Jaguar's XJ purrs into the 21st century

Have our roads got much worse very quickly? I mean really quickly. Like the last 24 hours? These were the thoughts running through my mind as I crashed and thumped over surface imperfections and potholes.

I think that was the point when I realised just how impressive the new Jaguar XJ actually is.

For the previous five days I had been wafting along the same roads in serene comfort. Now, I was back at the wheel of my own car (which I love), finding it shockingly unrefined, jarring and noisy!

While most who have driven the new Jaguar XJ are impressed with its refinement and dynamics, the looks have divided opinions.

Jaguar XJ

You certainly cannot accuse the styling of being conservative. Rather like the first Chris Bangle-designed BMWs, the new Ian Callum-designed Jaguars are bound to provoke a reaction. I remember the almost universal disappointment at the launch of the previous XJ. An all-new car – complete with an ultra-modern lightweight aluminium structure – it was a remarkably faithful replica of the old steel Jaguar XJ! The much more aggressively-styled new XJ has a very obvious family likeness to the Jaguar XF.

I’m generally positive about the new Jaguar look. I can’t say I am 100% sure yet about the new corporate Jaguar grille and the sweeping rear end of the XJ looks a touch more hatchback than saloon.... although, let me quickly assure you this is a saloon, with a separate boot.

Inside, too, there has been quite a revolution since the walnut-veneer era. My test car, the Jaguar 3.0 Diesel Portfolio had absolutely no bits of tree on the dashboard. But, there was a broad swathe of wood along the doors. But, like the rest of the interior, it was distinctly modern in its style. The one thing that does remain is the preponderance of stitched leather, now complemented by a luxurious roof lining in suede-style material, complete with double glass sunroof, on the test car.

Press the starter button for the keyless ignition and you are greeted by the Jaguar “leaper” symbol on both the central screen and the instrument panel. Simultaneously, as a bit of theatre, the Jaguar XF-style gear selector knob pops up on the centre console.

Jaguar XJ

The instruments themselves, when they appear, are not... what shall we say... what they appear. At first glance they are conventional round dials. But, as you may have guessed, they are actually graphics on a display screen in front of the driver.

At this point, purists will be huffing and puffing. But, I reckon the graphical display is clear, readable and does bring some useful benefits. I particularly liked the way that, when using the navigation, the minor gauges make temporary way for a detailed diagram of immediate road junctions, right in front of the driver. Similarly, the rev counter can temporarily turn itself into a display for setting up features of the car. When you set the Jaguar into dynamic mode the instruments glow with a fringe of red.

With a big, high centre console this does feel like a Jaguar, but a few times during my test, the mirror finish oddments tray, produced dazzling reflections. Memo, take some black masking tape.

Needless to say, there are all the electric adjustments you could want for the big comfortable chairs. The driver and passenger can even press a button to get a ten-minute massage. Another party trick is that the driver can have the navigation map on the centre screen, while the passenger can be watching live TV, or a DVD, on the same screen! By using the remote headphones, the passenger can have the TV sound while the driver continues to listen to music, or the radio.

This screen doubles up as the reversing camera, something that is very welcome, given the rather high base to the rear window.

Jaguar XJ

Space in the back seat is adequate rather than ample on this standard wheelbase model. If you are looking at the Jaguar XJ to provide limousine-style comfort all round, then the long-wheelbase version is a relatively affordable £3,000 extra.

All this talk of interior comforts and luxuries may lead you to think the Jaguar XJ is all about cosseting driver and passengers, without providing Jaguar standards of performance. Never fear! Even though this is a diesel, it is bound to raise an eyebrow with its performance.

The three-litre V6 diesel puts out 275 PS giving this XJ an impressive 0-60 time of just six seconds. More impressive is its ability to pick up speed from dual carriageway roundabouts, or for overtaking.

With a stonking 600 Nm of torque, the Jaguar XJ responds quickly to a touch on the accelerator. For the quickest responses you can click the gear selector to the sports setting, or you can use the steering wheel paddles to change gear. I used the paddles a couple of times, then I realised that the car actually chooses its gears pretty well and there was little to be gained in choosing the ratios.

With a combination of responsive throttle, and well tuned controls, complemented by good body control and nicely balanced handling I found the XJ enjoyable on some of my favourite B roads.

It was after one-such run that I noticed the other remarkable attribute of the new Jaguar XJ – at least in this 3.0 diesel form – remarkable economy. The combined economy figure is 40.1 mpg. Even with the gearbox set to ‘sport’ most of the time and making full use of the performance on city and country driving, I was most impressed to return a real-world average, on the trip computer, of 30mpg. The Jaguar XJ’s 3.0 Diesel’s carbon dioxide emissions are 184 g/km, putting it into band I for UK tax – again pretty good for a car of this type.

So, while the old Jaguar XJ was a little conservative for my liking, the new XJ is a more attractive, more twenty-first century proposition. It combines luxury, performance and refinement with pretty good environmental performance.

The only problem now is to find the asking price £66,500.

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