Road Test: Jaguar XJ L 3.0d Autobiography
An evolutionary refresh for a revolutionary part of Jaguar’s product history, explains Alex Grant.
SECTOR: Luxury PRICE: £79,920 FUEL: 49.6mpg CO2: 149g/km
Although the luxury sector is dominated by the ubiquitous S-Class and generation-after-generation brand loyalty to Stuttgart, Jaguar’s XJ saloon has found some illustrious customers in its near 50-year history. Merc might transport high-flying businessmen, but for royals and Prime Ministers it’s the big cat that’s got the cream.
Jaguar has, of course, gone through a bit of a turnaround over the last decade. In the eight years since the latest XJ adopted the brand’s curvaceous new family design, its siblings have established themselves in fleet. A family now spanning the compact executive XE, the F-Pace SUV and aspirational F-Type sports car, each making what was once new-age Jag design familiar. Yet, somehow, the XJ’s plunging rear roofline and upright rear lights have lost none of that curbside presence in the years since.
There hasn’t been any need to perform radical surgery here; the mid-life facelift introduced a reshaped nose with a more upright grille and LED headlights separated to look like twin lamps. Both are subtle nods to the original XJ of 1968. For a car measuring just short of 5.3 metres end to end in long-wheelbase form, as tested here, it looks impossibly athletic, somehow hiding its sheer size among the curves.
All of which is a hint at its USP. The XJ is largely made from aluminium, which means it does just as effective a job of hiding its bulk when it’s on the road. It’s not a car that wills you to drive quickly, but it covers ground effortlessly and corners like a much smaller car. Yet, despite the 20-inch wheels and slither of rubber wrapped around them, it doesn’t feel like a four-seat sports car on poor surfaces.
Jaguar only offers one diesel engine in the XJ, a 297bhp twin-turbocharged V6, up 25bhp on the old one and now with a more accurate fuel injection system to improve fuel economy. The eight-speed automatic gearbox helps, but it’s fairly easy to get over 40mpg driven gently, but there’s plenty of straight-line performance available when needed too. But, at 149g/km, its closest rivals are way ahead on CO2 emissions.
Autobiography versions were also introduced with the refresh; it’s a top-of-the-line trim level exclusive to the long-wheelbase model. Jaguar interiors can be a bit plasticky compared to rivals, but the XJ feels a cut above with its lashings of soft leather and stainless steel trim pieces. Rear occupants get 10.2-inch screens and tray tables, plus individually-adjustable seats, but the XJ falls down a little when it comes to leg or headroom. You get more space in the German luxury saloons.
This is a segment that moves fast, the part of the market where new technology breaks cover. New versions get the latest InControl infotainment system and semi-autonomous traffic jam assistance which can bring the car to a complete halt – good news for urban chauffeur fleets – and the Land Rover-esque low-speed cruise control for slippery surfaces is clever too. But technologically it’s a generation behind the new 7 Series and even the soon-to-be updated S-Class. Jaguar also doesn’t offer a plug-in hybrid – rapidly becoming a prerequisite part of a luxury car line-up.
However, this is a thoroughly likeable car; great to drive, striking to look at and something a little different to the scaled-up executive saloons. In a segment which moves quickly, Jaguar hasn’t fallen behind the curve yet.
What we think:
The XJ feels more tuned towards the driver than rear-seat passengers – whether that’s a positive or negative depends on your point of view. There’s more space elsewhere in this segment, but for sheer presence and driving dynamics the big Jaguar is hard to fault.
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