Motoring Review - Jaguar XJ

Jaguar's rejuvenation continues with the XJ luxury saloon. Steve Walker takes a look

There are still plenty of people who get that warm fuzzy feeling when they see an old Jag. The brand is entwined in our national psyche with its raffish wood ’n’ leather, pipe smoking, sports jacket wearing. Britishness. Of course, all that means nothing whatsoever to luxury car buyers in the US, Europe and beyond, buyers whose purchase decisions make or break Jaguar as a credible global car maker. The famous marque was hamstrung by its own history for too long but today there’s a newfound confidence and a forward-looking agenda. Nothing illustrates this more dramatically than the latest XJ.

The XK sports coup� and the XF executive saloon were breakthrough cars for Jaguar, marrying heritage to a more overtly modern approach. The XJ shows Jaguar spreading its wings further with a luxury saloon to challenge the sector’s leading lights. It’s a firm break from the big Jag tradition that was originated in 1968 by the original XJ and evolved stylistically at a snail’s pace through the next five generations. Jaguar wasn’t communicating its dynamism and relevance, but it is now.

Like its predecessor, the XJ uses all-aluminium construction which sees it tip the scales substantially lighter than steel rivals like the BMW 7 Series and Mercedes S-Class. As long as buyers don’t go wild on the options list, it should even come in weighing less than the substantially smaller Jaguar XF. This leads to major advantages in the performance, handling and efficiency departments where an important part of the luxury car battle is fought. The engines have been seen before in the XF, so we know that they’re largely outstanding. There are normally aspirated and supercharged versions of the Jaguar 5.0-litre V8, with 380bhp and 464bhp respectively. Plus Jaguar is also offering an XJ Supersport model with the supercharged engine upgraded to 503bhp. The diesel will inevitably be popular and it’s a 3.0-litre twin-turbo V6 that yields 271bhp, with a massive 600Nm of torque thanks to its variable geometry turbos.

The fully independent suspension is similar to that in the XF but drivers have the option of choosing standard, dynamic or winter settings via the Jaguar Drive rotary knob that takes the place of a conventional gear lever. These modes adjust the suspension, throttle response, gearshift speeds, stability control settings and the active differential to produce the desired results. The gearbox itself is an electronically-controlled six-speed auto complete with wheel-mounted paddle shifters which sends drive to the rear wheels on all XJ models. Jaguar is intent on this XJ being seen as a real driver’s car.

The sinewy lines of the XJ only serve to emphasise its sporting intent. The front end borrows heavily from the XF, the sharply contoured bonnet and the wire mesh grille that juts forward from the plain of the headlights giving it real presence. The car is available in standard or long wheelbase forms, with the longer car gaining 125mm and somehow managing to look even sleeker in profile. The real drama is at the rear, however, where Jaguar has gone for an elegant but bold treatment. The C-pillars are blacked out to look like an extension of the rear screen and the tail lights arch up around the rear haunches into the line of the boot lid. The fins of light within the clusters are meant to resemble a jaguar’s claws.

The cabin is massively impressive, modern but with the tactility and emotion that isn’t always forthcoming in the clinical interiors of German cars. The dash is angled away from the driver to produce a roomier feel and the dials, vents and buttons are dipped in chrome. The control interface is geared around an 8" colour touch screen display that gives clear advantages over controller driven systems like BMW’s iDrive. The instruments are perhaps the highlight, or should that be the lack of them? Replacing the conventional cluster of dials is a 12" screen of the kind pilots refer to as a ‘glass cockpit’. A variety of displays are projected onto it, including virtual fuel, speed, temperature and revcounter gauges. These can be configured or supplemented by additional information as required.

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Trim levels run from Luxury to Premium Luxury and Portfolio, with the Supersport model at the top of the range. Even the entry-level cars come generously equipped and the pricing structure has been designed to compete head on with the leading luxury saloon competitors.

The XJ’s lightweight aluminium construction should give it a crucial edge over equivalently-powered rivals in terms of fuel efficiency and emissions. Even the normallyaspirated V8 engine complies with EuroV emissions regulations and it meets the latest guidelines laid down in the crucial US market.

Jaguar is a car manufacturer that’s on the march and other premium car marques will be worried by this latest XJ. Jaguar’s previous more conventionally-styled luxury saloon offerings had defined the brand for decades, classy, quintessentially British but rooted in history and too much concerned with echoing past glories. Today’s XJ retains traces of what’s always made a Jaguar a Jaguar but it’s also bold and ferociously modern – those sculpted headlamps trained on a future where this famous brand is risen again.

Facts at a Glance

Car: Jaguar XJ

Prices: �52,500–�88,000 – on the road

Insurance Groups: 16-20 (est)

CO2 Emissions: 184-289g/km

Performance: (3.0D) 0-60mph 6.4s / Max Speed 155 mph

Fuel Consumption: [3.0D] (urban) 29.6mpg / (extra urban) 50mpg / (combined) 40.1mpg

Standard Safety Features: Twin front, side and curtain airbags / ABS with EBA /Dynamic Stability Control (est)

Will it fit in your garage? 5122mm long, 1894mm wide, 1448mm high

MGA Ltd, Unit 10 Robinson Industrial Estate, Shaftesbury Street, Derby DE23 8NL (Tel: 01332 291348) is Derby’s premier Jaguar independent service centre, using the latest diagnostic technology and offering fixed price menu servicing.

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