Published on Thursday 12 December 2013 17:32
Ten Second Review
Jaguar didn't so much discard the old fuddy-duddy image of the old XJ with its dramatic looking replacement as vapourise it. The new XJ was as bold as Jaguar had been in 40 years and with those looks came all-aluminium construction, a collection of world-beating engines and a beautifully judged interior. Now, with the Sport and max-delimiting Speed packs, the big cat is flexing its sporting muscles to even greater effect.
The XK sports coupe and the XF executive saloon were breakthrough cars for Jaguar. They married all that 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. Through at least five generations of Jaguar's flagship, the styling evolved at an arthritic snail's pace. It reached the point where the last model, one of the most advanced luxury cars on sale at the time of its launch, looked ostensibly the same as the rusting relics that could be picked up for peanuts at any second hand car dealership. Jaguar wasn't communicating its dynamism and relevance, but it is now and, with the Sport pack, exploiting it to the full.
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, while the range-topping supercharged Supersport model gets 510bhp. As with the rest of the XJ range, the Supersport can be ordered with the Sports pack's aesthetic upgrades but it alone gets the option of combining this with the Speed pack, which removes the 155mph speed limiter, allowing the true maximum of 174mph to be reached. But the Sport pack is abound to be popular on the 3.0-litre twin-turbo V6 diesel which yields 271bhp, backed up by 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 JaguarDrive 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.
Design and Build
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.
Does any of this really need the Sport pack's bodykit? It could so easily be OTT but, in the flesh, it looks rather fabulous, comprising, in terms of body add-ons, simply a splitter-style spoiler under the front bumper and a slightly elongated bootlip spoiler. A glossy black mesh finish is applied to the front grille and vents while 20-inch 'Venom' alloy wheels are treated to an extra visual lift with red brake callipers nestling behind the spokes.
Inside carbon trim fillets make a (perhaps predictable) appearance as one of the extra trim colour/finish combos while the optional 'Performance' front seats get meatier bolstering, softgrain leather surfaces and the usual huge range of adjustment. Stainless steel pedals bearing the Jaguar name add the finishing touch.
The cabin is massively impressive, anyway; 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'. On to this, a variety of displays are projected, including virtual fuel, speed, temperature and rev-counter gauges. These can be configured or supplemented by additional information according to taste.
Market and Model
Standard XJ trim and spec 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.
Cost of Ownership
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 normally-aspirated 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 it seems a certainty that other premium car marques have been rattle by the pace and panache the XJ brings to the sector. The Sport and Speed packs won't do anything to assuage their fears. 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.