Motoring scribes normally look at their calendars to see what’s coming up, what’s worth driving and what could be avoided, if possible. Last year I looked at 2010 and picked out five cars which in my mind would be worth waking up at 04:00 for to take for a drive. One of these was the all-new Jaguar XJ which was unveiled in London just over a year ago.
Two things attracted my attention to it. The first was its rear end coupe style with a low roofline. Those sloping rear lights with LEDs really bring out a controversial bum, which at first sight is nothing to blow your ass for. It’s simple, no complications, no real drama to speak of. A stark contrast to the front end that’s characterised by a powerful grille, chrome accents, LED daytime running lights and multiple lines on the bonnet. Said bonnet exercises its power through the high dome. Incidentally the new XJ’s Principal Designer Mark Phillips explained how the dashboard was lowered compared to the old car, in order for the driver to have better visual access to the road upfront. More on that later.
Secondly what really revved up my engine was the of course, the engines. Jaguar’s new marketing slogan is “beautiful, fast cars” and they have always delivered on the former. Even close to 40 years after the first XJ came to light it was still regarded as a pretty thing, very regal and inviting. Jaguar can now admit that they never changed that car’s shape all those years. Honestly speaking this is the very first all-new XJ since the late 1960s. So long did the old shape stay on stage that the company became synonymous with XJ, despite producing other cars like the XK, S-Type and X-Type.
Just over four years ago Ian Callum, who joined Jaguar Cars in 1999 as Design Director, gave the artists the mammoth task of redefining what the company’s flagship product was, what it stood for, who its new target market would be. Tough task indeed, considering that the XJ, a slow-seller over the past 20 years, was iconic for the brand. Ask anyone over 50 and they will tell you cars like the XJ6 and Daimler Double 6 were the epitome of premium motoring. Note that I said over 50, because the leaper today aims to attract a younger buyer. Much younger.
One way to do this is to install world-class engines, which they have. At the bottom of the list is a 3.0-litre V6 twin turbo diesel motor pushing out 202kW at 4000rpm and 600Nm, the most powerful in its class. Then comes a naturally aspirated 5.0-litre V8 worth 283kW at 6500rpm and 515Nm of torque. This is the example we drove during a three-hour stint down in George. The roads were willing, the engine breathing and the right foot itching. What of the steering wheel? It also came for the nice braai and contributed to a thoroughly smile-inducing drive. A previous-generation XJ owner I spoke to said Jaguars should not be driven fast; they should glide and be seen by as many people as possible.
Well he’d probably stay away the Supercharged models. The first is also a 5.0-litre V8 with a blower taking power to 346kW and peak torque to 575Nm. Top of the list is the 375kW Supersport with a matching torque of 625Nm. All models come with an 85 litre fuel tank which they all put to different uses. The V6 diesel will give you a range of around 1100km, according to Jaguar’s figures, while the 5.0 V8 naturally aspirated should stop at about 720km. as for the two Supercharged models, the 346kW can drive for around 680km without running empty and the 375kW Supersport can do the same. Mind you these are only claimed figures, tested by Jaguar engineers under ideal conditions. Real-world number should be notably less.
The Supersport has a 0 – 100km/h time of 4.9 seconds which I don’t doubt at all, having tested the furious XFR at a faster time than the official claimed figure.
Jaguar has put its trust on the 6-speed automatic transmission, rather than going 8-speed like its target rivals. It can also be accessed through paddles (the Jaguar Sequential Shift system) behind the steering wheel when that option is taken. I don’t expect most of the 81 buyers expected to take up ownership for the remained of 2010 to use paddles often, if at all. One really doesn’t need them when driving in Dynamic mode. Three other modes, Sport, Sport Manual and Winter modes can be garnered for different situations and roads. Spirited pilots will not be disappointed at all. The XJ feels as light as its mostly-aluminium body structure which also incorporates magnesium and other light materials. The cockpit cocoons the driver but you never feel like you are trapped in a shoe box.
Safety equipment includes an Anti-lock Braking System (ABS), Dynamic Stability Control (DSC), Cornering Brake Control (CBC), Understeer Control, Electronic Brakeforce Distribution (EBD), Electronic Traction Control (ETC), Emergency Brake Assist (EBA), Engine Drag Torque Control and, for vehicles fitted with Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC) and Electronic Brake Pre-fill.
Not surprisingly the best-designed aspect of the XJ is the interior which Jaguar says needs to keep up with owners’ expectations in terms of space, space utility, technology and comfort. One needs to feel at home inside, and modern homes are not necessarily stuffy halls with farms of leather drapings wood from floor to ceiling. The dashboard is very well-laid out with leather veneers, chrome finishings, wood panels and of course plastic. But it is all done tastefully and with no sense of over-indulgence. Restrained luxury.
Technologies are plenty too. The 8-inch touch screen accesses functions like satellite navigation, climate control, the DVD system with dual view that can show two different things on the same screen, a movie for the front passenger and sat nav for the driver, and the sound system. A 14-speaker 600W Premium Sound System is standard, while Bowers & Wilkins provide a 1200W optional acoustic cathedral with no less than 20 speakers.
Rear passengers are catered for to the highest standards via a four-zone air conditioner, heated/ cooled seats with memory function and optional DVD players. Mzansi will also get the long-wheel-base (LWB) model which adds another 12.5cm of rear legroom, side blinds and business trays.
Jaguar South Africa will be selling Premium Luxury, Portfolio and Supersport trim levels. The two specification levels – Premium Luxury and Portfolio offered with the V6 super diesel and V8 engines – allow the customer to tailor the car to suit their tastes. The 346kW Supercharged and the 375kW Supersport model, include a leather roof-lining, semi-aniline leather seats and veneers with laser inlays. It is expected that with these simple choices the XJ will be able to retain well over 60% of its value in the first three years of its purchase life. Consider that every car that rolls off the showroom floor loses 25% of its value.
I’m nowhere near 50. Actually I’m nowhere near 40. But I can tell you the XJ is a car I could buy and be proud to drive around. There’s no way I would feel I’m driving my father’s car. It’s elegant, yet edgy. It’s timeless, yet progressive. The XJ will challenge and stimulate anyone who lays his/ her eyes on it, time and time again. I suspect there will be gasps not of horror but of deep appreciation, of wishing to see it again. And again.
2010 Jaguar XJ Pricing
3.0 V6 Diesel Premium Luxury (R920 000)
3.0 V6 Diesel Portfolio (R1 055 000)
5.0 V8 Premium Luxury (R1 100 000)
5.0 V8 Supercharged Portfolio [346kW] (R1 350 000)
5.0 V8 Supercharged Supersport SWB [375kW] (R1 525 000)
5.0 V8 Supercharged Supersport LWB [375kW] (R1 590 000)