The Jaguar XJ gets mid-life tweaks that don’t turn it into an S-class – but we wouldn’t want it to. Diesel’s still the fuel of choice.

What is it?

A new petrol-powered version of the Jaguar XJ. If Jaguar’s growing success in the global executive car market is to continue, it’ll be thanks in no small part to downsized petrol power. As part of 2013 model year revisions on both its XF middleweight and XJ heavyweight saloons, as well as making the former available as a ‘sportbrake’ estate and adding four-wheel drive to both models, Jaguar has also introduced two new petrol-fuelled engines. 

The smallest, a 237bhp turbocharged 2.0-litre four-pot, won’t be offered in the UK, but is expected to boost Jaguar XF and XJ export volumes to the US and China by a considerable margin. But the other, a 3.0-litre supercharged V6 that should be particularly popular in Russia, America and parts of central Europe, will be available to us Brits.

It’s been added to the XJ range as part of the current car’s first mid-life refresh since its launch in 2009. There have been minor updates to the navigation system, and there’s a new high-end hifi, offered as an option, from Meridian.

But the headline changes consist of the 335bhp V6 engine in place of the old atmospheric 5.0-litre V8, the addition of ZF’s eight-speed automatic gearbox to every engine in place of the old six-speeder, and a slight reappraisal of the chassis’ spring and damper rates intended to produce a slightly more quiet and cosseting secondary ride.

What's it like?

Time has been kind to the XJ – but more in some ways than others. The last three years certainly haven’t brought a better-looking limousine to market. To these eyes, Ian Callum’s elegantly sporting giant continues to shine at least twice as brightly as any other large exec, having set the bar on aesthetic appeal almost unreachably high for the relatively conservative German opposition. Perhaps that’s why the car’s exterior design has survived its first facelift entirely unchanged.

It’s a shame that Gaydon’s interior design department wasn’t employed to bring some of the XJ’s cabin materials up to a slightly more rarified level. There’s nothing wrong with the look of the car’s leathers, veneers, trims and controls; quite the opposite, in fact. When you slide onboard, the bright and lustrous mix of chrome trims, knobs and vents you’re faced with creates a very warm and special ambiance. But when you begin to touch some of those trims and prod some of the minor switchgear, it’s a plasticky, slightly mass-market impression you get; not the cool, tactile metallic substance of an Audi A8 or Mercedes S-class. Still, the new hifi system is as powerful and clear as almost any we’ve heard recently. And Russian compatibility has been added to the XJ’s voice recognition system - which tells you everything you need to know about where in the world JLR is now looking for further success.

Why retune the chassis? Apparently, it wasn’t in response to feedback from customers, or criticism from the press about the XJ’s lack of rolling refinement - although there’s been plenty. According to Chief Program Engineer Andy Dobson, it’s was simply a process that they would naturally go through following any change to the engine and transmission lineup. “But it has given us the opportunity to improve the ride a little, which was something we were keen to do,” he says. Enough said. Spring and dampers rates are now lower, though they vary depending on engine and wheel specification.

Back to top

But the concurrent improvement is small – and our test car, a Portfolio-spec long-wheelbase example with low-profile 20in wheels, wasn’t ideal to demonstrate it. At low speed, on broken and uneven urban roads, it inspired the same criticisms we made of the XJ in 2009: that it simply doesn’t isolate its occupants from lumps and bumps smoothly enough to be considered particularly luxurious. Although they don’t crash through into the cabin and there’s little harshness to their impacts, even fairly small ridges can disturb the comfort of occupants, and the general calm of the cabin.

Out of town, at higher speeds, you can feel more of a difference. On the motorway, there’s more compliance in the chassis – enough to cope with expansion joints with less fuss. And on British B-roads, there’s just more ‘give’ in the suspension. The XJ now wafts and ‘breathes’ with the road surface that little bit more - Jaguar’s traditional dynamic mode – without ever really running out of vertical body control or beginning to roll or pitch. And when you want that little bit more control, Dynamic Mode on the adaptive dampers instantly delivers it.

Light, precise and informative steering, and that accommodating but still sporting ride, make the Jaguar a much more involving and talented driver’s car than the full-sized executive norm. It’s brilliant at covering ground at brisk but unhurried pace, and its capacity for effortless, flattering accuracy is unmatched.

Owner-drivers will continue to love the XJ then, while passengers may be a little unconvinced: situation normal. And what of the engine – the supercharged six-pot that will go on to power Jaguar’s 2013 F-type sports car? 

It’s flexible and characterful, powerful and sweet-sounding. Paired with the XJ’s torque converter auto, its power delivery seemed slightly lumpy at times, but its responses are sure to be cleaner when working in tandem with the dual-clutch gearbox of the F-type. Refinement’s good under small throttle loads; not-so-good at high revs, where the engine begins to feel a little strained - but that could be different in the case of its F-type state of tune. Economy’s good too: expect to better 30mpg on a quiet run.

Back to top

Should I buy one?

On balance, we’d still opt for the 3.0-litre V6 diesel in the XJ, as nine out of ten UK owners will. The diesel’s combination of mid-range torque, equally impressive refinement at most speeds, and of 40mpg economy just makes more sense in a car like this. 

But the more important news is two-fold: firstly, that the XJ’s handling remains as wonderful and distinguishing as it has been for the last three years – something likely to keep it at the top of our limousine road test rankings for a while yet. And secondly, that one very early sign suggests that the F-type could be another of Gaydon’s sporting greats.

Jaguar XJ 3.0 SC  Portfolio LWB

Price £75,815; 0-62mph 5.9sec; Top speed 155mph (limited); Economy 30.0mpg; CO2 224g/km; Kerb weight tbc; Engine V6, 2995cc, supercharged petrol; Power 335bhp at 6500rpm; Torque 332lb ft at 3500-5000rpm; Gearbox 8-spd automatic


Matt Saunders

Matt Saunders Autocar
Title: Road test editor

As Autocar’s chief car tester and reviewer, it’s Matt’s job to ensure the quality, objectivity, relevance and rigour of the entirety of Autocar’s reviews output, as well contributing a great many detailed road tests, group tests and drive reviews himself.

Matt has been an Autocar staffer since the autumn of 2003, and has been lucky enough to work alongside some of the magazine’s best-known writers and contributors over that time. He served as staff writer, features editor, assistant editor and digital editor, before joining the road test desk in 2011.

Since then he’s driven, measured, lap-timed, figured, and reported on cars as varied as the Bugatti Veyron, Rolls-Royce PhantomTesla RoadsterAriel Hipercar, Tata Nano, McLaren SennaRenault Twizy and Toyota Mirai. Among his wider personal highlights of the job have been covering Sebastien Loeb’s record-breaking run at Pikes Peak in 2013; doing 190mph on derestricted German autobahn in a Brabus Rocket; and driving McLaren’s legendary ‘XP5’ F1 prototype. His own car is a trusty Mazda CX-5.

Join the debate

Add a comment…
Llandudnoboy 3 November 2012

The jaguar XJ - A Gentlemans carriage in everyway

Having been used to the creature comforts of a rather nice vaupour Grey Jaguar XF 2.7 D for the past year i thought it would be rather nice to atleast have a test drive of the sublime XJ.

Ive sat in quite a few expensive cars and very few of them conjour up value for money, would i gladly pay the best part of £61,000 to own a Jaguar XJ 3L diesel premium Luxury.

I could clearly see the nice XF touches of periscope style gear change and a familiar in use Sat/Nav but nothing prepares you for the step up in luxury from an XF to a XJ.

When i returned to my XF parked in the dealership fourcourt it felt hugely disappointing to drive home in my once pride and joy once i had experienced the oppulence of a XJ.

I bought my lovely grey XF secondhand with just 4000miles on the clock and thought buying new was unwise due to the initial loss in value you associate with new vehicles but this Thursday (9Nov 2012) i am about to take ownership of a brandnew 2013 model XJ 3.0D premium Luxury in Caviar metalic.

I paid £19,000 for my car just 18months ago and because the dealership want to register a certain number of new vehicles for November they have offered me an amazing £27,000 trade in for my car against a new XJ.

I thought this was an offer that would not come around again so have managed somehow to scrape together the £34,000 to change my car for a new one.

They have even thrown in the chromed mirror covers, load liner and mudflaps to make the deal that more sweet.

How many cars have you purchased over the years that are worth £8000 more than you paid for it after 18months careful ownership.

£34,000 is still a lot of money but atleast i have cancelled the depreciation of my new car and have the new 8speed automatic box to play with.

Bialbero 25 August 2012

Curate's Egg design

I like the stance of the car - the way it appears (to me) to be crouching, but details let it down. The disparity of neighbouring volumes in the nose make it mole-like. Squinting and with a too large and upright grille.

As mentioned by other contributors, the use of privacy glass is ugly and serves to make the car, in profile, heavier at the rear than the front. It's also an American affectation. Let the yanks fit what they want, it has no place on our roads.  Blacked out C pillars combine to add weight where lightness is needed.

The rear reminds me of the frog-faced Ford Scorpio's from years back. Heavy, blank and under detailed.

I'm not surprised it sells well in the US, China and Russia - it could have been designed in any of the three.

Sorry Callum, it just doesn't do it for me.



jer 25 August 2012


A shame that there are not more of these aluminium wonders around. I like it, its challengng and has not dated, its much more than the opposition who seem to have given up on style at least for their limos.  I don't think there are many cars that ride well on 20" wheel S Class included. I know it is a Ford engine but I'd of liked to see the 2.0t in the XF.