by Samantha Stevens - 08/02/13
As the flagship of the Jaguar prestige range, the XJ saloon comes packed with luxury, wrapped in a stunning shell and lined with more leather than a cloak rack at a biker bar.
While the base model is already dubbed ‘Premium Luxury’, the ‘Portfolio’ V8 models add some extra swag for the second row, making it the best limousine option. However, the chauffer would be the one to benefit from such an arrangement, for the XJ is a brilliant beast once unleashed.
The tried-and-true Jaguar 5.0-litre V8 may be on the endangered list soon, with the marque moving towards twin-turbo V6 petrol and powerful diesel alternatives, but it would be a shame to do away with the big banger particularly when supercharged. The Portfolio edition comes with either the ‘standard’ V8 developing 283kW and 515Nm, or this supercharged iteration with a massive 346kW between 6000 – 6500rpm and 575Nm at 2500 – 5500rpm. The top-shelf Supersport extracts even more - 373kW and 625Nm.
Straight-line acceleration is slightly dulled by its 1892kg bulk, though Jaguar boasts the XJ is on average 150 kegs lighter than its German counterparts thanks to extensive use of aluminium and composites. The weight, along with the forced induction, lifts fuel use to 12.1L/100km claimed; add five or so litres onto that if you want to really enjoy the power and torque.
Plush and downright lush, the interior is still understated yet anal in its finish. It’s an elegant interior with many options for personalization which appeals to its fussy demographic.
The centre stack features Jaguar’s round shift knob that rises theatrically out of the centre console when the start button is depressed, and above that is the big feature of the 2012 new model year update: a large colour touch-screen interface for sat-nav, voice-controlled phone and Bluetooth, rear parking camera and the trip computer/car info.
Standard gear includes an electric 12-way driver’s seat and 8-way passenger seat, power steering adjustment, heated front seats and steering wheel, a heated windscreen and door mirrors, a sunroof, and beautiful soft-touch surfaces, controls, and soft ambient lighting in the footwells and door sills.
The Portfolio edition adds four-zone automatic climate control, heated and ventilated rear seats, a massaging function on the front seats, and an upgraded 1200-watt Bowers and Wilkins stereo. The windows are laminated for extra sound dampening and cooling, and the Jaguar ‘Leaper’ logo is embossed into the thickly grained seats.
Sleek, low and long even in the short-wheelbase models, the XJ creates a classic profile while maintaining a modern presence. The rear three-quarter and boot is somewhat polarizing, with the back end sloping downwards at a sharp angle.
The front sticks with the family grille bookended by the new J-style running lamps from the XF sedan, and at the side, the big 19-inch rims barely fill the wide, flared guards.
Chrome highlights on the door handles, sill lines, grille and exhaust tips further lift the exterior, which can be covered by a surprisingly diverse colour palette of 13 solid and metallic hues.
The XJ is a genuine driver’s car capable of a 5.2sec zero to 100km/h sprint, despite its limousine dimensions. The ride is supple but firm as a trade-off for good cornering, while reducing yaw and pitch for neutral handling through the twisty stuff. The switchable suspension settings of Comfort or Dynamic modes are backed up stability control options of ‘Track’ and ‘Off’, which can loosen the car to almost lairy hilarity particularly in the wet.
The steering offers lovely feel and bite, and combines with the wonderful suspension calibration to enhance the driving experience when having a punt. Of course, the trade off is a ride that some XJ buyers may raise an eyebrow at; it’s certainly not a typically limo-esque soft and cushy ride for the back seat traveller when the going gets rough.
The paddle-shifting eight-speed ZF automatic gearbox is super with this engine configuration, blipping down the gears and resonating through the rear pipes as it does so when woken from its adaptive-cruising slumber.
It still feels handicapped by its size as a real performance car, until you remember its real purpose in life – and who its real-world buyers are.
Some may say the price is a big cross in the challenge box. It would be hard to push past a fully kitted-out XF or XFR sedan in preference for the entry level XJ, particularly with the price premium for the Portfolio pack and the supercharged engine, and the opulent offerings from the Germans also make a persuasive argument (see Competition, below).
A special car, with stately and stand-apart looks, excellent specification, and a stunning drivetrain built for twists as well as straights. Shame the price makes it only dream- and drool-worthy for most of us.
The XFR sedan at $210,900 with a couple of luxo option packs would be a decent challenger for the XJ, the main cannibal within the Jaguar ranks is the base XJ diesel; a twin-turbo six-cylinder which actually develops more torque than the supercharged V8 (202kW/600Nm versus 283/515Nm), uses five litres less fuel per 100km, and starts at $206,800.
However, the petrol V8 is the only one offered in Portfolio spec, and buyers of a big luxo saloon probably want the eight-pot power and soundtrack to match.
German opposition includes the Mercedes-Benz S63 ($392,900), the Porsche Panamera S ($284,700) and Panamera Turbo ($379,600), and the BMW 6-Series Gran Coupe when it arrives in five-litre V8 spec later in 2012.
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