In the world of luxury saloons, the XJ is different, a stand out car, that fact as much down to its bold design as it is its relative obscurity. It’s been around for eight years old now, enough time for it to have been refreshed, but in the same time all its rivals have been wholly replaced.
“We have a lot of celebrities phone us and ask to borrow the XJ,” says Ian Callum, Director of Design, Jaguar.
There are some changes to the car for 2018, but we’ll not see an all-new XJ for at least a couple more years. As Jaguar's German rivals push ahead with their new models, the XJ has to make do with what it’s got, which means no plug-in hybridised powertrains that Mercedes-Benz, BMW and Audi will be offering in their S-Class, 7 Series and A8 respectively, nor any of their autonomous driving ability.
Nope, Jaguar’s done the opposite, and turned up the wick on the flagship sporting XJR model to create the XJR 575 – perhaps in the hope that some more horsepower will distract from what’s missing elsewhere in its range.
Still, if you’re going to be a niche player in the luxury sector then you might as well go all-in. Jaguar did so when it launched the XJ all those years ago, touting it as the most sporting model in its segment. One for the drivers then, rather than the driven, and for those who want something different from the oh-so-predictable Germanic norm.
It has always had looks on its side, its lithe, coupe-like lines very distinct, making the big Jaguar a rival (on aesthetic terms, at least) for Porsche’s Panamera or Maserati’s Quattroporte. Adding some vents in the bonnet, the more sporting addenda that comes with the XJR 575 specification does the looks little harm, though some might find the unique Velocity Blue a little bit overt. Pick a subtler hue and you’ll still do well to avoid attention, the supercharged 5.0-litre V8 petrol engine under the bonnet prone to shout about its potential through four sizeable exhausts slung out back.
That 575 refers to the PS or hp figure, apparently better-sounding than 553, the same figure in British bhp. Plenty, though all those Germans rivals come with more muscle. Not that you’ll find many occasions where you’ll need any more performance than that V8 delivers, its 4.4 second 0-62mph time very much in the "silly" category. The childlike giggles that spontaneously accompany any prod of the right pedal to the floor make you find occasion to try it again. Repeatedly.
There’s no four-wheel drive to help out, all 517 lb ft of torque dealt with admirably by just two, though you might want to be a little bit more prudent when it’s damp. There is, of course, electronic stability and traction control systems to offset the most unsympathetic driving, and there’s driving modes that allow you to switch them off it you want views on YouTube. For the most part the Jaguar XJR 575 just gets on with the business of going quickly, and making a lovely noise while doing so.
Driven on a smooth Portuguese road more suited to a hot hatchback, any of its newer, more sporting rivals would outperform it. That’s not just down to the 5.1m length and near 2m width, but a chassis that lacks the sophistication of its latest competitors from Germany. There’s some roll and bounce from the suspension when you start to ask it to cope with higher speeds and more difficult conditions, followed by the feeling that you’re not entirely at one with what’s going on. The steering doesn't inspire confidence when the roads are tight and twisty.
Find some more space, or take to the motorway, and it’s a charmer. The immediacy of the supercharged V8’s response, the creamy shift of the eight-speed auto and the unwavering comfort of an upmarket Jag interior combine in a cloud of effortless pace. It's impossible not to drop gears via the paddles on occasion, just to give that V8 its voice as you launch yourself past a lorry on the autobahn.
The Jaguar’s cabin has aged well, feeling pretty contemporary despite its age. There’s a bigger touch-screen in the centre dash, the instruments consisting primarily of a configurable TFT screen. The XJ’s interior manages has these newfangled toys yet retains some traditional old-school appeal that marks it out from its more technically impressive rivals.
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REVIEW TESTDRIVE DRIVING EXTERIOR INTERIOR NEW CAR 2017/2018/2019
Published 11 months ago
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