Car reviews - Jaguar - XJ - range
Nimble handling and performance, throaty super-charged V8 power, diesel performance, small-car feel
Room for improvement
Polarising styling, higher launch price than forecast
9 Jul 2010
By JOHN CRAWFORD
WALK up to the new Jaguar XJ and it is obvious: this is a big car. But climb aboard and this big Brit ‘shrinks’ around the driver, feeling much smaller.
Start it up and drive it, and this small-car impression is reinforced by the nimble handling and startling performance of a sports sedan in a limo package.
This sensation is in part wrought by the extensive use of aluminium that trims the big cat’s weight, making its major rivals, the BMW 7 Series and the S-class Mercedes-Benz, seem porky by comparison.
The Jag gives no feeling of driving a big lump or having to wrestle it through the corners. Easily placed in the bends, the biggest Jag sedan invites the driver to ‘press on’, the superb electro-mechanical steering giving honest feedback.
Regardless of the model, be it standard or long wheelbase version, the new XJ fulfills all of its creators’ expectations and the drivers’ dreams. This is especially so in terms of power delivery from either the 3.0-litre V6 diesel, the naturally aspirated 5.0-litre V8 or the storming, super-charged V8.
Our first car in the drive program left us with the impression we were driving a supercharged model, but after a quick check of the specs we confirmed it was the 283kW V8. The power delivery was impressive, smooth and throaty.
Then we turned to the diesel with a healthy 202kW, but even more impressive torque figures of 600Nm in a typically flat curve from 1500rpm to the redline at 3500rpm.
Many who have tested this car overseas rate it the ‘star turn’. The diesel is quiet and responsive, and mated to the ZF 6-speed transmission is a delight in either suburban or highway conditions.
The top-of-the-range 375kW supercharged XJ sedan turned Queensland’s bumpy, indifferently-surfaced and twisting Mount Lindsay Highway into a driver’s nirvana. The power seems endless, the handling precise and accomplished and roadholding that breeds confidence and control.
Evidence of the supercharger is scant, save for the awesome power. There’s no wind-up whine. Equally, the car is docile at lower speeds. Given its potential, it’s pretty much a waste in our tightly-controlled speed environment in Australia, but if you could let this cat off its leash – stand back. It will blow your mind.
Our test roads featured some huge potholes, spoon drains and rough surfaces, but the XJ handled them with aplomb and relative silence. Its composure was never shaken, and there was no sense of crashing and shuddering.
The impressive chassis and equally masterful powertrain are just two aspects of a highly confident new car that bristles with practical technology, construction integrity, thoughtful interior design and fittings. It delivers on every level.
The interior befits a much more expensive car, and the technology is both accessible, intuitive and useful. The new touch-screen interface is dead easy to understand and use, and the audio, sat-nav and video options are outstanding.
Jaguar turned to three big players in electronics for its A/V package - Alpine, Bosch and Denso. The result is pin-sharp graphics, efficient touch screen and a split-screen display which has the ability for the front seat passenger to watch a DVD movie, while the driver sees just the data that’s been selected, such as the GPS details and map, audio output or heating/cooling information.
The sound system is almost as impressive as the engines. There are two – a 600 watt and a 1200 watt. The latter is a collaboration between Jaguar and the high end British audio specialists, Bowers & Wilkins.
The basic system is good, but the B&W unit is excellent. There are 19 speakers (three in each door), plus two subwoofers and a centre speaker on top of the dash. The signal processing computer allows you to have basic stereo sound, plus surround sound and even a setting which favors movie soundtracks (from a DVD). It is infinitely adjustable and easy to use.
In fact, the intuitive nature of the XJ’s computer-driven electronics makes one think that Audi, BMW and Mercedes simply chose to make their systems unnecessarily complicated.
Less than an hour behind the wheel reveals Jaguar’s new big car is absolutely capable of delivering the ‘halo’ effect for the brand, and an intimately pleasurable experience for the owner and passengers.
Is it better than its competitors? Let’s say it’s a different experience. Despite Mercedes-Benz’s claims, the S-class is not a sporty drive by comparison with the XJ. More like competent and ‘blah’. You buy the Benz because it is sensible and hopefully holds it value.
The BMW 7 Series is every bit the equal of the Jaguar in terms of some driving characteristics, but compared to the XJ it still ‘feels’ like a big car, and although it is responsive and precise, it never gives the same feeling of agility and composure.
Jaguar executives reckon this new XJ covers a greater spread of the luxury segments and, as well as the Audi A8, BMW 7 and S-class, rivals include the Maserati Quattraporte, the Porsche Panamera and even Bentley.
A day behind the wheel of the new XJ leaves you with the impression that they’re not wide of the mark. The XJ aspires to Bentley qualities, but it’s lighter and more agile. The XJ puts the Panamera in the shade when it comes to the driving experience, and perhaps compares best to the Italian Maserati.
Reaction to the new XJ in London, Paris, LA and northern NSW suggests that Jaguar’s designer Ian Callum has produced not only a worthy competitor, but also a car luxury buyers will lust after.
Beautiful and fast, with a sexy interior and lots of style, it turns heads, and leaves a lingering sensation of pleasure after you switch off the engine. Living with the new XJ will be easy.
Jaguar has delivered, again, with a winning big car. We think the father of Jaguar, Bill Lyons, would have loved it.
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