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: rear headroom is not as good as that found in the Mercedes or Audi.
The Jaguar XJ comes in three mainstream model guises - Luxury, Premium Luxury and Portfolio. These versions come with either a 3.0-litre diesel V6 engine, or supercharged 3.0-litre petrol. For those wanting more performance, there's also the fearsome Jaguar XJR, which is propelled by a supercharged 5.0-litre V8.
All Jaguar XJ models are also available in long-wheelbase guise, except the XJR. Anyone who wants to experience that kind of brutal acceleration while stretching their legs out in the rear seats will need the Supersport model. This gets a version of the XJR’s V8 with slightly less power.
Our choice: XJ 3.0 Diesel Luxury
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. We also like the central touchscreen control display as well, even if it can be a bit fiddly.
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.
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.
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 275bhp 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.
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.
The eight-speed automatic gearbox is tried and tested in both the Jaguar XF and the current Range Rover. The Jaguar XJ doesn't feature in the 2014 Driver Power Survey, but in the previous year, Jaguar dealers were ranked 5th, so at least the aftersales service should be good.
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.
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. The long wheelbase Jaguar XJR also 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.
Front and rear passengers inside the Jaguar XJ get individual climate control, plus lots of leather and wood to enjoy while they're sat there. There’s a dual-view TV screen that lets the passenger watch a movie without disturbing the driver. The TV screens in the back will also help keep the rest of the passengers entertained on long journeys.
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 46.3mpg on a combined cycle, plus CO2 levels of 159g/km
At the other end of the scale the extreme Jaguar XJR models do 24.4mpg on a combined economy, along with 270g/km of CO2.
The cheapest Jaguar XJ gets the 3.0-litre diesel V6 engine and starts from around £55,000. However, depreciation is fierce and gets worse the higher up the range you go, so a Mercedes S-Class is likely to hold on to more of its value.
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.
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.
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.