Car group tests

New Jaguar XJ vs. rivals

It's the big test for new diesel XJ as it takes on BMW and Mercedes

New Jaguar XJ vs. rivals

The moment of truth has arrived for the Jaguar XJ. The British firm’s flagship saloon has been reinvented in spectacular fashion, but has it got what it takes to mix it with the luxury car elite?

After years of evolution, the retro saloon has been brought bang up-to-date by Jaguar design boss Ian Callum and his team. The new XJ picks up from where the XF left off, and shows just what to expect from the firm in the future.

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

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In the present, it faces stiff competition from the big hitters. Mercedes’ S-Class is one of the most complete cars in the world, and the BMW 7-Series isn’t far behind. It has been snapping at its rival’s heels for generations.

Diesel models account for the lion’s share of sales in this market, so we chose the XJ 3.0D for its debut test, here in mid-range Premium Luxury trim.

Filling its mirrors are the Mercedes S350 CDI and BMW 730d SE. All are spacious long-wheelbase models and, with price tags separated by a few thousand pounds, the scene is set for one of the most exciting and demanding road tests of the Auto Express year.

Verdict

Road test verdicts don’t come any tougher or closer to call than this. These models are the pinnacle of automotive development and are standard bearers for their respective brands – but which best embodies luxury car perfection?

It isn’t the BMW. The 7-Series is an impressive technological tour de force, yet it lacks the visual fireworks, interior drama and high-speed refinement to win here.

The Jaguar has more character and charisma than both of its German rivals, so the temptation to wave the flag and trumpet the Brit as the winner is almost overwhelming. But in the cold light of day, the diesel XJ doesn’t have what it takes to beat the Merc.

Any model aiming at the luxury car crown has one model to beat – no saloon does supreme comfort and refinement like the S-Class. Jaguar set out to build a four-door with a sporty edge, and it has achieved its aim. But we think this has compromised the XJ in other areas – especially if buyers plan to travel in the back.

The Mercedes is still the class of the field, and while its interior lacks the eye-catching appeal of the Jaguar, it is expertly executed and more spacious. And when the mood takes you, it still delivers on the road with impressive agility.

The diesel XJ runs the S-Class very close, and fans of the brand will love its blend of modern styling and retro charm. But it finishes a very close second to arguably the best car in the world.

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