The Jaguar XJ
fights in an ultra-competitive class, having to balance several competing demands; it has to be beautiful, restrained, dignified – and be good to both drive, and be driven, in. Its a tough gig and one that the Audi A8
, BMW 7 Series
, and Mercedes-Benz S-Class
all excel at.
It does it very well though, gaining a nigh on perfect carwow score of 9/10, which places it above even the (albeit outgoing model) Mercedes. We snaffled a long wheelbase XJ from the Jaguar Press Fleet for a week to see if it lives up to its star billing.
The XJ looks utterly sublime. Its elegant, well proportioned, lithe, muscular, and beautifully detailed. Others might be more restrained, or even have more presence, but this is the executive express that ten-year-old boys have on their bedroom wall.
Our long wheelbase model gains all of its extra length in its rear doors. If this upsets the side profile just a soupon, then its worth it because the rear legroom is vast.
The interior is even better than the exterior providing almost Bentley-esque levels of luxury, fit, and finish. Gorgeously tactile features include the clock, the air vents, the knurled rotary gear knob, flip-down rear mirrors, and carbon fibre Jaguar badge. It isnt minimal (indeed, it could almost be called Baroque in places) but it is an interior to love as well as admire.
The driving position is perfect thanks to a snug (but never tight) drivers cockpit. The 18-way (yep, count em, 18!) adjustable drivers seat is comfortable and supportive and if you cant get comfortable you have only yourself to blame.
But it is the rear seats that impress the most. No matter how tall the driver is, legroom in the back is huge. I ferried friends around and they all commented on the amount and quality of space that is available.
It isnt just the legroom, either; with individual heating controls that include cooled seats and amazing ambient lighting, few will find anything to moan about. (The only omission we noticed is the lack of a Mother-in-Law handle above each door on the inside to help older passengers haul themselves up and out. One old dear, of whom Im very fond, couldnt believe that there werent any. She might have a point.)
The XJ is a car of two parts. If you just want to waft around with people in the back it is smooth, refined, and almost silent. The ride is definitely on the firm side of acceptable but the pay-off is inch-perfect handling and anyway, it wasnt firm enough for any of my passengers to comment on.
Select Dynamic, though, and everything tightens up nicely and the XJ comes alive. If you use the Sport setting on the gearbox too the diesel engine almost snarls its way round the rev counter and does a very creditable impression of a sports saloon. Yet while it might feel much nicer to drive along fast A-roads it does start to feel oddly at variance with your perception of how a big Jag should feel. I resorted to leaving everything standard and didnt miss those hard edges one bit. An XJ is, and should be, a soothing car to drive fast and you can drive it very fast indeed, even with a 3.0-litre diesel engine under the bonnet.
It isnt perfect. You are always conscious of that extra length (the XJ in long wheelbase form is 5.2 metres long, almost as long as last weeks Isuzu D-Max) and the low-slung driving position, which works so well on the open road, means that it is hard to judge where the corners are. As a result, you come to rely on the parking sensors and rear-view camera. Small car parks and tight country lanes are, as a result, fraught with dangers and the poor turning circle doesnt help and means you often have to take a second bite at tight-ish turns.
The 3.0-litre diesel engine is good enough to make you wonder why anyone buys anything else. It is obviously oil-fired at idle, especially from outside, but it smooths out and quietens nicely, sounding more like a big petrol engine that one of Rudolph Diesels.
Its powerful, too. On busy A-road overtakes I was regularly biting off at least one more car than I was expecting, and often more. For that you can thank the 442lb/ft of torque thats available all the way from 2,000 to 4,000 rpm. The eight-speed automatic gearbox generally does a fine job of selecting the right ratio when you need instant power too but the bloody-minded have the option of using the flappy paddles to stoke their insecurity. Either way the mid-range urge is devastating.
Hard acceleration from rest will see you hit 60mph in 6.0 seconds but few will drive the XJ like that and if you do youll never see the 47.0mpg that Jaguar claims is available. I saw just under 30mpg but the majority of my miles were low-speed city work with long periods of idling. Id expect most owners to see 40mpg, which is really very, very good for such a big, powerful car.
Value for Money
My XJ L Portfolio costs 70,260 and comes with a generous level of standard equipment: adaptive lighting; parking aids; rain sensing wipers; heated windscreen and mirrors; heated and cooled seats front and back; panoramic sunroof; 825W Meridian stereo; Sat-nav; and power boot. It is, in fact, stacked.
The Audi A8, BMW 7 Series, and Mercedes S-Class are all super-competent cars. Buy any one of them and the world will be a more civilised, quieter, and generally nicer place to be. They are efficient, comfortable, and super-reliable… but I doubt that you would fall in love with any of them.
Your accountant might approve of the German option but youll fall in love with the car made in Dear Old Blighty. The XJ is the only one of the bunch that you will look back at after youve parked it. Its the only one that youll sit inside in the garage to enjoy that stunning interior. Its also the only one that complete strangers will approach you to talk bout.
Its the only one you would buy with your heart, as well as your head. And that, as they say, is priceless.
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For more check out our Jaguar XJ page with a full summary, reviews, stats, photos and videos.