Jaguar XJ review
With elegant looks and effortless handling, the Jaguar XJ is a superb luxury alternative to its more traditional German rivals
The old Jaguar XJ was considered one of the most conservative looking luxury cars, but the latest XJ has shaken off the Gentleman's Club image thanks to its classy looks and superb driving experience.
The speed of the Jaguar XJ, combined with its low driving position and wrap-around cockpit, make it the best handling car in its class and create the impression you're driving a sports car, until you look behind and see how much space there is.
However, the nimble handling of the Jaguar comes as a result of the sacrifice of some comfort: even in the long wheelbase models rear headroom is not as good as that found in the Mercedes or Audi.
The XJ is one of Jaguar's most important cars ever. It stretches back to 1968 with the launch of the six-cylinder XJ6 and over the years the most significant changes to range were the introduction of V8 and V12 petrol engines and more recently V6 diesels – the styling never really altered.
But that all changed in 2009 with the current car. Gone was the XJ's traditional looks and leather and walnut combo interior and in came a swooping design with a cool new interior. It did wonders to Jaguar's image and has paved the way for Jaguar's current revivial with new models like the F-Type sports car and the XE compact sports saloon.
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The car received a mid-life facelift in 2015 with subtle design tweaks comprising of a larger, more upright grille, twin 'J-blade' LED day-running lights and at the rear the light clusters have a similar 'J-blade' LED graphic and a new bumper with twin oval exahust pipes.
The facelift brought in a trim level shake up with two new versions. The entry to the range continues to be 'Luxury' followed by 'Premium Luxury' but now there's racy 'R-Sport' which slots in the range before 'Portfolio'. Topping the range is the new super-posh 'Autobiography' – a name normally associated with the most expensive Range Rovers.
For those wanting more performance, there's also the fearsome Jaguar XJR short wheelbase, which is propelled by the same supercharged 5.0-litre V8 as in the Autobiography but with more power. It goes up against rivals like the Mercedes-AMG S63 and Audi S8.
The 2015 facelift also brought in new electric power steering, a raft of new safety kit and a far more intuitive touchscreen infotainment system called InControl Touch Pro and a new configurable 12.3-inch TFT instrument cluster.
Engines, performance and drive
There's no luxury car that handles quite like the Jaguar XJ. Like the Audi A8, it's made from lightweight aluminium so it feels nimble on the move, turns into corners swiftly and thanks to adaptive dampers, stays taut and adjustable even when cornering hard.
The steering on the Jaguar XJ is light and precise, and it all adds up to create a car that seems to shrink around you in a way its rivals can'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. If you can afford it, the 335bhp 3.0-litre supercharged V6 fitted to the Jaguar XJ is rapid and makes a great noise.
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The 542bhp supercharged V8 in the XJR yields supercar-performance and makes the flagship an opulent guilty pleasure. XJR models also benefit from 30 per cent stiffer spring rates and optimised adaptive damping.
However, for most Jaguar XJ buyers in the UK, the 296bhp 3.0-litre V6 diesel is the pick of the bunch. It does 0-60mph in 5.9 seconds, and does 155mph all-out while sounding super smooth. Together with hushed road noise, it dispenses with long distances with ease.
MPG, CO2 and running costs
Being a large luxury car, the Jaguar XJ is far from easy on the bank account, so it's a case of keeping costs managble and the best way to do this is with the V6 diesel. The standard stop/start system helps it return a claimed 49.6mpg on a combined cycle, plus CO2 levels of 149g/km. However, while 49.6mpg looks good on paper, in the real world a combined fuel consumption of 30-35mpg is more likely.
At the other end of the scale the extreme Jaguar XJR models do a claimed 25.5mpg along with 264g/km of CO2.
Material quality in the XJ is first class, and the detailing is exquisite – just check out those huge metal air vents on the fascia. The equipment levels inside the Jaguar XJ is generous, with leather-trimmed, electrically adjustable front seats, dual-zone climate control and twin glass sunroofs all as standard.
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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 Jaguar XJR comes with plenty of kit, but will deliver the biggest fuel bills.
The XJ sits in just one insurance group band – 50 – regardless of engine size or trim level. It's broadly the same as its rivals like the Mercedes S-Class.
Unfortunately, while the XJ is desirable when new, it's a slightly different story on the used market. Our experts have calculated the XJ holds onto between 36 and 43 per cent of its value after three years/36,000 miles. To put that into context the Mercedes S-Class is a little better with our experts calculating the big Merc holds onto between 36 and 46 per cent.
Interior, design and technology
With this car Jaguar ditched the old classic styling of the XJ that had changed little since the 1970s. While it may not please traditionalists, we think the new Jaguar XJ is a great move away from the old design; the front end, with its slim lights and imposing grille, looks the business while the sweeping profile is gorgeous.
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 racy Jaguar 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. 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. For 2015-facelift models, the screen can also become a full-width sat-nav much like Audi's Virtual Cockpit; unfortunately it's not as detailed as the Audi's and can look a little Fisher Price at times, but overall it's a good addition.
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Rear visibility in the Jaguar XJ is not as good as some rivals though and while most of the interior feels well made, some of the switchgear is flimsy and dated - in particularly the audio controls mounted on the large deep-dish steering wheel.
The model range is quite simple but also suprisingly varied. For 2015 the range was expanded and now consist of 'Luxury', 'Premium Luxury', 'R-Sport', 'Portfolio', 'Autobiography' and, of course, the hight performance XJR. 'Luxury', 'Premium Luxury' and 'Portfolio' can be ordered in short or long wheelbase forms, while 'R-Sport' and the XJR only come in short form to reflect their sporting characters. In contrast the 'Autobiogrpahy' is only a long version.
Sat-nav, stereo and infotainment
From 2015-onwards all XJs come with the 12.3-inch configurable TFT insrtument cluster and InControl Touch Pro infotainment. The latter is a massive step-on from the previous, clunky system and joins the InControl Touch systems in lesser Jag models like the XE.
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InControl Touch Pro uses an eight-inch touchscreen in the fascia and is Jag's in-house developed version of BMW's iDrive and Mercedes' COMAND systems. There's a variety of different functions and app available, but the most important is the sat-nav. It has door-to-door route planning and guidance, including public transport options. A companion dmatphone app allows you to plan your route offline and then load it into the system at the start of the journey.
The system also offers a Commute Mode which this learns your daily drive and can automatically offer alternative routes to avoid congestion. The system can also direct you to a parking space when you're near to your destination.
Practicality, comfort and boot space
Inside the Jaguar XJ, both the driver and passenger get loads of space in the front, as well as plenty of adjustability in the seating position too.
There's a large glovebox, cubbies in the centre console and deep door bins, and while the dashboard feels a little sportier and cosseting that other big limos, it's still feels very spacious up front.
Leg room, head room & passenger space
Rear space in the back is a little tight on short wheelbase models – kneeroom isn't the best and the sloping roofline eats into headroom. The short wheelbase cars are more like large sports saloons than limos.
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If you aim to spend most of your time in the back of your XJ or carry passengers who value a limo experience, the long wheelbase versions are a must. They are available in all trim levels apart from the R-Sport and XJR versions.
The LWB cars offer an extra 44mm of legroom but head room is still tighter than on the XJ's rivals. For the ultimate XJ limo you'll have to go for the Autobiography version whcih has quilted semi-aniline leather seats with contrasting stitching, a leather headliner, rich oak inlay veneer, and illuminated stainless steel treadplates and air vents. There are just two rear seats with seat back movement and massage function, and a rear seat entertainment system with two folding 10.2-inch HD screens.
If you intend to carry lots of luggage, the XJ will impress as it has a larger boot (520 litres) than the Audi A8 and the BMW 7 Series. It has a large opening which is a bonus but if you need more room then the S-Class Mercedes is a better choice.
Reliability and Safety
The Jaguar XJ is one of the safest cars around thanks to standard stability and traction control, a pop-up bonnet to protect pedestrians, eight airbags and the latest security features.
For post-2015 models a suite of extra safety kit is available including All-Surface Progress Control – helps the car to pull away smoothly on slippery surfaces – traffic sign recognition, park assist, reverse traffic detection and cruise control with queue assist.
As for the mechanicals all engines are well tried and tested and the eight-speed auto is durable too. The XJ finished an impressive seventh in the 2015 Driver Power Survey and Jaguar dealers finished in second place.
The only real 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.
All XJ's come with a three-year warranty which can be upgraded to an extended warranty to cover paint and bodywork. The extended warranty also includes roadside assistance.
There are various service plans available and Jaguar now offers an online service so owners can remotely check their car's service history.