To say that I was slightly aghast when my eyes first saw the new XJ a little while ago would be something of an understatement. For many fans of the feline, a Jaguar was all about lithe grace and dare I say it – flawed opulence. The old XJ was never the most space efficient car in standard wheelbase form, its driving position was at best – snug and intimate while the boot could struggle at best with a bag full of Pings or a sack full of Purdeys depending on your position of the social ladder of course. Traditionally, a Jaguar was all about style – the series 3 must surely have been one of the most iconic shapes of the 20th century, even a tired old XJ6 would turn many an adults or childs head even when parked up at the side of the road. But times do indeed move on and eventually Jaguar shrugged off the last bastions of the BL era… and showed its claws.
At a motor trade gathering earlier in the year, I threw caution to the wind and slid behind the wheel of the current XJ and left feeling rather spellbound. My last jape in the Jag was set in artificial conditions on the Millbrook proving ground in Bedfordshire, whereas this drive covered over 15 miles of mixed roads in and around Warwickshire. The model in question was a standard wheelbase 3.0 V6 diesel Portfolio currently on sale for a cats whisker over £67,000 – a mainstream standard example… a cooking cat if you like. A little time has certainly made the shape more pleasing on the eye, once a Jaguar had a regal and unmistakeable frontal aspect, the current XJ has an ultra modern and almost intimidating face that looks bang up to date. Its not too bling and shouty yet nor is it a wall flower either. The swooping LED and Xenon headlamps flow beautifully into the expansive grille and there is just the right amount of chromium plating too – it simply means business.
The broadside view has just the right amount of curves to stop it looking too slab like and again, there is just enough brightwork to break down the vast flanks. Round at the rear, the chunky C posts zig zag into a swooping curved tail light while the boot lid features the most discreet of spoilers. One thing that does impress is the near perfect fit and finish of every body panel or item of exterior trim, visually at least, this is one car that can truly go toe to toe with the best of the Bavarians. The 20 inch Venom alloy wheels fill the arches perfectly and seem to be flawless in quality giving you a sterling view of the huge brakes, you find yourself brimming with confidence long before you have entered the car – I must have walked round the thing three or four times before I even tugged on a door handle. So in the metal it looks to be of high quality… how about on the inside. Well its certainly different but not in a politely offensive way either, its a stunning mix of technology that’s as modern as can be yet easy to operate once acclimatised.
The low slung cockpit offers a lovely well bolstered drivers seat and a pleasant steering wheel of just the right thickness. The vast dashboard panel is trimmed in handsome stitched leather with a discreet carbon fibre garnish rail running east to west with an equally restrained Jaguar logo dead centre. As your eyes scan with detail you cant help feeling amazed that this is a British car in terms of engineering prowess and I soon forget my former feelings towards the XJ, its just wonderfully created. Well damped switches, a lagoon depth shine of the piano black centre console and an analogue clock that’s almost as pleasant to glance at as a new Breitling all hammer home that this car has the style but also the substance but its not perfect. The computer generated dials are not really to my taste although they do work perfectly and one or two items of trim are not befitting its class.
The incidental switch pack that operates the boot release, fog lamps and panel dimming are nothing short of cheap, awkward to spot and not befitting a car of this value but thankfully none of this really detracts from what is seemingly a very fine motor car. Passengers are also very well looked after with plenty of room, a vast glovebox which makes a vault like clunk when its closed and very effective rear heating controls. Luggage space is catered for by means of a 520 litre boot that almost doubles up to over 940 litres with the folding rear seat. The 825w Meridian audio system with bluetooth, DAB and full media interface is superb as is the standard sat nav. So clear and smooth is the female voice that you find yourself thanking her at every command. Other niceties include a panoramic glass roof, heated and cooled seats, keyless ignition, electric steering wheel adjustment with a clever entry or exit tilt away and a heated steering wheel – sounds excessive but it works very well.
…making decent progress brings no real extra noise, the only way you are aware of pace is by the scenery approaching and passing more quickly.
Firing up the 275PS V6 diesel it settles down to a muted purr and rotating the billet chrome gear selector you waft away with an eery silence that would make a library seem unbearable. Low speed ride is slightly firm partly due to the 20 inch super low profile tyres yet never offensive and once you press on the overall feeling is unruffled and serene. Making decent progress brings no real extra noise, the only way you are aware of pace is by the scenery approaching and passing more quickly. The steering is nicely weighted with just the right feedback to confirm you are driving a car and not a simulator whilst the ride comfort settles down to a sporting yet controlled manner. Driving the XJ at an average pace is an absolute joy, the 8 speed auto box with selective paddle shift control gives no sensation whatsoever when it changes up or down. The door seals give no wind noise and as you trundle to a stop for road junctions or traffic lights only the rev counter confirms the cat is still purring.
The ‘intelligent stop start’ system works a treat too – its almost unbelievable this is a diesel car, the engine fires back into life with a twitch of the steering wheel or a tap of the throttle in seemingly split second time. Jaguar claim this car will average a commendable 46.3mpg – this drinks its cream sparingly. Coasting along in the XJ is one of life’s pleasures, the 275PS engine makes everything seem… well… effortless, but those powerful disc brakes, its pin sharp steering and slightly firm ride and marvelous body control remind you that this is an animal with minerals but its no coach potato either. Pressing my size 9 into the carpet releases the power and the sequential shift gearbox drops four ratios in the blink of an eye. Your mouth dries, the butterflies awake in your midriff and your pupils dilate as your brain releases the adrenalin in tune to the rapidly increasing pace. Your fingers grip around the leather clad steering wheel as if you were on a roller coaster… all of the thrills but none of the spills.
a kind of hush that even the Carpenters would be envious of
She turns in a with pin sharp breathtaking eagerness and shrugs off the speed equally efficiently. Sharp corners provide no fuss and you can throw this seemingly ocean liner proportioned car into a bend at the last moment with all the gutso of a small hot hatch. Send a message down to the engine room a split second before the final apex and the car simply roars into life with scenery passing by as effortless as looking from a high speed train window, the ride comfort always stays just the right side of sporting. The note from the engine as the revs climb under power becomes more pronounced but never offends the ear – think of Brian Blessed gargling mouthwash and you are getting close. Once a fast cruising pace has arrived and you reign in the power, the gearbox selects a higher ratio and it all becomes a kind of hush that the Carpenters would be envious of – never before have I encountered such fun in a large executive saloon car.
I am impressed… deeply impressed with the XJ Portfolio, of course its not cheap by any means but there again it bristles with technology, is devastatingly capable and has an eery mix of serenity with heart rate increasing driving prowess wrapped up in a package that is classy, alive and above all – British. The XJ feels as agile as the animal its named after yet in practice feels as strong as an OX too, and of course in terms of reliability it seems to be proving itself. I see the XJ as a perfect antidote for the best of the Bavarians and certainly makes you feel proud to be British… an alarmingly brilliant piece of British automotive design!
Our Score – 9/10
Model: Jaguar XJ TDV6 Portfolio
Price: £67,260 OTR Ex options
Engine: 3.0V6 Turbocharged Diesel – UK Produced
Power: 275Ps @ 4000rpm with 600nm of torque @ 2000rpm
Driveline: 8 Speed sequential auto with paddle shift feature and rear wheel drive
Brakes / Suspension: Vented discs all round with ABS & EBD mutli-link independent coils
Fuel Consumption & VED: 46.3mpg & 159g/km (Band G)
Performance: 0 – 60 in 6.0 seconds 155mph top speed (Limited)
Imposing looks – Panel fit & finish – Well equipped – Useable technology – Performance – Capable in every situation – Superb chassis – Handling & ride balance – Refinement – Near flawless dynamics.
Not cheap – Some minor trim below class standards – Headroom slightly compromised – May be a little too futuristic for some traditional Jaguar customers.
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