If you hold true with the notion that familiarity breeds contempt then, until the current model was unveiled in 2009, Jaguar had pushed things as far as it could with its range topping XJ saloon. This was a model that had evolved from the purity of the 1968 ‘Series 1’ XJ6 to the technological tour de force that was the X350, but without ever deviating too far from Sir
William’s original design. But with the unveiling of the X351, things were very different indeed.
While there was nothing inherently wrong with the evolutionary path the XJ had trodden over those previous 41 years, and indeed each and every model in the line up still has many great strengths, the car buying world had moved on. A fresh approach was needed, and that’s just what the current XJ represents. Its all-aluminium exterior is as fresh as it is bold, and though it may have upset some traditionalists, it was generally well received by the motoring press – and the glut of awards the car has since achieved, not to mention its sales success, has certainly vindicated Jaguar’s decision to set the XJ along a new path.
Having set the bar high with an exterior that was fresh from every perspective, Jaguar’s design team had an even trickier hurdle to clear when it came to the XJ’s interior, not least because the XF’s cabin had been so well received. To up the stakes for the range topping model can have been no easy task, but that lofty goal was achieved with great success, and in a very different manner.
Technology? Yes, of course, there is plenty of that, but the overriding sensation when slipping behind the wheel of a new XJ for the first time will be one of craftsmanship, attention to detail, supreme comfort and space – a sensation heightened by the two-piece glass roof.
The leather trimmed dash top is beautifully finished, and in its centre are two theatrically large round air vents, between them a blue-faced analogue ‘XJ’ clock, beneath which are an eight-inch touch screen and then audio/climate controls. The centre console itself features Jaguar’s now familiar rotary gear selector (first introduced with the XF in 2008), the entire console sloping gently upwards as it moves towards the rear of the cabin. One thing that there isn’t, on the dash face at least, is wood – that traditional material being most evident on the doors, although carbon-fibre and piano black finishes can be specified in lieu of the many wood options.
Rear passengers enjoy a similarly luxurious environment. The rear face of that rising centre console contains controls for dual-zone rear climate control and heated seats, while DVD screens set into the rear of the front headrests (when specified) paired with Bluetooth wireless headphones can be controlled via an infra-red remote that’s housed in the centre armrest. Leg room in the standard wheelbase car is generous, and in the long wheelbase car very capacious indeed.
As for that two-piece glass roof, privacy can be maximised by closing blinds which conceal the upward view if desired, yet with these blinds retracted both front and rear passengers can watch the sky go by, the entire front section of the roof also tilting and sliding backwards at the touch of a button.
But what of the occupant focused technology? Well, for starters that central touch screen – larger than any Jaguar had used before – is also ‘dual view’. This means that what you see depends on your viewing angle, the simple result being that while the driver might be looking, for example, at a vehicle controls display, at the same time the passenger could be watching a DVD or television programme on the very same screen. Ahead of the driver too, the instrument binnacle is quite different from any Jaguar has used before as it comprises a 12.3in ‘virtual’ display – essentially a high-definition television screen. There are no analogue instruments; instead the screen adapts according to driver instruction.
The speedometer is always positioned centrally, but information displayed in the left and right areas of the screen can be changed. At a ‘basic’ level the rev counter will be to the right of the speedometer, and water temperature and fuel gauges represented to the left, but these can be replaced respectively with a scrolling menu control display and sat-nav instructions at the touch of a steering wheel-mounted button. The sat-nav, incidentally, runs from a hard disc drive (faster than DVD systems) which can also be used to store music and film. There is also a 20-speaker 1200W Bowers & Wilkins audio system which sounds truly remarkable.
So much then for the new XJ’s modern looks and classy interior, but what of the technology beneath the skin? When launched in 2003, the outgoing X350 XJ’s predominantly riveted and bonded all-aluminium structure represented something of an automotive industry first. Its many advantages, including rigid construction and light weight, reaped rewards for the car throughout its life, so it was no surprise that Jaguar stayed with all-aluminium construction for the new XJ; at launch it was claimed to be the lightest, most fuel-efficient car in its class, and the cleanest too.
Using the existing X350’s basic platform, front and rear suspension arrangements for the new XJ were shared with the XF and XK. This was no bad thing given those cars’ inherently good handling characteristics, but there were numerous big steps forward in dynamic terms over the previous generation car.
All X351 XJs feature the adaptive damping system currently used on the XK, XKR and XFR, but allied to conventional springing at the front end, with air suspension being retained for the rear. Jaguar’s engineers felt this set-up ensured the best combination of dynamic agility and ride quality (the outgoing X350 had air-suspension all round, and was often criticised for a jittery low-speed ride). For the UK, powertrain options were Jaguar’s latest Gen III engines: the 3.0-litre AJ-V6 diesel (in ‘S’ spec only), plus the naturally-aspirated and supercharged versions of the 5.0-litre AJ-V8 petrol units. The diesel engine was available in Luxury, Premium Luxury and Portfolio spec, the naturally-aspirated petrol V8 available in the latter two of those forms. The supercharged engine was reserved for the ‘Supersport’ model, complete with its own specification.
In all cases engines transmit drive to the rear wheels via the six-speed ZF6HP28 gearbox as used in the XF and XK (with manual shift facility via steering-wheel mounted paddles), and the Supersport XJ also featured the capable active differential that’s standard equipment on the XKR and XFR too.
How does all that technology translate to performance on the road? Incredibly well. In both standard and long-wheelbase forms, the new XJ is dynamically far more able than you’d believe for a car of its size and in benchmark figure terms, the diesel, naturally-aspirated petrol V8, and Supersport models reach 60mph in 6.0-, 5.4- and 4.7-seconds respectively.
Quick, quicker, and blistering…
In short, the new XJ is an incredibly accomplished package from any perspective, and a genuine world leader amongst its category.