In the history of great transformations, the brand new 2010 Jaguar XJ sets a great example with the radical changes made to nearly every aspect of the luxury saloon compared to it’s predecessor. The old ‘Jag’ XJ was based on thirty years of heritage and clearly ageing in the 21th century. New blood was highly needed in the ever important flagship luxury sedan market.
Parked in front of the Jaguar headquarters a black Jaguar XJ was awaiting our arrival. Powered by a 3.0 V6 Diesel engine producing up to 275bhp at 4000rpm and a massive 600Nm (441lb-ft) of torque at 2000rpm and packed with every single gadget and accessory available, we were ready to experience a ‘3 liter diesel’. How could that ever be appealing to a pertrolhead like me?
With respect to the competition the irony is that every single manufacturer within this market sector – especifically Mercedes-Benz, BMW and Audi – has spent the previous decades establishing and refining the formula Jaguar became famous with; a combination of performance, refinement and superlative comfort in a luxury package with four-doors and a spacious interior. Jaguar tries to re-establish itself with the very same ingredients and sets the new XJ as a luxury saloon with flamboyant exterior lines and the driving manners of an Autobahn cruiser tuned for Windsor castle fleet duty.
The 2010 XJ is a complete repudiation of its predecessor. Only a few characteristics have survived from it ancestor. The aluminum chassis is again made from lightweight aluminum, and a number of platform architecture elements and component sets are carried over from the old car. The lines of the vehicle have drastically changed into a new perspective closely related to its little brother the XF. The XJ’s surfaces are clean and subtle. The grille is set into the body, in similar fashion to the original historic XJ.
The rear end is a different matter. Some say its style is French or even Italian, others dispute the way the ingredients that make up the design were somehow ‘copied’. In a way it is a mix of different flavors not known to the British car maker. However, the taillights – which Jaguar calls cat’s claws – are vertically positioned and give the rear end a polarizing appearance. Overall, its greatest styling achievement is individuality.
The 2011 Jaguar XJ is a large luxury sedan available in regular and long-wheelbase (4.9 inches longer) four-door body styles. Both are available in three trim levels, which correspond with the engine-type: XJ, XJ Supercharged and XJ Supersport. A total of four engines are available; a V6 diesel and three, fire-breathing V8 petrol engines. All linked to a six-speed automatic with manual shift control.
The first V8 engine is a 5.0 liter V8 that produces 385hp and 380Nm of torque, good for a 0-100km/h sprint of 5.4 seconds. The XJ Supercharged features a supercharged 5.0 liter V8 with 470hp and 424Nm of torque and finally the XJ Supersport has a more powerful version of the supercharged V8 good for 510hp and 461Nm of torque. Both are blisteringly fast with 4.5 and 4.7 seconds sprints from 0-100km/h.
The test vehicle was equipped with the 3.0 liter turbo diesel. The prepossessed feelings any car-lover would have stepping into our test car are gone within a minute after leaving the parking for the road. The engine is a revelation. It has almost as much torque as the 5.0 liter Supercharged. It is brisk, nimble and likes to play and run. 0-100 is done in six seconds, which is fast and accompanied by a lovely growl from the back. Not too much, not too little, just right and distinct. The paddles behind the steering wheel are extra for the happy few, while they never shout ‘try me’.
The fun and pleasure is there for the take. The mix between sportiveness and ride comfort are so well balanced that you wonder why anybody else would take a Mercedes or Audi in favor of this Jag. Ok, there is more impact hardness over rough terrain due to its 20 inch wheels – the ones Jaguar says are for Europe only – and you feel the road under the wheels, but it is so much more agile and nimble than its competitors, mainly due to its lightweight aluminum chassis, communicative steering and adaptive suspension. It weighs 150kg less than any rival. But more importantly it feels very much sports-biased, much more than we expected before we got behind the wheel.
The cabin is as unique as the outside and as surprising as the engine. The mix between technical achievements and the refinement of the glamorous and gorgeous design are in complete harmony. It gives the passengers a wonderfully airy and spacious feel. The main rising drive selector is easy to use, but the signs are hard to read in direct sunlight conditions. You find leather and wood everywhere combined with four big eyeball vents. A bit of a miss within the design was the background color of the center clock and lack of elegancy.
On the technical side two main screens are the focus of the driver. The gauges are digital graphic renderings of analog dials on a 12.3-inch TFT display. They are useful, but lack any kind of additional functionality. No navigational instructions, no additional information concerning the entertainment inside the luxury saloon, no front facing camera and hardly any adjustments to the setup of the screen, which leaves us with points on the improvement list.
The second screen is situated in the center console providing the general infotainment. Available as an option is a Dual View centre console touch screen that can both inform the driver and entertain the passenger. You can watch DVD or a digital TV channel as the main passenger while the driver only sees the navigational instructions. How? The view angle of the split-screen is the main subject here! Rear seat passengers can access in-car media via a wireless remote to watch movies on eight inch LCD screens mounted in the front seat headrests. A 1200-watt Bowers & Wilkins system combines a total of twenty speakers powered through fifteen channels.
Like any other car the XJ has its flaws. The headroom in the front and the back is not enormous and legroom could be better but for customers seeking that extra bit of space the LWB version offers that. The quality of the rearview camera needs improvement, same goes for the availability of information via the main gauges. But overall those are minor gripes you will hardly moan about.
Instead you are left with an experience giving you an alternative choice and a reason to consider taking a go in a leaping cat. In any circumstance it is clear you are inside a Jaguar taking the legendary British brand into the 21st century. In a market where luxury cars more and more look a like, the Jaguar XJ maintains its own identity. How hard you try you couldn’t mistake it for anything else and that why it’s so good.