Jaguar XJ review
Brilliant drive and great styling; Jaguar XJ only really falls down on rear space and ride
The latest Jaguar XJ does what we all wanted it to... look forward. It gets a dramatic shape with a bold grille and a distinctive sweeping profile, while no other car in the class is as involving to drive. The Mercedes S-Class is a better all-rounder though as the XJ's sharp handling comes at the expense of some comfort; rear seat room is better in the S-Class and Audi A8, too. There are three engines to choose from, and it also comes in standard and extended long wheelbase forms. A significant facelift in 2012 introduced a new 3.0-litre supercharged petrol engine plus a standard eight-speed automatic gearbox across the range and also saw the introduction of a range-topping 'Ultimate' model too.
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. That 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, and makes the Audi A8, BMW 7 Series and Mercedes S-Class look sterile. So it's a shame the rear end, with its curious blacked-out C-pillars and fussy tail-lights is so at odds with the rest of the design. Inside, the Jaguar XJ 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 XJ short of the BMW 7 Series. It's made from lightweight aluminium, so it feels agile on the move, turning into corners swiftly and, thanks to adpative 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 a Mercedes S-Class simply doesn't. However, the pay-off can be a jittery ride over poor surfaces which is why the lastest version has been retuned for a softer ride. As for engines, if you can afford it, the new 335bhp 3.0-litre supercharged V6 is rapid and makes a great noise, while the 503bhp supercharged V8 is supercar fast through all eight of its gears. However, 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, although a Mercedes S-Class and Audi A8 are even better in this area.
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. It should be pretty reliable too – although with the smaller XF executive saloon rated 47th for reliability in the Auto Express Driver Power 2010 Top 100 survey, owners will hope the flagship Jaguar is less likely to need to visit a dealer outside regular service intervals. The new eight-speed automatic gearbox is tried and tested in both the XF and the current Range Rover though - so should be trouble free.
There's loads of room for driver and passenger up front, and plenty of adjustability in the seating position too. It's not such a happy story in the back though. Despite the fact you sit quite low, there's not much headroom for anyone over six foot because of that sloping roofline. Still, there are individual climate controls and lots of leather and wood to enjoy while you're sat there. Long wheelbase versions get an extra 125mm of legroom to stretch out in, although not more headroom, while the boot is vast at 520-litres - bigger than the Audi A8.
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, which returns 47mpg and emits 159g/km of CO2 thanks to its standard stop/start system. Budget quite a bit for servicing and consumables such as tyres, though. 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 facia. 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 whitefire headphones. The Ulitmate model adds bespoke trims and a champagne cooler.