What is it?
It’s an updated version of Jaguar’s long-standing XJ, the revisions to which are aimed at maintaining the luxury saloon’s appeal alongside newer rivals.
This generation of luxury four-door XJ, codenamed X351, was first launched in 2009. Since then it’s only been lightly revised, receiving minor cosmetic and technical tweaks in 2014, and that has left it languishing behind more modern alternatives.
After all, 2013 marked the launch of the all-new Mercedes-Benz S-Class, Audi revealed its heavily revamped A8 in 2014, and new competition arrived this year in the form of the sixth-gen BMW 7 Series. Then you’ve the likes of the continually evolving and advanced Tesla Model S, providing a desirable electric luxury alternative to the mainstream internal combustion-engined models.
So in order to keep the XJ in contention, Jaguar has carried out a range of upgrades. Externally, the XJ's design has been refreshed with a larger, more upright grille, LED headlights and new daytime running lights.
Inside, key upgrades include a new and reputedly far better ‘InControl Touch Pro’ media system, while the 12.3in driver’s display can now show full-screen navigation, just like Audi’s Virtual Cockpit. A range of new safety features is also fitted, including adaptive cruise control with queue assist and a 360-degree camera system.
One other prominent technical revision is the adoption of electric power steering assistance, in order to improve efficiency and enable more advanced safety systems. It’s only claimed to reduce fuel consumption by up to three percent compared to the hydraulic rack, but every little counts these days.
The system is claimed to respond faster and deliver more feedback than the outgoing hydraulic rack, too. Bold claims, but we’ve been impressed with the same set-up in the F-Type and XE.
Jaguar has also boosted the output of its twin-turbocharged 3.0-litre V6 diesel. Previously the V6 produced 271bhp and 443lb ft. Now, thanks to upgraded injectors and more efficient turbochargers, it outputs 296bhp and 516lb ft – hikes of 25bhp and 73lb ft respectively.
The 0-60mph time has dropped from 6.0sec to 5.9sec as a result. Emissions have also fallen, from 159g/km of CO2 to 149g/km, while fuel consumption has decreased from 44.8mpg to 48.0mpg.
This flagship long-wheelbase Autobiography version, a new addition to the XJ range, comes with plenty of kit. Standard equipment includes quad-zone climate, heated and cooled seats all round, a 1300W Meridian sound system, sat-nav, DAB, digital TV and massaging rear seats. It also gets benefits from some smart interior upgrades, including a leather headliner, oak veneer inlays and stainless steel trims.
What's it like?
A pleasure to drive. Have no fear, the fitment of electromechanical power assistance to the steering rack has done nothing to dent the XJ’s fine handling. Even in Comfort mode there’s a slick, precise and well-weighted action to the steering, with more than enough feedback and additional heft in faster, sharper corners. The Jaguar never feels as heavy as the figures suggest, either, with a poise and agility that belies its kerb weight.
In Dynamic setting the steering firms up further, which adds a bit more reassurance to the XJ's front end. There’s plenty of front-end grip either way, and it’s easy to judge the car’s responses. The brakes deliver plenty of stopping power and don’t snatch, but there’s a definitive bite towards the top of the pedal that allows for confident and quick bleeding off of speed.
The twin-turbocharged V6 diesel is a fairly refined affair, with only a little audible rattling under full-throttle acceleration and at higher speeds. Otherwise it’s mute, producing a distant and deep burble under part-throttle acceleration.
Despite having nigh-on two tonnes of XJ to propel, acceleration is swift. There’s plenty of mid-range punch, too, so you’re not obligated to drop several gears for prompt acceleration at higher speeds.
It’s only around town that the diesel disappoints a little; in drive, sitting on the brakes, there’s some vibration through the controls and the engine is quite noisy - a point emphasised by the stop-start system, which causes a noticeable calm to descend, albeit with a bit of a lurch.
As is the case with most JLR products, response from a stop isn’t great, either. Step on the pedal from rest and there’s a moment’s pause while numbers are crunched and pressures build, then the Jaguar surges forward.
The eight-speed automatic is otherwise impressive, unobtrusively rifling between the well-spaced ratios. Prompt shifts can be commanded via precise wheel-mounted paddles, and it’s rare to find the gearbox flustered by your actions. Traction is no issue, either, further making the Jaguar easy to drive. At 70mph the engine is only turning 1400rpm in top, so it’s a quiet and relaxed affair when cruising.
What’s not so impressive is the ride, at least in this example with 20in wheels fitted. In Comfort mode the Jaguar feels soft, although it doesn’t roll excessively, but little bumps, cracks and divots in the road are continually transmitted into the cabin. Hit a sharper bump or crack in the road and you’ll get a pronounced jolt and some shudder through the cabin. So, unless you're on a truly smooth road, it generally feels a bit busy.
Rougher surfaces prove similarly unsettling. It’s not terrible by any stretch, even in the back, but it’s not the magic carpet you might hope it to be. There’s a fair bit of tyre noise from the front end and some wind noise from the front pillars also intrudes.
During our short test, which took into account some relaxed motorway, town and cross-country driving, the Jaguar returned 29.7mpg. That’s some way off it’s claimed figure but no doubt it would be higher following a longer, more easy-going trip. Fortunately, the Jaguar has a 16.9-gallon fuel tank. Consequently, it's granted a decent range, upwards of 500 miles, even at that rate of consumption.
Inside, behind the wheel, you’ll find yourself in a supportive, if overly firm-feeling seat. The steering column adjusts electrically for rise and reach, which in conjunction with a wide range of seat adjustments makes it easy to find a good driving position.
Visibility out of the cabin isn’t exceptional, but it’s not difficult to position the Jaguar on the road, thanks in part to its precise responses. Parking is no chore either, as a new 360-degree camera makes it easy to spot obstacles.
The digital instrument cluster is as clear and informative as it was previously, and the new ability to show full-screen navigation is a pleasing touch. The system isn't as good looking or as slick as Audi's equivalent, but it's certainly a step in the right direction.
The other key interior update is the addition of Jaguar’s InControl Touch Pro infotainment system. It offers tablet-like functionality, with various apps, and is much more responsive and useful than before.
The rear of the XJ, which may be a more pertinent consideration for some buyers, isn’t as spacious-feeling as it perhaps needs to be. While there’s plenty of leg and knee room, and lots of storage points and creature comforts, head room isn’t plentiful.
Passengers up to six feet tall will only just brush the roof liner, but the upright seating, narrow rear windows and inwards-curving roof pillars generate a somewhat cramped feel.
It’s smartly finished in the back, though, and few would otherwise find major fault with it. Massaging, ventilated seats, rear dual-zone climate and integrated rear displays provide plenty of distraction otherwise. The boot's big, too, and you get a space-saver spare wheel as standard.
Should I buy one?
Whether you should buy a Jaguar XJ or not depends on your priorities. If you’re looking for a large luxury saloon that’s engaging and rewarding to drive, then the XJ has much of merit to offer. In that instance, however, one of the lighter, less costly short-wheelbase versions would be more easily recommended.
Jaguar’s efforts to update the XJ have not been in vain, either way, with the new equipment and features bringing it closer to what’s offered by newer rivals and helping to make it more competitive.
If you want a car that’s relaxing and cosseting, however, there are better options – such as the five-star Mercedes-Benz S-Class. Spend a lesser £67,995 on an S350d SE Line L version and it won't be as fast, involving or as well-equipped as the Jaguar as standard, but it will certainly feel the more modern, comfortable and upmarket option.
2015 Jaguar XJ Autobiography LWB 3.0 V6 300 Diesel
Location Coventry; On sale Now; Price £79,600; Engine V6, 2993cc, twin-turbocharged, diesel; Power 296bhp at 4000rpm; Torque 516lb ft at 2000rpm; Kerb weight 1860kg; Gearbox 8-spd automatic; 0-60mph 5.9sec; Top speed 155mph (limited); Economy 48.0mpg (combined); CO2/tax band 155g/km, 29%