Mildly revised last year and with whispers of an all new model due onto the horizon perhaps, how does the current XJ fare at the upper end of the automotive food chain. If JLR’s current range is anything to go by, it seems they’re on a roll…
Its been a little while since I’ve driven the XJ. Last time it was the supercharged XJ-R, a car that makes virtually no sense in the present recyclable, green and non-PC world we all live in. Not for a long time had I enjoyed so much fun, it almost made pouring copious amounts of petrol into its tank perfectly acceptable. And yet staying with a sporting theme, I’ve just handed back a pretty impressive XJ – the XJ R-Sport 3.0D fitted with the quad cam V6 diesel now fernurkled to give more power (300Ps) and better fuel economy / tailpipe emissions.
At first, nothing jumps out and hits you between the eyes with the facelifted XJ – not that it was in any desperate need for major surgery. Look a little harder and you’ll find Jaguars latest L.E.D headlamp system up front and some redesigned L.E.D tail lamp clusters round at the back. They look and work rather well, not only that but stylish too especially the way the DRL lights at the front and the sidelights at the rear emulate a mirrored shape of a letter “J”. Now this may sound a bit cheesy but please trust me dear reader it looks very smart and grabs your attention… and bystanders also commented on this as well. Sitting on its optional 20″ Venom (how cool is that name?) alloy wheels and painted in Ammonite Grey, the R-Sport is a lesson in sporting understatement. Also taking into account the rear privacy glass and optional “black pack” that darkens some of the cars external features, I’d go so far as to say there’s an element of stealth in the overall package too.
“…its still distinctive enough to catch your eye, especially when one wafts past you on a deserted motorway in fading sunlight”
So far as exterior quality matters, the XJ looks as well crafted as its rivals. A lovely paintjob is there for all to see and the panels – all of which are crafted in aluminium, have good tight shut lines. The large doors are notably slab shaped, so to avoid those annoying parking dinks, care is needed when choosing to leave the car unattended. Despite being with us for a few years now the current big Jag has aged very well, its still distinctive enough to catch your eye, especially when one wafts past you on a deserted motorway in fading sunlight. While on the inside, once again, the revisions are quite subtle and this tends to revolve around the info-tainment and console screen. The fonts have been slightly altered and the car now features a mobile Wi-Fi hotspot and voice activated Bluetooth phone / audio command function, though I noted the voice activation of the Sat-Nav has disappeared. Its a much improved system but still seems a bit slow to respond compared to other systems but you cannot fault the sound quality of the audio – all 825 watts of it!
The heated and cooled front and rear seats do utmost best to cosset and control you in the bends, those up on the flight deck feature no less then fourteen different ways of adjustment while the driving position itself is ergonomically sound. You’ll find yourself sitting slightly lower than in some cars thanks to the massive glass panoramic roof impeding on the headroom slightly though rear legroom is more than adequate. The wide transmission tunnel hems front occupants in slightly but its best described as adequate and snug in terms of general space rather than down and out cramped. I would have liked to have seen some serious improvements in terms of interior quality. Its not poor by any stretch of the imagination, more like notably not as robust as say a BMW 7 or S class Mercedes. The boot release and panel dimmer buttons are still rather cheap feeling as are the column stalks, the latter items having slightly too much free play in them when you give them a little wiggle between your finger tips.
But other aspects of interior fitments don’t disappoint. The huge facia clad in stitched leather feels wonderfully made and the ornate stitching details continues into the door trims and all around the centre console. The big eye-ball air vents work well and provide more than enough fresh air to your face. In fact there is nothing to grumble about with the climate control whatsoever, Jaguar even go so far as to throw in a heated steering wheel too. Rear passengers are also treated to their own independent climate control functions too and those who had a try seemed pleased. All in all the R-Sport is a very decent machine to roll around in, the ride comfort is a bit firm in urban areas but befitting the R-Sport title. Once at speed it rides very well indeed, again, slightly firm but well controlled. When it comes to handling though I wont waste words about it…. simply put? first class! JLR have moved away from hydraulic PAS to an E-PAS system that virtually matches the old rack for feel at the steering wheel rim. Chassis, brakes and steering are all excellent… honest!
“…I challenge you to find an equivalent rival that provides as much driving enjoyment and makes you feel more special for the money”
The real ace card in the pack is its balance of performance and economy. Its engine now develops 300Ps (up from 275) and a hefty 700Nm of torque (up from 600) which, where allowed, slingshots you to sixty in 5.9 seconds and then onwards to a limited 155mph with little fuss or drama. Yes it lets you know its an oil burner when idling but even then its little more than a finely engineered discreet rattle. One on the move its difficult to decipher its a diesel, the power is instant, the mid range pull is superb and motorway cruising takes place with the engine turning over little more than a fast idle. Jaguar claim an overall average of 48mpg and yet I returned a whisker under 50 on a long run back to Sussex from West Glamorgan. A journey to Somerset via crawling holiday traffic on the M4 and a detour via Bristol city centre and the A370 into Weston Super Mare saw an unbelievable 37mpg on the trip computer. Just think, its not that long ago those figures would be good going for a small family hatchback.
The XJ remains an impressive motor car in almost every area. Sure, the interior might feel a bit small – especially rear headroom compared to rivals, the quality doesn’t give the Bavarians a bloody nose and the boot (480 litres) although long and wide, is notably a bit shallow and doesn’t benefit from a folding seat back. But you cant fault the actual drive, the handling, the performance and of course, the style – the interior presentation is still one of the very best out there. The gloss black grille and splitter effect air dams on the nose add into the XJ’s style with a dash of added subtle aggression and I challenge you to find an equivalent rival that provides as much driving enjoyment and make you feel more special for the money.
AUTOBRITANNIA.NET RATING: 8/10
WHATS HOT: First class road holding – Interior presentation – Still looks stylish and unmistakably Jaguar – Well equipped – Refined driveline – Good fuel economy – Head turning style – Great steering feel and response for an E-PAS system – Comfort – Makes the occupants feel so special – Impressive performance – Powerful and confidence inspiring brakes – Brilliant Hi-Fi now features mobile Wi-Fi.
WHATS NOT: Front and rear headroom tight – Road noise on poor surfaces is quite high – Lumpy ride at urban speeds – Some interior quality is below class expectations – Turning circle is quite large in confined spaces – Info-tainment could be quicker responding to the touch and in general need of a complete update – Under bonnet presentation is a bit messy.
Produced by: Jaguar Land Rover Group Castle Bromwich Birmingham
Price: £70,975 excluding options
Driveline: 3.0 V6 24v twin turbo diesel (Eu6) with electronic ZF 8 speed automatic RWD
Power: 300Ps & 700Nm of torque
Performance: * 0 – 60 in 5.9 seconds with a limited max of 155mph
Economy / Co2: *48.0mpg combined (49.8mpg on actual test) 155g/Km Co2
*= Govt or manufacturers claimed data
For more information on the Jaguar XJ: CLICK HERE