Jaguar XJ L 3.0d Portfolio

Big cat’s new luxury star finally hits Britain – and we drive LWB version

Make no mistake, the new XJ is a revolutionary car for Jaguar. There was always a risk that such a forward-thinking design would alienate the brand’s core customers. But the firm has pulled it off. The elongated body, especially in black, commands the road and turns significantly more heads than the 7-Series and S-Class. It’s engaging from behind the wheel too. While the ride is busy on broken surfaces and headroom is tight for tall occupants, it’s still a fantastic luxury car, and the mighty diesel is all the engine you’ll ever need.

Meet the latest member of David Cameron’s team! The Prime Minister has already elected the new Jaguar XJ as his official mode of transport, but will it win the public vote? The luxury saloon has finally hit the UK, and we climbed behind the wheel of the statesmanlike long-wheelbase version for a first drive on home soil.

The extra 125mm added to the chassis takes the XJ to an impressive 5.2 metres in length, and accentuates the low-slung roofline even further. A coupe silhouette and ultra-modern headlight and grille combination build on the design language set out by the XF, while the unique vertical tail-lamps give it a look all of its own. To our eyes, our car’s Alternate Black paint is the best choice we’ve seen so far, as it masks the darkened C-pillar.

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

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There’s a small price to pay for such a sleek profile, though. Headroom front and rear is limited for tall occupants, although the acres of legroom, armchair-like seats and luxurious materials compensate for this.

Slabs of varnished wood give the XJ a splash of old-school Jaguar charm, but the rising gearlever, chrome trim and cool blue backlighting ensure it feels bang up to date.

The cabin is stuffed full of hi-tech kit, such as an eight-inch touchscreen that lets passengers watch TV as the driver looks at the sat-nav. Behind the steering wheel, the traditional instrument panel is replaced by a digital display, while the 1,200W Bowers and Wilkins stereo offers crisp and punchy sound quality to rival any car on the market.

Jaguar has always paid particular attention to the driving experience, and the XJ doesn’t buck the trend. Aluminium keeps the weight down to 1,796kg – that’s 154kg less than the BMW 740d. And it shows. In sweeping bends, the XJ responds like a car half its size, resisting body roll and maintaining beautiful balance.

The steering is light but direct, and the six-speed auto box reacts quickly to a click of the paddles or a flex of the right foot – especially in Sport mode. Select Dynamic via a button behind the gear selector, and the responses of the steering, dampers and throttle sharpen up, too. The trade-off for such cat-like reactions is a fidgety ride over broken surfaces – although it still floats nicely over crests and hollows.

We drove the exceptionally smooth and refined 3.0-litre V6 diesel. It’s as fast as you could feasibly need it to be on the road, with a storming 0-62mph sprint time of six seconds flat. That’s only three-tenths slower than the 380bhp naturally aspirated petrol V8 model, which can return only 24.9mpg at the pumps –the diesel manages 39mpg.

Stylish, fast and effortlessly cool, the new XJ offers something genuinely different to the 7-Series, Audi A8 and Mercedes S-Class. The design is guaranteed to divide opinion, but when it comes to blending luxury and dynamics, the Jag has the competition licked.

Rival: BMW 740d Flagship BMW oil-burner costs only £65 more than the XJ diesel, and is a close match on performance, too. Adjustable chassis settings mean it can switch from cruiser to agile driver’s car when the pace quicken

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