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Car reviews - Jaguar - XJ - range

Our Opinion

We like
Styling details, roomy cabin, plenty of gear, quietness and refinement, ride, value
Room for improvement
Overall styling is too evolutionary, engine overtaking punch

30 Apr 2004

DRIVING Jaguar’s latest XJ6 is like catching up with a long-lost friend that you soon discover has changed for the better.

He or she may look familiar and be comfortable to be with, but even a mild interaction soon reveals hidden depths, new talents and a fresh, modern attitude.

There’s no hiding the XJ’s heritage. Jaguar has created a car that is unmistakably XJ, and it takes a keen eye to tell new and old apart. Maybe marque aficionados may find it beautifully restrained, but younger, more fickle buyers will soon tire of it, if they haven’t already.

Yet the design details are masterful – like the perfectly proportioned silhouette, the crisp and clean nose, gorgeous alloy wheels and the brilliantly lean pillars. There’s airiness to the XJ that’s been missing in luxury sedans for years.

The cabin is deceiving – it’s larger and more accommodating than you might expect from a Jaguar, and certainly in the next level of comfort and space compared to the smaller German luxury sedans it’s priced against. For this reason alone the XJ6 is worth its price of entry.

There’s real room to sprawl, especially in the back seat, which also benefits from having a comfortable and supportive pew.

And even the dashboard – perhaps the most boring and disappointingly retro part of the whole package – starts to delight once time is taken to learn how intuitive the centre console audio and climate screen controls are. And the driving position will impress too.

Add all the mod cons – like sat-nav, TV, the CD changer, cruise control and electric seats – and you soon realise there’s nothing missing here really compared to a BMW 735i.

As you’d expect, the XJ6 is quiet and refined at start up. Press down on the accelerator and that impression continues as the 3.0-litre V6 gains momentum, despite its slightly growly purr. It isn’t a startling performer, and you do have to use plenty of the long-travel power-pedal for quick getaways, but you’re not left lamenting about any lack of urge either.

In the mid-ranges, the Jaguar’s performance continues to impress with its lively manner, helped out by one of the smoothest and responsive automatic transmissions available.

And it works surprisingly well with the XJ’s underrated “J-gate” transmission lever, that slurs seamlessly but emphatically between the six available ratios, and works more naturally than most Tiptronic-like sequential shifts.

Only overtaking on inclines betrays the XJ6’s lack of cubic centimetres, as a determined shove of the accelerator is needed for the engine’s fires to stoke up enough horses to do the deed.

As a highway tourer, the XJ6 can be deceptively swift, and as in the V8 versions, drivers must be wary of how easy it is to break the speed limit. It was after a long straight cruise that the trip meter recorded a very miserly 8.8L/100km. Try achieving that in your other steel-bodied plutobarges!

Keen drivers may wish for slightly more steering feel, but as a luxury car package the XJ6 joins its larger engine siblings in seeming slightly smaller and wieldier when roads start getting windier.

As you’d expect, the air-suspension ride is right-on, and is heard more than felt.

The drive course only covered a few hundred kilometres of country road driving, but it became clear that the 3.0-litre V6 XJ6 is a very accomplished, value-packed luxury car that cossets its occupants, satisfies the driver and even makes a case for itself against the bank manager. And it never felt like a cut-price special either.

With the familiar-looking XJ6, forget about what you think you know about old Jaguars and dig a little deeper. You’ll soon find out how good it is to be in and drive.

Luxury car buyers with $150,000 to spend would be unwise not to at least short-list the XJ6.

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