Will this stealthy cat, with a diesel engine, upset the natural picking order of luxury sedans?
Photos by Low Fai Ming
When we first saw the new XJ, only one word could describe our reaction: Shock. Compared to the old XJ, the new car comes with bang up to date looks matched to thoroughly modern underpinnings, such as an aluminium chassis. The company's flagship model comes in a variety of engines: Supercharged and N/A 5.0-litres as well as the 3.0-litre diesel which we have here.
Even standing next to it, you get a sense of something special. Yes, the front may share a similar design as the XF, but the XJ presents a more interesting look. With a chiselled front end, it blends into more plain-looking flanks. Little quirky details such as the blacked-out C-pillar and claw-slash rear light trails just add to the our likeability of this car.
Viewing this car side on, we can't help but notice the short front and long rear overhangs. Still, since what we drove is the long wheelbase version, it does look more pleasing to the eye, with that sweeping roofline, combined with the beautiful curves even more pronounced than the standard wheelbase XJ. Overall, we think it has made the three German marques look a bit boring by comparison.
Jaguar's attention to the interior paid off. Getting into the Jaguar is not similar to getting into a car. Yes, the interior of our test car is the same dull black business seen in countless luxury cars, but that is where the similarities end. Instead of being surrounded by wood inserts, we're greeted with wood panels which curve around us, cocooning us in the snug interior. Small strips of metal do the job of highlighting some of the cabins features. It's the same story in the back, with the extended wheelbase giving passengers lots of space to move about with only one caveat - only the tall peeps need to worry about the swooping roofline during entry.
The digital spaceship starts the moment you push the Start/stop button, with the fade-in presentation of the dials and the backlit controls. The lack of buttons on the glossy console is a result of using a touchscreen system for the settings — but leaving the most used function adjustments for good old rotary dial entry. The unusual gear controller which rises from the glossy console took some getting used to, but we liked it's chunky rotary action.
Once on the prowl, the Jaguar continues to be the stealthy cat it always was, save for a little rumble from the engine as you move gently off the line. Poke it with a stick however, and it responds by furiously shoving you back into your seat as the car lurches forth without hesitation. While others offer more gears, the six-speed ZF automatic gearbox is still creamy smooth with the power delivery.
We particularly liked the ride of the XJ L. It's soft and cushy, but at a touch of a button, goes into firm “handling” mode, plus the digital dials turn racy-red. It is indeed silly to be throwing the big cat into corners, but the response is nothing short of impressive. In the hardest setting, body roll is very well controlled and the big car hugs the bends like a leech, with the engine sounding brilliant as we went down the gear hierarchy and the brakes doing a good job of slowing the car down. Perhaps the only complaint we have: The steering action feels rather detached from the driver.
Before we get carried away with the handling dynamics, this is still a car that will spend most of its life wafting at a comfortable pace. Not only does the XJ L iron out the bumps, it takes part of the driving duty off the driver too. The Adaptive Cruise Control works as advertised, keeping us at a preset distance from the car in front even when if it slows down. At the legal speed limits, the XJ L hums softly, with the engine turning over at barely 1,500rpm, leaving plenty of the aural space left to enjoy the excellent audio system.
At S$360,000, the XL J is more expensive than the offerings from the other three Germans, and with the unique way Singapore is taxing diesel cars, costs almost $4,000 more when it comes to the annual road tax. However, the area where this Jag devours the competition is fuel consumption. We drove over 100km, with some spirited moments and the fuel indicator barely moved. We're told that the XJ L, driven in the most efficient manner possible, will return 14km/l, which is excellent for a big car.
At the end of the day, we are in love with the XJ L. It is visually arresting inside and out, delivers a sporty drive with a punchy diesel and most importantly, it has a distinct soul. It has a whiff of the old Jaguar charm, mixed with modern technologies and designs. Most importantly, we think that this car signals the big change in Jaguar. We were turning heads and stopping people everywhere we went, from posh housing estates to the busy financial district. Looks like Jaguar has found a new mojo!