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First Drive

Review: the still brilliant Jaguar XJ

£73,185 when new
Published: 09 May 2016


  • BHP


  • 0-62


  • CO2


  • Max Speed


  • Insurance


Is this new?
Not particularly. It’s a minor facelift for the Jaguar XJ, a car that’s been with us over six years now. That its facelift is so slight is testament to the fact it’s a damn good car in the first place.
We’ve driven it in 3.0 V6 diesel R-Sport form – so the most sensible powertrain, but mated to the racier looks of the 542bhp XJR.
What’s Jag done, then?
There are some very mild styling changes – a new LED headlight design, tweaked bumpers – and it’s the bunch of new tech additions that are of more interest. So there’s Jag’s latest InControl Touch Pro infotainment system, a simply mega 26-speaker, 1,300-watt Meridian stereo, a self-parking button (an absolute boon in a car as ginormous as this) and updated TFT dials.
The XJ pioneered the configurable digital speedo setup back in 2010, and it’s now aping some of the features of the cars that followed its lead, with a full screen nav display akin to Audi’s Virtual Cockpit.
Anything driving wise?
Yes. The 3.0-litre V6 diesel has had a little update, so it now produces 300bhp, 516lb ft and boasts a 5.9-second 0-60mph time. The torque figure is up a vast 74lb ft – that’s a whole Fiat Panda – yet fuel economy and CO2 emissions both demonstrate slight improvements, at 49.6mpg and 149g/km.
There’s also a new electric power steering system, the XJ the final Jaguar to succumb to a more environmentally-friendly setup. “Hydraulic systems have reached the limit of their potential,” the technical bumf tells us, but this alludes more to their inability to mate to self-driving assistance gubbins (such as that handy self-parking) than anything related to feel and satisfaction.

Has it messed things up?

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Nope. Driving the XJ makes you realise it’s totally worth the compromise. Yeah, the steering is light, but that’s one of a number of factors that lead to the XJ being defter to drive than its size might allow you to imagine. There’s as much communication through the wheel as you need, and the whole thing corners with a wonderful agility that keeps it firmly the top of its class if you like driving.

The engine is a good ‘un, too. It sounds a bit diesel-y when you push it – which is somewhat inevitable given its power-source – but its muscularity is outstanding. Cruise along at sedate pace, and it ensures the XJ feels hilariously understressed, and in turn utterly relaxing. Spy an overtaking opportunity, or get this on a derestricted autobahn, and it turns into a properly punchy sports saloon. And the eight-speed auto attached to it is nigh on perfect.

It’s a limo! Surely my butler is worrying about this sort of thing?

Well, perhaps not. As limos go, this is one that’s pretty small in the back (unless you spec the long wheelbase version) and has a slightly firm ride (another catalyst of those exceptional dynamics).

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If you want to lounge in the back, never being troubled by the uncouthness of driving yourself, buy a Mercedes S-Class. If you like cars for the fun you can have actually driving them, you must buy this.

Six years old. Is it getting on a bit?

Actually, not at all. Jaguar has a comprehensively excellent range of cars at the moment, but despite the XJ now being comfortably the oldest (facelift aside, of course), it is the one with the most character. Its styling shook up the establishment when it arrived, yet Jag has stuck steadfastly with it, and the XJ still looks superbly daring, especially alongside the more conventional XE and XJ.

On the inside, too, its quirky air vents, smart dashboard clock and its sweeping, wraparound dashboard all elevate it above its newer siblings. And every luxury saloon south of a Bentley. It’s a joyous place to spend time.

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You’re smitten.

It’s a really special car, the XJ, and we just hope that when its replacement must come, Jaguar keeps its flagship four door ‘out there’. When a facelift can be this subtle, six years into a car’s life, it’s evidence that bold can be brilliant.

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