Jaguar XJ 3.0
Before the arrival of the current XJ Jaguar on the local market in 2010, the shape of big Jags had not changed dramatically since the introduction of the original XJ6 to Australian customers in April 1969. Designer Ian Callum entirely re-imagined the XJ as a modern, rakish fastback-style car, having more in common visually with a Porsche Panamera than with any of its Jaguar predecessors. At the same time, the XJ has taken a full step upmarket with the cheapest variant commanding almost $200K before adding expensive options or even on-road costs. The XJ is available with the same lusty 3.0-litre diesel engine that is so popular in the smaller XF series. Is there a risk though that prospective buyers will not recognise this formidable newcomer as a Jaguar?
This is an utterly different design for a large Jaguar. Ever since the late 1940s, these cars have been gracious, elegant, even beautiful. Ian Callum’s XJ is bolder and aggressive, less subtle and, frankly, not instantly recognisable as a Jaguar. Observers during our week with the car mistook it as a Saab, upmarket Commodore or Aston-Martin, with even quite well informed people not identifying it as a Jaguar until close enough to see the explicit branding of badges and emblems. The grille in particular is bold and not well integrated into what is otherwise a very flowing, gradual shape. From the rear it looks a little lumpy but in profile the new XJ is especially sleek and aerodynamic looking. The fastback roof sweeps in a gradual curve from A-pillar to tail, peaking gently at the B-pillar.
Once you step inside the car, suddenly Jaguar-ness overwhelms. This is among the most lavish cabins we have ever experienced. It is entirely bespoke. The leather dashboard sweeps around into the doors where deep panels of polished timber are redolent of Jaguar’s richest traditions. There is even aJaguar-Union Jack ingot at top dead centre of this overwhelmingly stylish fascia.
Even the standard short-wheelbase XJ has generous interior space. It is the sense of the bespoke ambience that makes this such a delightful car in which to travel. Driver and passengers alike will marvel at the radical new transmission selector which sits flush in the centre console until the ignition until the start/stop button is engaged, then rises silently. You engage gears by rotating it. There are steering wheel paddles for switching between the six forward ratios. The selector combines with a tiny chrome electronic parking brake switch to liberate interior space. This interior can be further upgraded, thanks to a long list of mostly expensive options.
Performance & Economy
An output of 202 kW of power from a 3.0-litre diesel is formidable but how about 600 Nm of torque. While the engine does not sound like a sporting unit, it delivers unobtrusively and in near silence most of the time. Zero to 100 km/h takes less than seven seconds. You cruise at 110 km/h with the tachometer needle sitting generally below 2000 rpm. On test the XJK diesel averaged seven litres per 100 kilometres.
Ride & Handling
We would like to sample an XJ riding on the standard 18-inch alloys. The test car’s 20s doubtless detracted slightly from the ride. Though comfortable at low speeds it lacked the magic carpet feel of earlier Jaguars. Handling is outstanding with good steering feel when the transmission knob is turned to the right to engage Sport mode. But it is not a handy jigger in supermarket carparks with so much frontal overhang and a poor turning circle by contemporary standards.
Ian Callum’s XJ blends a modern exterior with a gorgeous interior. Unfortunately, traditional Jaguar customers are not all convinced, while younger buyers still seem captivated by the German marques. But those who sample the latest XJ from the inside may well be convinced. Expect resale values to suffer.