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.