many miles closer to Italy, crossing the Rhine into Baden-Württemberg. German farmland, as neat as parterre gardens in English country estates, finally gives way to the majesty of mountains. Austria rises ahead of us, and then all around us, and the roof pitches on the tall many-windowed gasthofs seem to mirror the peaks. I lost count of towers hours ago, now I can lose count of mountains.

  • PART III

    The verticals that draw the eye have changed from man-made to natural, from worked stone to savage rock. Our new Jaguar in Rhodium Silver escapes a diversion around the streets of Liechtenstein with enough fuel to make Switzerland. Within an hour or so it is travelling fast against the flow of a river on one side and a train on the other. I drop out of the heights into Davos, oddly refreshed by the journey, never tired in this luxurious car.

    With sunrise we make for the Flüela Pass, one of the highest roads through the Swiss Alps. Clean morning sunshine lights the car and the turquoise waters of the Engadin Valley far below us. The car glides through hairpin bends carved out of the endless rock. It is the perfect conclusion to the journey. Not only do the scenery and the driving experiences reach their climax, so do the engineering achievements of people who can put a road through a place dominated by nature and the people who can build a car that can pull such a landscape so powerfully beneath its wheels and come so far on one tank of fuel.

    All doubt that we will complete our mission is now gone as the car glides into Zernez, some five miles from the Italian border.

    The Ofenpass sweeps around to the left, but we turn right at Punt La Drossa into the Munt La Schera tunnel, where the art on display is the dark hewn rock of this narrow one-way passage under the Alp. The strobe of the overhead lights makes the last two miles to Italy seem like a jump to hyperspace and the car is a vision from the future: the assertive new bonnet punches through the mountain while its sleek new headlights light the shadows.

    The clock turns over 700 miles as we emerge from the tunnel straight onto the grand sweep of the Ponte del Gallo double-arch dam, poised high above Lake Livigno. At the toll booth on the dam, I ask the woman if we are in Italy yet and she shakes her head but points to a building a few yards away. “That’s in Italy,” she says and I ease the car past a simple crucifix by the side of the road and pat the wheel. We’ve made it.

    We pull up next to the lake where the only sound is a mountain stream. Back the way we have come mist is gathering. The rain starts to fall in the mountains and here the waters drain not into the Mediterranean but to the Black Sea, and all of Europe back to the English Channel seems linked by this car, silvery by the waters that cover the old village of Livigno. We drive down into the new village, which still enjoys the medieval tax concessions that bring Italians from far and wide to buy duty-free fuel. We’ve reached the perfect place to refill the tank.

  • XF START STOPS WASTE

    The XF is the first Jaguar to be fitted with an Intelligent Stop/Start system. The technology turns off the engine as soon as the car comes to a stop, starting the engine again the instant power is needed. This improves fuel economy and reduces the cars CO2 emissions. The system uses a Tandem Solenoid Starter, which restarts the engine in just 600 milliseconds, as soon as the driver takes their foot off the brake and before their foot has even touched the accelerator.

  • JAGUAR XF 2.2 AJ-I4

    Power: 190PS
    Torque: 450Nm
    Acceleration: 0-100kph in 8.5 secs
    Top Speed: 225kph
    Fuel consumption (combined): 52.3mpg (5.41/100km)
    CO2 emissions: 149/km
    Transmission: 8-speed automatic

  • CHECK TYRE PRESSURES

    If tyres are inflated correctly, they’ll meet less resistance.

  • KEEP TO SPEED LIMITS

    The faster you go, the more fuel you’ll use. Driving at 56mph uses 25 per cent less fuel than driving at 70mph.

  • STAY CLUTTER-FREE

    The more you carry the more fuel you use. Make sure that you only carry essentials.

  • BRAKING WASTES ENERGY

    Brakes turn energy from fuel into heat between the tyres and the road. Use the gears to slow down rather than your right foot.

  • USE HIGHER GEARS

    Keep the engine’s revs down to stop it from working too hard.

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