longer wheelbase version sits flatter than standard car
Smooth, quiet and relatively soft-riding - a classic Jaguar
Three levels of chassis stability control - as on XKR
Not an “airport” car but a spacious, serious high-performance car for drivers
You can drive this car very, very fast without ever straying over 3500rpm
The new Jaguar XJ oozes style down to the last detail
No shortage of practicality in the boot
Is this car the finest luxury vehicle on sale now?
All the hallmarks of quality are here
Styling is a little controversial - but triumphantly so
'Virtual' dials and readouts only
New instrumentation is a success
Cabin has a pervading air of quality
Long wheelbase version adds about £3k
Perfectly weighted and uncorrupted steering
Interior is perhaps the XJ's greatest triumph
First DriveFlagship Jaguar gets a much-needed media system upgrade and cosmetic tweaks to boost its appeal, but a few issues detract from the experience
First DriveJaguar's first all-wheel drive XJ is impressive - but not on sale in the UK
What is it?
This may be the most significant Jaguar in 42 years – except that we’ve become rather too used to epoch-making Jags. The XK of 2006 was first to find a post-Lyons style and make an issue of the aluminium lightweight construction. The XF of 2008 was first to show that Jaguar’s new-age saloons could preserve ‘sporting luxury car’ values.
Still, the new XJ has an extra significance. It remains the essential Jaguar, the reinvention of a car whose own revolutionary styling, performance and sheer, modernity first stood Mercedes, Rolls and the rest on their ear.
Work on the new XJ began several generations ago. Under its skin, the new model is closely related to the outgoing model, rethought in 2003 with an all-new aluminium body that carved 200kg off the typical weight of a luxury saloon in the process. To that car Jaguar engineers added a modern all-independent suspension they had been developing since the later days of the S-type.
Then came Ian Callum and his Jaguar design team, who produced this new-generation XJ shape that manages to inject much-needed controversy into XJ styling while referring clearly to the members of its new family. It comes in two lengths (5122mm or 5247mm) that go naturally against the biggest cars from Audi, BMW, Mercedes and Lexus.
In the UK, where prices start at £53,775 (and the difference between short and long-wheelbase variants is £3000), there are three trim levels – Luxury, Premium Luxury and Portfolio – and three engine choices, a 271bhp turbodiesel V6, a 380bhp normally aspirated 5.0-litre petrol V8 and a 503bhp supercharged V8.
A 464bhp supercharged V8 is offered in the rest of the world, but not the UK; power lovers here will opt for the £87,445 range-topping 503bhp Supersport version that gets its own sporting trim and badgework, plus an active limited-slip differential. Perhaps the XJ’s greatest feature – which every model gets – is a remarkable interior with rich brightwork, new instrumentation and a pervading air of quality.
What's it like?
Our test car, a £64,275 long-wheelbase Portfolio diesel, felt instantly as Jaguars have always done: smooth, quiet and relatively soft-riding. But in recent times the company has made an issue of replacing very low-rate limousine bounce with relatively firm body control plus accurate, perfectly weighted and uncorrupted steering. The refinement stays, but the uncontrolled softness is gone.
This, if you like, is the XJ’s lesson one. It is no longer an “airport” car but a spacious, serious high-performance car for drivers. You can closely relate driving it to the experience behind the wheel of an XF or XK. It has been honed for greater refinement, and the longer wheelbase makes it sit flatter than the others but the same alertness is there, along with the same three-level driver control system (snow, comfort or dynamic), and the same quick-reacting paddle-shift system that can give you manual-like control of the conventional six-speed ZF automatic gearbox.
Also present are the same three levels of chassis stability control: conventional ESP, a track setting and an ‘everything off’ setting that will still intervene if everything goes wrong. It’s all just the same as in your XKR.
The steering is naturally light (a little heavier in Dynamic) but it resists loading up in corners. Its path-following is brilliant, it hardly understeers and never oversteers, except in the streaming wet or on ice. Choose an amount of lock for a long corner and you’ll find you’re usually right. Very small adjustments are all that’s required. Towards the limit it’ll throttle-steer neatly, especially if you’re using the paddles to enhance engine braking.
The newly upgraded 3.0-litre turbodiesel gets much more power (271bhp at 4000rpm) but the figure that matters is its 442lb ft of torque at just 2000rpm. It betters all V8s bar the Supersports, which is about 20lb ft stronger. The 3.0D is strong but subtle, with near-instant shove courtesy of its twin sequential turbos. The result is prodigious power, plus long legs. You can drive this car very, very fast without ever straying over 3500rpm. The 0-60mph sprint takes just 6.0sec, the top speed is limited at 155mph, but the real gauge of performance is how the car accelerates from 70mph to 100mph; it’s quiet and swift enough to undermine the case for buying any of the V8s, especially since the combined fuel consumption of 40mpg promises an easy range of 650 miles.
Should I buy one?
Hard to imagine why not. On first driving acquaintance, the XJ looks a triumph for Jaguar. Its siblings have been pleasing customers for several years. The XJ’s styling and magnificent interior provide a fine platform for driving characteristics so special that they may just take a British luxury car right back to the top of the market.