The 2019 Isle of Man TT Senior winner loves big engines and old vans. Good lad
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£73,185 when new
What’s this? Jaguar’s flagship XJ, subtly updated for 2016 with added excellence. Was there much to start with? Plenty. When it was launched six years ago, the all-aluminium XJ was the best-driving barge by a country mile. It looked the part, too – all svelte and Ian Callum-y, with bags of character and a gorgeously appointed cabin to boot. But it wasn’t without fault. Its biggest bugbear was the infotainment system, which, even six years ago, was far from class-leading.
What has Jag done to the XJ, then? On the face of it, not a great deal. There’s a marginally larger, more upright grille, some new LED headlights and a smattering of shiny new trim. Electromechanical power-assisted steering replaces the old hydraulic setup (for better efficiency, and so Jag can implement more advanced driver assistance tech), and the 3.0-litre V6 diesel has been messed around with so it delivers a bit more grunt. There are new trim levels, too. R-Sport is Jag’s answer to BMW’s M-Sport – think fancy wheels and chunky bumpers – and Autobiography replaces Portfolio as the range-topper. Not forgetting the XJR, with its 543bhp V8 and 174mph top speed. Prices kick-off at £58,960 for a short wheelbase diesel, rising to £100,000 for a long-wheelbase Autobiography with a big V8. An XJR will run you a smidge over £92k. But the big news is inside, where Jag has ripped out its old, clunky, lethargic infotainment system and replaced it with a brand new one it calls ‘Infotainment Touch Pro’. Is it any good? It’s a big step up, that’s for sure. Where the XJ’s old system was slow and reluctant to respond to all but the most decisive of prods, the new one is much quicker and more fluid. As touchscreen systems go, it’s easy enough to operate and most of the functions are exactly where you’d expect to find them. It’s all very tablet-like – you can pinch to zoom and flick the map around with your finger. Instantly familiar to anyone with a phone made in the last five or so years. Yes, the XJ’s set-up lacks the polish of iDrive (which remains our system of choice), Merc’s COMMAND or Audi’s MMI, but is no longer an affront to the car in which it’s fitted. Expect to see it filter down to other Jags and Land Rovers soon…
How about engines? We reckon most Brits will go for the 3.0-litre V6 diesel. Power is up by 25bhp to 296bhp, and torque rises a mighty 516lb ft. It feels appreciably meatier than the 335bhp supercharged V6 petrol (which has to make do with a piffling 332lb ft), even though the 0-60mph dash takes an extra 0.2 seconds, 5.9 playing 5.7. The diesel is the one you want, despite the petrol’s buttery smoothness. And it’ll save you money in the long run, supposedly managing a combined average of 49.6mpg to the petrol’s 31. Unless, that is, you can stretch to an XJR, which you most certainly should. Environment be damned. With 543bhp on tap, 0-60mph takes just 4.4 seconds, which is decidedly adequate unless you regularly engage Audi RS6s in traffic-light drag races. It still handles well, right? Most definitely. That’s true of all XJs, from the base diesel right the way up to the R. The addition of EPAS has done little to quell its talents – namely, how it shrugs off its considerable bulk. You’re aware of the weight if hurling the XJR around on track (not that a circuit is its natural home), but the smooth, quick and precise steering imbues it with a degree of agility reminiscent of cars a class or two smaller. And in the R, sideways is a only a tiny poke of the throttle away… The only real issue with the way the XJ handles is the ride, which is nowhere near pillowy enough to rival a Merc S-Class’s. But then, the XJ has always been the driver’s luxury limo. Is the interior as lovely as ever? Yes, with acres of leather and lashings of wood. The XJ may be getting on a bit, but its interior is still a mightily comfortable place to while away a few hours. Not as spacious in the back as some of its competitors, nor as lavishly appointed, so well worth upgrading to the long wheelbase model. Any problems? Besides the ride? Not a great deal. The sat-nav’s still a bit quirky, the rearward visibility is limited by the rakish roofline and big rear headrests. No deal-breakers. This, or an S-Class? Tricky. The S doesn’t drive as well as the XJ, but if you have a chauffer in your employ, the big Merc makes more sense. Even if it doesn’t have half the Jag’s raffish charm…
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