Jaguar XJ exclusive

17 Sep, 2009 11:32am Ross Pinnock

We head to Frankfurt for a ride in the Big Cat that everyone has been talking about.

Verdict

5
When the XJ hits showrooms early next year it will be available with a choice of four trim levels, three engines and a pair of body styles. Entry-level models wear the Luxury badge, but there are also Premium Luxury and Portfolio models, as well as the flagship Supersport. The latter is the only available with the firm’s 503bhp supercharged V8 engine, but lower down the range buyers can choose between the normally aspirated 5.0-litre V8 and the firm’s 3.0-litre V6 diesel.Prices start at £55,900 for the entry-level oil burner and long wheel base models command a £3,000 premium. As a result the flagship Supersport LWB costs £88,000 so the XJ also looks set to face competition from the Porsche Panamera, but on the basis of this test ride, it's every inch the sumptous but sporty Jaguar.

All-new Jaguars don’t leap out at you every day, so when Auto Express was invited along for an exclusive ride in the new XJ at the Frankfurt Motor Show, we jumped at the chance!

Back in July we were invited along to the live unveil, but now we're about to get up-close with Jaguar's latest stunner for the first time.

Video: watch CarBuyer's video review of the Jaguar XJ

The flagship saloon has some stiff competition, with the ever-green Mercedes S-Class and fresh-faced Porsche Panamera forming an intimidating welcoming committee.
From the moment the big Jaguar glides into view it grabs your attention. Its striking looks are even better in the metal than in our photos and its protruding grille and sleek profile set it apart from its German rivals.

The long wheel-base model sent to meet us measures more than 5.2m long but it disguises its extra 125mm over the standard car and is an imposing kerbside presence. Up close you notice the dark trim panels on the rear pillars, which are designed to create the impression of a wraparound rear windscreen. This was impossible to achieve properly because of the profile of the back window, and the visual trick works better in some colours than others.

When you open the boot to stash your bags the load area looks smaller than the figures suggest, but its 520-litre capacity should be more than adequate. Climb aboard and space isn’t an issue. Predictably, given our model’s extra-long platform, there is a huge amount of rear legroom. The amount of headroom is less generous thanks to its rakish roofline, but six-footers will still fit in the back. Smart airplane style tables fold down from the front seatbacks and will be familiar to owners of the outgoing XJ, but the most striking thing as you relax in the contoured leather seats is just how light the interior feels.

With its narrow side windows you expect the cabin to feel snug, but the explanation is simple as all XJs come with a panoramic sunroof as standard. It helps to liberate more headroom inside and allowed design boss Ian Callum to preserve the car’s low slung coupe-like profile. And it gives the Jaguar a handy USP over its rivals.

Before pulling away we were also treated to a demonstration of the top-of-the-range 1,200 Watt Bowers & Wilkins audio system that comes as standard in Portfolio trim. With 20 speakers – including no less than three in each door – the power and clarity of the stereo needs to be experienced to be believed. And it’s all controlled using one of the best touch-screen interfaces that you’ll find inside a car.

Peer between the front seats and you can also see the new virtual instruments, which display analogue dials on a digital screen and look surprising authentic. The steering wheel through which you view them is also beautifully crafted and makes you want to grab hold of it. Likewise, all of the materials inside, from the classy chrome on the eye-ball style air vents to the high quality wood trim and suede rooflining are tactile delights.

This is all very well, but what it’s like on the move? Well, on the evidence of our short test ride it promises to give the current class champions a run for their money. The creamy smooth V8 power delivery, purposeful engine note and hushed refinement of our test car are what you expect from a luxury limousine. However, lower spec 3.0-litre diesel versions need to be just as impressive if the XJ is to seize the luxury car crown.

Ride comfort on the smooth tarmac of our test route was also promising and while it’s impossible to judge the car’s handling without taking the wheel, the XJ feels controlled from the back. All we need to do now is have a go ourselves to find out if a Jaguar is about to leap back to the top of the luxury car class.

Rival: Mercedes S-Class
Our current luxury class favourite does exactly what all hi-tech limousines should do – it soothes away the stresses of driving. The XJ will have its work cut out to beat it.

Disqus - noscript

Surely, 4.5 stars would have been in order, after the absolutely massive amount of coverage and exposure and spoofing this car got, not least from its self deprecating designer!! I appreciate you imploring readers to 'decide' on the car after seeing it in the metal, as I for one have reservations about the rear lights. Your pics are stunning and beautifully clear though. Also sadly missing what could have been a design cue for all Jaguars was the beautiful chrome strip across the boot, ala XF. Instead they have insisted on taking one of the most symbolic of all Jaguar traits - the leaper - and sticking it on the boot........LEAPING left into the hedges. DUMB!!!! I expect that stunning interior though would quickly quell misgivings about a couple of exterior shortfalls.
Cant wait to read your findings after a go behind the wheel.

I wholeheartedly agree that the leaping Jaguar is a mistake. The only place that looked good was on the bonnet.

The design is modern and no doubt needed to keep todays customers, but I for one mourn the passing of the "Jaguar" look on the front end of the car.

I have a recent model S type which always earns glowing comments. The XF is a fab motor but only serves to make me hang on to my S Type as long as I can. Where do us nostalgia heads go now?

Although the front styling is almost there, the rear styling is just plain ugly. Silly lights and an uncoordinated clash of lines and curves. A bit of the old Ford Scorpio about it, in fact.
What a pity.

Is it just me or does anyone else think that the interior looks stunning but the exterior looks awful!

The front almost looks like a bottom feeding fish and the back looks like a japenese designer's got hold of it on morning after a heavy Kareoke session the night before but without any tablets to stop his migraine!!

I am a bit of a Jag nut owning both XJS and X Type and must say that the only place for leaping Jaguars is on the front or sides of the car. The leaper on rear of the XF and XJ is an asthetic disaster. I saw the XJ in the flesh at Goodwood and it is great except for that rear end, bring back the horizontal chrome jaguar strip and horizontal lights.

Are you sure Chris Bungle didn't design this car? after all he made a mess of BMWs for over Ten Years.The one thing you can say for this car is it lacks style, by the bucket load.Reminds me of something the Koreans would come up with and sell for half the price of the competitiors.Ugly oversized grill.Lights too small and as for the rear lights.I think the Vectra has more presence. Maybe they are now styling for the Asian Market and not the European.

It is a shame that the changes made, have made the vehicle look worse not better. I think that since they have left the Ford fold and lost the Ford influence they are also losing their way ...again. Looks like from the split with Fords Jag kept the Scorpio boot lid and tail lamp designer. On a positive note the interior looks superb.

At Last! A British car shown in the promotional shots here, in right hand drive! Good for you Jaguar. I get fed up looking at great new British cars shown in left hand drive. Actually, come to think about it, even Jaguar did that with the XF and others... please manufacturers, take note. Leave the left hookers for overseas brochures and provide a decent amount of decent pics for us Brits who drive on the correct side of the road to drool over.
Fantastic car the new XJ. Bags of room in the back, great interior, pure class returns to a British firm... ah. Of course, owned by a foreign nation. How sad, how disgusting that the British governement allowed it to happen.

To those criticising this modern masterpiece, please remember; Jaguar have to think about their future. As with all manufacturers, they need to get a grip on what is required to survive. This obviously means attracting new customers who may go for BMW/Merc/Audi traditionally. So far, with the upgrades to the whole Jaguar series, including the demise of the X-type (never did like it much), I think they are doing a fantastic job. Especially with the 3.0 diesel turbo. Love the XFR.

Unfortunately, those of us who loved the original lines of the XJ just weren't buying enough of them. Oh, I didn't know Puma made cars! ;-)

Seems like Jag only had one good front design and one good back design, so they put the good front on the XJ and good back on the XF. Pity they couldn't get one single whole car to look just right though.

Seems to me like they put yet another very average front on a stunning new rear design. Also, please see the prancing animals on the back of Ferrari (438 for example), I don't remember the complaints about that one.

I am afraid this Jag does nothing for me, It does not have the prescence that the old XJ6 had. Just another car from the front, and I won't talk about the back. Gerry

I've always felt retro design is a bit of cop out. For car firms to succeed, designers need to identify and encapture the spirit of the moment and make it reasonably future proof, at least in the short to mid-term. I applaud Jaguars new direction. it's fresh and vibrant with bags of brand identity throughout the range.

The importance of the new XJ to Jaguar cannot be stressed enough. This vehicle needs to carry the fight to BMW, Mercedes et al and stamp Jaguars authority all over the luxury saloon sector. In the main, I think it will succeed, but I have to agree with several other peoples comments about the rear end. Mr Callum, whatever were you thinkiing???

inside, this is the gorgeous, sumptuous xj i had hoped for. things seems to go downhill from there though sadly. the front is ok, with a grille rather more in proportion than the otherwise lovely xf. even the profile is ok, if you stand nearer the front that is. but the back ... did the designers go on strike and the accountants finish it off to a short deadline? the black paint on the pillars looks cheap and nasty as well as silly, in no way creating any kind of wrap round rear window effect. the rest of it is bland at best, not only missing the signature, horizontal chrome strip but incorporating the hideous rear lights. i want to love this car, as i did the three older xj's i ran in the past. if i could just get in it and drive it, then maybe i would love it, but that rear end .... never. at this price buyers deserve better.

I so WANT Jag to succeed, but how can they when they produce designs like this? I hate it. I understand about having to modernise - but retro or modern, a Jag has to be drop dead gorgeous and this monstrosity looks as if the guy who designed the front, never met the guy who designed the back. If the front went with the back, or even vice versa, then they might have got away with it.
Personally I have always believed that any design that needs black paint or chrome strips to 'work' is a bad design. Ergo - this is a poor design.

I think the auto show to do well.All cars are trying to innovation, But I think they should also be in service projects.Increased innovation,
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It's an amazing thing, that given the privilege to design what should be an iconic vehicle, it turns out to look like just another big Eurobox. Jaguars should be beautiful, sexy vehicles, sculpted to evoke passion. This might be a very competent car, but it leaves me completely cold. Thes guys need to get away from their computers from time to time and go down to the beach to do some research.

I think this car is fabulous but I agree the front end is rather boring. I find it strikes the eye straight away as a Maserati Quattroporte, has anyone else noticed that??

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I could sit in that interior all day, but the black 'C' post has to go. But, what of the resulting very squared off rear window? It would be at odds with the rest of the curvy design.
Otherwise, beautiful!

This looks beautiful from any angle. It looks somewhat German (no bad thing). The rear looks very clean and I personally like the prancing jaguar, its very understated. Excellent effort. 10/10

Key specs

* Price: £72,900
* Engine: 5.0-litre V8, 380bhp
* Max torque: 515Nm
* Transmission: six-speed auto
* 0-62mph: 5.4 seconds
* Economy: 24.8mpg
* CO2 emissions: 269g/km
* Standard equipment: 20-inch alloys, panoramic sunroof, softgrain leather upholstery, interior mood lighting, touch screen sat nav, four zone climate control, Xenon headlamps, heated steering wheel
* On sale: January 2010

AEX 1334
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