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Jaguar XJ road test report

Jaguar XJ

Jaguar has ditched its traditional curvy looks for its luxury flagship after 42 years of evolution. Now, the XJ is all about sharp lines and equally sharp driving dynamics as part of the company’s reinvention as a brand led by design and sporty manners. Time will tell whether this is what XJ customers want, but it certainly draws a line under Jaguar’s recent troubled times and marks a new era for the British firm that should see it compete globally with its key rivals from Germany.

Road Test Reports Says4.5 star rating
A front-facing image of the Jaguar XJ

Image number 2 of the Jaguar XJImage number 3 of the Jaguar XJImage number 4 of the Jaguar XJ

Performance Performance - 5 stars

For UK buyers, the key engine in the new XJ line-up is the 3.0-litre V6 turbodiesel that comes with 271bhp and a whopping 443lb ft of shove at 200rpm. That kind of muscle helps the XJ cover 0-62mph in just 6.4 seconds, and the long-wheelbase model does this sprint in the same time thanks to that potent engine power. All XJs share the same electronically limited top speed of 155mph, but if you opt for either of the petrol-fuelled V8 engines, you’ll get there even quicker. The non-turbo V8 has 0-62mph covered in 5.7 seconds thanks to 380bhp, but if you opt for the full-house supercharged engine you have 503bhp on tap for a supercar-like 0-62mph dash of 4.9 seconds. In amongst all this performance, the XJ manages to purr along normal roads with all the panache we’ve come to expect of the XJ. The engines are polished performers and all deliver seamless, broad shouldered acceleration through the six-speed automatic gearbox coupled to an easy cruising gait. The auto’ box also comes with steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters in all XJs to give the driver greater control over gear shifts when required.

Ride & Handling Ride & Handling - 5 stars

We suspect the ride quality of the new XJ will be the subject of much debate for many years to come. Some will regard it as exactly what a Jag should be – supple yet offering sufficient sportiness to live up to the firm’s heritage – while others will think it’s just too firm to rival the cushy comfort of a Mercedes S-Class. Which camp you fall into largely depends on which seat you intend occupying for most of the time. If you buy an XJ to drive yourself, the composure and balance of the suspension is wonderful and will make you ponder how Jaguar’s engineers have made such a large car so agile in corners yet still remain comfortable. On the other hand, if you’re place is directing operations from the rear seat, which is likely to be the case in the long wheelbase versions, the ride is just too unyielding for true comfort. Over every surface, the rear seat passengers will find the XJ patters over pits, leaving occupants jiggling constantly, which is not what you want when the ice is melting in your G ‘n’ T. On the upside, wind, road and engine noise are virtually absent from the cabin.

Build Quality & Reliability Build Quality & Reliability - 5 stars

Jaguar has had quality and reliability licked for some time, as witnessed by its sixth place out of 29 car makers in the most recent JD Power Survey. The XJ looks set to help Jag maintain or even improve on that score thanks to the fit and finish of the luxury saloon. Only a couple of small edges on the lower reaches of the seats and under the dash disappoint in the XJ, but these really are minor niggles. The engines are now proven units as used in the XF and XK models, so the XJ looks set to be a very reliable machine for those fortunate enough to own one or be driven in it.

Safety & Security Safety & Security - 5 stars

Every XJ model comes with a full complement of airbags, as well as ESP traction and stability control. There’s also a choice of driving modes at the touch of a button. Normal mode is fine for most conditions, but the driver can also select Dynamic when the road is twisty and he or she wants the ultimate in driving character by stiffening the suspension and sharpening throttle response and steering feel. At the other end of the spectrum, Winter mode softens off the throttle response to help the XJ gain traction in slippery conditions. The XJ comes with Jaguar’s pop-up bonnet, as seen in the XK, that helps protect pedestrians in the event of a collision by creating more space between the bonnet and the hard metal of the engine. There’s also plenty of security gear, so thieves will walk past the Jag and on to an easier target.

Space & Practicality Space & Practicality - 5 stars

Jaguar’s bosses say no one buys a Jag because they need one, but because the want one. This suggests the XJ doesn’t need to satisfy on the practicality front as much as perhaps more affordable cars. However, there are no worries with using the XJ as everyday transport. Yes, it’s big but the feeling from the driving seat is it’s very easy to park, helped by parking sensors, and that it glides through town unobtrusively. In the front, the seats are brilliantly comfortable and offer masses of adjustment, as does the reach and rake movement of the steering wheel. The high-tech dash is easy to fathom and use, and touch-screen display works most of the stereo and ventilation functions. Rear seat space is good for knees and shoulders, but the sweep of the roof line limits headroom – this is even the case in the long wheelbase model that offers superlative legroom. A big boot is needed in this sort of luxury saloon, yet the XJ still retains the old model’s long and shallow dimensions when the body shape suggests it should be deeper. A Mercedes S-Class provides 560-litres of space to the Jag’s 520-litres and the German’s boot is better shaped.

Ownership & Value Ownership & Value - 4 stars

No luxury saloon is cheap to buy, run and own, and the XJ is not about to buck this trend. List prices are on a par with the Jag’s rivals from Germany, but depreciation is likely to be steeper than for the ubiquitous Mercedes S-Class. However, the Jag does reward with a lengthy and enviable list of standard equipment that includes climate and cruise controls, leather upholstery and electrically adjusted front seats, twin sunroofs and a touch-screen display. After that, the options list opens up plenty of opportunity to spend considerably larger sums of money. You’ll also need large sums to keep either of the V8 petrol engines fuelled up. The non-turbo V8 drinks petrol at a rate of 24.8mpg, while the supercharged version guzzles it at 23.4mpg and will sup even more heavily if you use its prodigious performance. Insurance and servicing will also require deep pockets.

Performance Performance - 5 stars

The new XJ comes with a choice of a 271bhp 3.0-litre V6 diesel or one of two versions of Jaguar’s V8 petrol engine, a naturally aspirated 380bhp unit and a supercharged Supersport model producing 503bhp. The diesel will be the most popular version by far (85% of sales in the UK), which is entirely logical, as it provides an ideal blend of refined power with decent fuel consumption and acceptable CO2 emissions. The naturally aspirated V8 petrol engine is pricier and more powerful, but has less torque, so in our minds there seems to be little reason for buyers to opt for it, especially as the diesel is so refined. However, Jaguar expects it to account for 10% of sale sin the UK. The Supersport model, on the other hand, while dirtier and considerably more expensive to buy and run, does offer immense power and a genuinely thrilling driving experience. A luxury sports saloon, it’s arguably more of a competitor to the Maserati Quattroporte than the Mercedes-Benz S-Class. If money’s no object, this is the powerplant you want under the bonnet of your XJ. All models come with Jaguar’s six-speed automatic transmission, which is controlled using the unique rotary shifter that first appeared on the XF. Gear changes are smooth and efficient: alternatively, if you opt to use the paddleshifts and swap cogs yourself, the gearbox reacts quickly to your input.

Ride & Handling Ride & Handling - 4 stars

One of the first things you notice when you get into the new XJ, whether in the front or as a passenger in the back, is that the traditional wafty ride quality is a thing of the past, which has been sacrificed at the altar of sportiness. Of course the ride is still very good, but it’s not the class-leader we perhaps were expecting from a totally new XJ. It no longer floats over bumps and scarred tarmac: instead, there’s a slightly unsettled quality that communicates the state of the road surface into the cabin (which is rarely a good thing on UK roads). However, that’s about the only aspect of the XJ’s driving dynamics that we can really find fault with. The steering is light and accurate, allowing the driver to place the car on the road precisely and hold a line on the road without having to make too many adjustments. There’s also an adaptive dynamics system that changes the suspension settings, throttle response, steering and gear changes depending on the mode selected (normal, dynamic or winter). Whatever the chosen setting, the XJ remains composed at all times, with body roll well contained in the bends and lots of grip.

Build Quality & Reliability Build Quality & Reliability - 5 stars

Jaguar has quietly been building itself a strong reputation as a manufacturer of reliable machines, banishing all the old prejudices about cars built in Britain. In act, the most recent JD Power customer satisfaction survey place the company in equal sixth place alongside BMW-owned Mini and just below Toyota, which, prior to its troubles at the start of 2010, has for many years been seen as a byword for well-made cars. And although the XF is still too new to show up in such surveys, the X-Type is placed in the Top 20 most reliable cars (in joint 17th place with the BMW 5 Series). This augurs well for the XJ. As with the last generation, the new XJ has an aluminium chassis, making it strong but light. The build quality is sound, which is only to be expected from a flagship car from a premium manufacturer, and the interior is the usual level of plushness, with excellent materials (especially on the top-of-the-range Supersports version).

Safety & Security Safety & Security - 5 stars

The Jaguar XJ has not undergone the Euro NCAP programme, as it (in common with its closest rivals in the class such as the BMW 7 Series, Mercedes S-Class and Audi A8) doesn’t sell in great enough volume to justify undergoing the crash-test regime. However, there’s a full complement of active and passive safety features, so occupants should be well protected in the event of a collision. Equipment includes front and side airbags for the driver and front-seat passenger, with curtain airbags also fitted; a whiplash protection system for the front seats; seatbelt pre-tensioners; an automatic deployable bonnet in the event of a collision with a pedestrian; plus the usual litany of electronic aids such as ABS and DSC (dynamic stability control). For security, there’s keyless start plus a system that includes a perimeter alarm, ultrasonic intrusion sensing and inclination sensing with double locking and steering lock, all of which should make the XJ very difficult to steal.

Space & Practicality Space & Practicality - 5 stars

There are two versions of the XJ, a standard wheelbase and a long wheelbase version that will make up around 30% of sales. There’s plenty of room in both versions, with legroom in the back of the LWB especially generous. The seats are very comfortable and the driving position is superbly cosseting, with every form of adjustment available.

Ownership & Value Ownership & Value - 3 stars

As befits a luxury car, the initial purchase price of the new XJ isn’t cheap: starting at £53,775 for the 3.0 Diesel Luxury trim, it rises to £64,275 for the most expensive oilburner (Portfolio), before heading to £64,355 for the base V8 petrol model (Premium Luxury) and up to £90,455 for the long-wheelbase version of the V8 Supersport (all LWB versions are £3,000 more than the standard wheelbase equivalents). The 3.0 Diesel version is obviously the least expensive to run, with fuel consumption of 40.1mpg and CO2 emissions of 184g/km, meaning road tax of £175 a year. The two petrol versions will, however, incur high running costs, with the naturally aspirated V8 returning 24.9mpg and emitting 264g/km and the V8 Supersport’s figures being 23.4mpg and 289g/km: road tax for both versions will therefore be a whopping £405 a year. All models fall in insurance groups 48 to 50 under the new 50-group system (ie, right at the very top). Jaguar claims that residuals are better than equivalent rival cars from Mercedes, BMW and Audi, with the 3.0 Diesel retaining 40% of its value after three years and 60,000 miles.

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