When a glittering polished-aluminium X350 XJ was unveiled for the first time at the 2002 Paris Motor Show, while it must have undoubtedly been a pain to photograph it was one of the world’s most advanced cars.
Having drawn on aerospace techniques of riveting and bonding aluminium, Jaguar’s engineering team produced a class-leading lightweight and extremely rigid shell which was so advanced that, in truth, mechanically the car changed little over its lifetime.
Though bigger in every way than its X308 predecessor, the X350’s shell was 40 per cent lighter, and 60 per cent more rigid. Suspension was via self-levelling air-springing all round, while the X308’s five-speed ZF transmission was dropped in favour of the six-speed unit already introduced by 2003 in the S-TYPE and XK8/XKR ranges.
Engine wise, the line-up – in XJ terms at least – was also new. The ‘base’ engine was the 3.0-litre AJ-V6 unit; though already in service in the X-TYPE and S-TYPE, its installation in the new XJ meant an XJ6 model for the first time since the X300 disappeared in 1997. V8 wise, the X308’s 3.2- and 4.0-litre units were replaced by 3.5- and 4.2-litre versions, the latter also available in 400bhp supercharged form.
The all-new interior was bigger (headroom, legroom and cabin width were all increased, as was luggage capacity by some 25 per cent) and better equipped than before with 7in touch screen sat-nav, headrest mounted rear DVD screens and a comprehensive multi-media system all being available. The X350 was also bristling with safety features and driver aids such as an Adaptive Restraint Technology System, Adaptive Cruise Control and Electronic Brake Assist. The owner’s manual included plenty of acronyms…
Specification wise, launched as a 2003 Model Year car, the XJ range kicked off with the ‘base’ 3.0-litre V6 at £39,000, with ‘Sport’ and ‘SE’ options also available with this and 4.2-litre V8 engines, the 3.5-litre V8 only coming in SE trim. In supercharged form the 4.2-litre V8 powered the £58,500 XJR, and the £68,500 ultra well-equipped Super V8 – both with Brembo brakes. Sport spec and XJR models featured firmer springing in line with their sporting character. At this point, all models shared the same 3034mm wheelbase – and the same was true of the 2004MY line-up, with no model changes.
For the 2005MY, however, the long-wheelbase (3159mm) X350 arrived, along with some range revisions. The Sport 3.0-litre V6 disappeared, the base and SE models with this engine being supplemented with the better-equipped Sovereign. The 3.5-litre SE was also dropped, the ‘small’ V8 now being offered in Sport and Sport Premium trim. As for the naturally-aspirated 4.2-litre V8, opt for that and the choice was now between SE and Sovereign spec only, the latter with a LWB option that added £1,750 to the price. Topping the range were the XJR and Super V8 as before, the difference being that the Super V8 was now LWB only at £71,970.
That little shuffle complete, the range changed again for the 2006MY with the introduction of the excellent twin-turbo 2.7-litre V6 diesel engine which, just to spice things up, officially happened at the 2006.25MY! The ‘base’ XJ, available in 2.7-litre diesel and 3.0-litre V6 petrol form, was now badged ‘Executive’, both engines also being available with Sovereign specification and, in diesel form only, Sport Premium. The 3.5-litre V8 survived now in Sport Premium spec only, while the 4.2-litre naturally-aspirated V8 was restricted to Sovereign specification, with the choice of SWB or LWB. The supercharged XJR and Super V8 (LWB) continued.
Aside from the engine choice and spec revisions, the 2006MY also included several notable changes across the range. Side body strips and front and rear screen finishers were deleted for a cleaner look, while acoustic laminated glass and a new secondary bulkhead were amongst upgrades to enhance refinement. Bluetooth wireless connection became available, as did a tyre pressure monitoring system and a switch to TEVES as the brake supplier. Though this meant bigger brakes on all non-supercharged cars (up from 320mm/288mm front/rear to 326mm discs all-round) and better pedal feel, it also meant the end of the Brembos on the XJR and Super V8. Given the cost of servicing the Brembos, many would say that was no bad thing especially although the new ‘R performance’ brakes were slightly smaller (355mm/326mm discs front/rear vs the Brembo’s 365mm/330mm), they were every bit as effective.
Moving on to the 2007MY, the range was rationalised somewhat. While the 3.0-litre V6 and 4.2-litre V8 line-up remained unchanged, the 3.5-litre V8 was dropped. The diesel model line-up was also the same, Executive, Sovereign and Sport Premium but, significantly, the LWB option was available in the first two of these three oil-burning specs. At the top of the range, the LWB Super V8 disappeared, leaving the SWB-only XJR as the jewel in the XJ’s crown.
Come the 2008MY, though the model choice was unchanged, the look of the XJ was given a shot in the arm courtesy of an extensive facelift. Revised front and rear bumpers, new side ‘power’ vents and a subtle rear spoiler all combined to give the XJ a more assertive look while inside new front seats (with optional cooling function) not only increased driver and passenger comfort, they also meant more room in the back too. New wing mirrors with side repeaters, Bluetooth connectivity as standard and three new 19in wheel designs were amongst the other changes.
By this point, though, the end for the X350 XJ was in sight, and for the final year of production, the 2009MY range was eventually rationalised still further to just three models: Executive and Sovereign spec diesels, and the 4.2-litre supercharged Super V8, the latter model nomenclature making a return for the first time since the 2006MY. All three models were available in LWB form too, and all three were keenly priced with the Super V8, at £57,760, actually being £10,740 cheaper than its namesake at launch in 2003!
On the road, any X350 XJ – even the smaller engined models – deliver a sprightly driving experience that belie both their size and, some would say, dated looks. At the other end of the scale, the supercharged models are capable of a quite staggering transformation between relaxed cruiser, and blistering performance when the need arises.