Jaguar XJ review
Brilliant drive and great styling; Jaguar XJ only really falls down on rear space and ride
The Jaguar XJ is a stylish luxury saloon that’s full of character. Previously considered the more conservative model of its class, the XJ has since shaken off its stuffy reputation. The stiff upper lip has been replaced with a dramatic shape, a bold grille and a distinctive sweeping profile. And it doesn’t just look good: no other car in the class is as involving to drive. The speed of the Jaguar XJ, combined with the low driving position and the wrap-around cockpit give you the impression you’re in a sports car, until you look behind and see how much space there is.
The Jaguar XJ comes with a choice of three models: a pair of V6s - the 3.0-litre supercharged petrol engine and 3.0-litre turbo diesel, plus the supercharged V8 petrol used in the Supersport and range topping XJR. All models use an eight-speed automatic gearbox.
Our choice: XJ 3.0 Diesel Luxury
It might not please everyone, but the Jaguar XJ is a fantastic departure from the traditional look of old. The front end, with its slim lights and imposing grille, looks the business and the sweeping profile is gorgeous. The XJ looks like nothing else on the road; it makes the Audi A8, BMW 7 Series and Mercedes S-Class look sterile and as glamorous as catching the bus.
The racy XJR benefits from 20-inch wheels, wider side sills, bonnet vents and a menacing set of quad exhausts. Subtle 'R' badges also adorn the grille and the bumper. It's only the Jaguar XJ’s slightly curious blacked-out C-pillars and fussy tail-light that let down an otherwise stylish luxury saloon.
The handcrafted Jaguar XJ interior mixes traditional woods and leathers with the latest technology – and it mostly works. Some may think the digital dashboard – borrowed from the Range Rover - is a bit gimmicky, but we like the way it moves the rev counter to the centre in Sport mode. We also like the central touchscreen control display as well, even if it can be a bit fiddly.
Rear visibility is not as good as some rivals though and while most of the interior feels well made, some of the switchgear feels flimsy and dated, particularly the audio controls mounted on the large deep-dish steering wheel.
Simply put, there's no better large luxury car to drive than the Jaguar XJ. It's made from lightweight aluminium so it feels agile on the move, turning into corners swiftly and, thanks to adaptive dampers, staying taut and adjustable even when cornering hard. The steering is light but very precise too; it all adds up to create a car that shrinks around you in a way that rivals don’t. However, the pay-off can be a jittery ride over poor surfaces and the rear visibility is poor because of the tiny rear window.
As for engines, if you can afford it, the new 335bhp 3.0-litre supercharged V6 is rapid and makes a great noise. The 542bhp supercharged V8 in the XJR is supercar-fast and an opulent guilty pleasure that benefits from 30 per cent stiffer spring rates and optimised adaptive damping. However, for most UK buyers, the 275bhp 3.0-litre V6 diesel is the pick of the bunch, as it does 0-60mph in 5.9 seconds, 155mph all-out and sounds super smooth. Together with hushed road noise, it dispenses with long distances with ease.
With a host of eight airbags, traction and stability control, a pop-up bonnet to protect pedestrians and the latest security features, the XJ is about as safe as cars get. The eight-speed automatic gearbox is tried and tested in both the XF and the current Range Rover – and Jaguar dealers were ranked 5th in the Auto Express Driver Power 2013 survey – so the Jaguar XJ should be trouble free. The only worry would be with some of the electrical systems, which can play up in Range Rovers, and a large proportion of the technology is shared.
The driver and passenger get plenty of room up front, and plenty of adjustability in the seating position too. The long wheelbase gives plenty of legroom but, despite the fact you sit quite low, there's not much headroom for anyone over six foot thanks to the sloping roofline.
Still, there are individual climate controls and lots of leather and wood to enjoy while you're sat there. There’s a dual-view TV screen that lets the passenger watch a movie without disturbing the driver, plus the TV screens in the will back keep the rest of the passengers entertained on long journeys.
No large luxury car is cheap to run - it’s a case of minimising your costs and the best way to do that is with the V6 diesel. The standard stop/start system returns 47mpg and emits 159g/km of CO2. You’ll need to budget quite a bit for servicing and consumables such as tyres, though. Especially with the extreme XJR models, as they combine low twenties mpg figures with sky-high CO2 emissions and a price tag that is close to six figures.
With even the cheapest diesel model starting from around £55,000, depreciation is fierce and gets worse the higher up the range you go. A Mercedes S-Class is likely to hold on to more of its value. Material quality is first class, and detailing exquisite - just check out those huge metal air vents on the fascia. Equipment is generous, with leather-trimmed, electrically adjustable front seats, dual-zone climate control and twin glass sunroofs all as standard. Options include a powerful Meridian stereo, massage seats and a rear-seat multimedia package with eight-inch LCD screens and wireless headphones. The range-topping XJR comes with plenty of kit, but will deliver the biggest fuel bills.
Jaguar XJ running costs could come down in the future with the development of a plug-in hybrid for the RAC Future Car Challenge last year. Powered by a 2.0-litre turbocharged engine coupled to a 69kW electric motor and a 12.3kWh lithium-ion battery, the hybrid XJ can return 73.5mpg and just 75g/km in CO2 emissions.