An executive saloon isn’t the most obvious choice as a tow car. Perhaps you were expecting a big estate to win this class, or maybe a 4×4. In truth, so were we.

The XF challenged our preconceptions. With its superbly judged suspension, low centre of gravity and inch-perfect steering, it made the lane-change test seem easy. Stroll up to 70mph and there’s no sign that car or caravan is beginning to wander, and data from the Al-Ko ATC system shows how composed the Jag is when slowing from high speeds. You could tow all day with this car and never experience a nervous moment.

The hill start is usually best suited to 4x4s, but the Jaguar matched its SUV rivals. Its 2.2-litre engine might not have as much muscle as the XF 3.0-litre, but it’s more than strong enough to manage a 1-in-6 slope.

For a saloon to cope with every item but one from our typical holiday luggage load is impressive, and the inclusion of a trailer stability program earned further marks from our practicality judges.

Whittling our five class winners down to one overall champion wasn’t an easy task. Some of the 2012 award winners were worthy recipients of the top prize.

After careful deliberation, though, our judges reached a consensus. One car felt that bit more special than the others: the Jaguar XF.

First and foremost, it is an outstanding towcar. The 2.2-litre engine combines swift acceleration with superb economy. Official figures suggest 52.3mpg is possible on the combined cycle.

Even at high speeds, the XF’s stability is unshakeable. One judge commented, “It’s almost as if the caravan isn’t there.” At 70mph the car and caravan felt like one seamless vehicle. Pushed hard in the emergency lane-change test, the XF stayed on course, no matter how high the speed or however urgent the change of direction.

Leave the caravan behind and driving the XF is even more of a pleasure. It steers with accuracy and feel, cornering hard and flat on a favourite back road. Driven more gently it’s effortless and relaxing, smoothing out rough roads better than most of its rivals.

The cabin was every bit as beautiful as the exterior. Little details, such as the way the gear selector rose when the ignition was switched on, add a touch of theatre to the design.

A little more headroom in the rear wouldn’t have gone amiss, and a larger boot would have boosted the Jag’s practicality score (we looked forward to the arrival of the estate version, the XF Sportbrake). With a price tag of £37,205, it wasn’t a car for everyone’s pocket, but with strong resale values and a frugal engine, running the XF should cost less than you might expect in the long term.

In the end, though, it wasn’t just about the pounds, shillings and pence. It was about how the XF made every journey an occasion. The Jaguar was a worthy overall champion for 2012.

Category Winners
2012 Up to 1424kg

Volkswagen Golf

2.0 TDI 140 Match 5dr

2012 1425-1574kg

Volkswagen Passat Estate

2.0 TDI 170 Bluemotion Technology Sport

2012 1575-1724kg

Mazda CX-5

2.2D Sport AWD

2012 1725-1899kg

Jaguar XF

2.2D Premium Luxury

2012 1900kg+

Land Rover Discovery 4

3.0 SDV6 XS

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