Big not always better


We have a problem with the Jaguar XJ! We love the comfort. We love the ride. We love the power, the handling and the abundance of features it has to offer.

However, there is something missing.

With its J Lo bum and Junoesque curves, the XJ is, quite simply, too big. The lines and styling follow the stunning work done to create the XF but somehow in the XJ have lost the plot to over inflation – and in so doing have lost the whole Jaguar ethos, the very DNA that is so integral to the British brand.

Let’s go back a decade or so to the previous XJ – one that simply oozed the Jaguar ethos. It may not have been the prettiest car on the road, but it was unmistakeably a Jaguar. Then, along came the S-Type – a plump and soulless car that too exuded none of the Jaguar ethos.

With the XF, Jaguar had returned. Stunning styling coupled to impressive performance from all derivatives and, most importantly, the sense that this was (is) something special, something very Jaguar.

Admittedly, our feelings about the XJ are a lot more subjective than objective in terms of the look and feel and, having made out soapbox point, we will defer to objectivity from here on in.

What is particularly pleasing is Jaguar has elected to offer its cars ‘as is’, meaning the spec is all built-in and the buyer is not assailed by a shop full of options at the time of purchase – and, anyway, it is very difficult to think of a possible option, since nothing has been left out.

From the driver’s seat the most striking feature is the blank dash that spring to life when the car is fired up, speed, revs, temperature and all manner of information digitally displayed either directly in front or on the central colour screen – the entire concept taken from the Range Rover.

Interior highlights of the new XJ include chrome and piano black detailing that provides an eye-catching contrast to the leather and veneer surfaces with the dash layout and wood emulating the famous Riva powerboat look.

The XJ is constructed using Jaguar’s aerospace-inspired aluminium body technology, which makes the XJ lighter than its rivals by at least 150 kilograms. Features such as air suspension, Adaptive Dynamics (continuously variable damping), Active Differential Control and quick ratio power steering, deliver the blend of responsive, dynamic handling and refined, supple ride expected from a Jaguar.

Apart from its power and performance, the all-new Jaguar XJ brings new standards of sustainability to the luxury vehicle segment. The lightweight aluminium structure – with 50 percent recycled material – underpinned by a lifecycle approach to vehicle design and manufacture, enables the new XJ to minimise its carbon footprint. This alone creates a potential saving of three tonnes of CO2 per vehicle, compared to a bodyshell made from aluminium.

Our test car was the 5,0-litre unblown V8 and even in this age of political correctness, there is still nothing more emotive than the chooglin’ boogie of an idling big bore V8 just waiting to be let off the leash – this version offering 283 kW and 515 Nm of torque with top speed limited to 250 km/h.

For business users this is probably the best petrol choice – the potential resale likely to be safer than the supercharged versions where down the line buyers have a concern about the potential failure of an expensive blower.

Mated to all engine variants is a six-speed ZF torque converter transmission with the usual ‘sport’ option and steering wheel paddles for manual override. There is no stick because of the JaguarDrive’s rotary selector.

Unlike most paddle shifters however, this one holds on to selected gears long enough to do what is wanted. Another increasingly common feature is the ability to choose different driving behaviours to suit circumstance and mood. In addition to ‘normal’, Jaguar offers a wet weather mode marked with a snowflake and a dynamic option marked with a chequered flag. This is the fun version.

Dial in ‘S’ on the rotary selector and hold the chequered flag button down for a couple of seconds. The virtual instruments on the electronic panel turn red, the seatbelts tug in a notch tighter and the XJ drops into ‘fight’ mode.

Suspension settings stiffen, throttle and steering responses sharpen and, despite our reservations about the dimensions, it is all Jaguar, doing what Jaguar is meant to do; simply defying any curves thrown at it, majestically conquering mountain passes – in short, owning the road.

Though the fun part of driving the car, it is the more mundane daily trudge through the traffic where it will most be used and here it provides a docile, cocooned environment that does take some of the stress out of heavy traffic motoring. Easy to manouevre thanks to the light-touch power steering it is also easier to squeeze into tight spaces than its bulk would suggest.

Despite its size – and nearly our last comment on that – the rear legroom is less than one might expect. Not uncomfortable, mind, just not quite a dancefloor.

All-in-all it is everything one could want from a premium executive saloon – if only it could shrink by 10 mm or so in the wash.

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