Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Jaguar XJ is one Elle of a Car

DON'T you hate those people who win a fortune in the Lotto and then insist that they won't let it change their lives.

You know the ones. "Well, we might buy a new clothes dryer, I suppose," they say. "Maybe even upgrade the caravan. It's a lot of money but we won't let it change us."

Yeah, right. Me, on the other hand? I'd spend it. And I might just buy one of these.

The latest and greatest Jaguar to hit the market - the flagship XJ luxury sedan - with all the trimmings, thanks.

We've driven the reincarnated XJ once before, not long after its release last year - in "standard" form with its silky five-litre V8 engine and its sexy, sleek design.

But this one is the real Lotto-winner's version - with a supercharged V8 and every one of the optional extras you'd expect on the most expensive car produced by the grand British brand.

There was a time, not so very long back, when an XJ Jag - or pretty much any Jag, for that matter - would have been nowhere near my "money-is-no-object" list.

Jaguar was a company mired in the past, with three models (XJ, S-Type and lamentable X-Type) all bearing the same stodgy, old-fashioned Brit-centric styling.

The XJ, in particular, had doggedly retained virtually the same look since it first electrified the motoring world back in the mid-60s.

And even though it was technically up-to-date, and physically a lovely thing to drive, it looked and felt like one of those old clubs in London where the gentlemen drink Pimms and wear leather patches on their jacket sleeves.

So it's a good thing that Jaguar finally conceded defeat and brought its flagship model into the 21st century.
The result is one of the truly most impressive vehicles on the road today - one which competes not only technically, but visually and spiritually, with the very fierce rivals in this category - Mercedes-Benz's S-Class, BMW's 7 Series and Audi's mighty new A8. You can even throw in Porsche's polarising Panamera, for good measure.

And even though it's hard to go past any of these German juggernauts, the top-spec XJ model we've tested here is pretty close to the best machine I've driven.

The XJ completes an incredible turnaround for the grand old British brand - which, as it happens, isn't strictly British any more.

While the cars are still built in the shadows of Buck Palace, the company is owned by Tata - a giant corporation from India, of all places - which has a certain perverse irony to it, given the history of the two nations.

The Jaguar renaissance, led by Scottish design guru Ian Callum, began in earnest with the gorgeous XK coupe - one of the best looking cars we've ever driven; and gained momentum with the equally beguiling XF executive sedan, which has been an unqualified sales success in Australia and elsewhere.

But it wasn't until the XJ - Jaguar's true spiritual flagship - underwent the Callum treatment that Jaguar completed this amazing about-face.

Callum's philosophy is simple. He wants Jag drivers "to feel as if you are sitting in a sports car, even if it's a luxury car".

The XJ certainly achieves that in all forms - be it the entry-level turbo-diesel model or the mid-range standard V8 - but most emphatically in the form of the supercharged V8-powered Supersport model we've tested here.

The glorious powerplant pumps out 375 kilowatts - enough to hustle this big limo to the speed limit in roughly the time it once took Jag drivers to light their pipe and adjust their cravat.

From the outside, the big cat stands quite apart from its German rivals - BMW's new 7 Series, the Benz now-familiar S-Class and Audi's all-new A8 - plus Japan's Lexus LS600. The Jag's styling is bold and dynamic - not as flowing and crisp, perhaps, as the XF but still an imposing and eye-catching thing with its long bonnet, squared-off grille, sweeping flanks and the quirky plastic inserts covering the C-pillars.

Inside, it's bold and beautiful.

The dash curves around the occupants with a circle of carbon fibre lustrously trimmed in fine leather - the flowing lines broken by two centrally-placed, dome-like air vents. There's a little plaque with the signature of designer Callum on the centre of the dash. You know a bloke is proud of his work when he adds his signature - and Callum must certainly be proud of the XJ.

The instrument panel is the ultimate in high-tech - using a virtual LED display in place of any fixed instruments or dials. The speedo and tacho use a clever highlighting effect to illuminate only that information relevant to your current rate of progress. If you're doing 60, for instance, only the 40, 60 and 80km/h increments are illuminated - making it instantly easy to pick your speed.

The Jag's technology is user-friendly, though - as opposed to the gadget obsession of some rivals in this class. An 8-inch touch screen at the top of the centre console controls most cabin, audio, navigation and climate-control functions, supplemented by some classy knobs and switches.

The screen uses "dual view" technology - which allows the passenger to watch a DVD or TV while the driver sees a completely different display - the sat-nav guidance, for instance.

It's high-tech, but wonderfully easy to use. On a long trip, my son was able to quickly connect his iPhone to the Jag's phenomenal 1200-watt Bowers and Wilkins audio system, via Bluetooth rather than the usual connector cable, so we could hear his music choices through all 20 speakers. Thanks for that, Jaguar.

Music choices aside, the XJ is a supreme highway cruiser - it eats up the miles with a languid, loping style.

By selecting the Dynamic mode you can sharpen the suspension and transmission settings to squeeze more performance out of the XJ. The parking brake is also a push-button affair.

The gear knob, or JaguarDrive Control (a circular stainless steel knob which rises seductively from the centre console when you fire up the Jag), gives the big cat another point of difference from its rivals.

Adaptive cruise control - which uses radar to maintain a safe gap to the vehicle in front, plus a radar-based blind-spot monitoring system - are part of the safety package, along with a host of electronic stability and traction aids.

Of course, opting for the Supersport model, with its $354,000 pricetag (as opposed to about $200-grand for the entry-level XJ) has its benefits - a 0-100km/h time of 4.9 seconds (rivalling a BMW M3). That's a seriously quick limo.

Because the XJ is constructed largely from aluminium, it's about 200kg lighter than most of its rivals - meaning it's not only more nimble and agile in its handling and braking, but also uses less fuel as a result.

Not that it's necessarily much more frugal than its rivals - the Lexus LS600hL hybrid is probably greener, for instance - and Benz, BMW and Audi all offer higher-spec diesel options.

But what this car does have is character, and lots of it. And not the old-fashioned "character" that used to typify the XJ.

Not everybody will love its exterior styling, perhaps, but it is striking, sleek and handsome. Inside, it's arguably the classiest, most impressive cockpit of any car on the market.

And I'd also argue it's the best drive of anything in this limo class - with the possible exception of Porsche's Panamera.

Above all, the Jag looks and feels special - and makes you feel that way when you drive it.

And when you've just won the Lotto, that's exactly how you should feel.


Four-door, five-seat full-sized luxury sedan with 5-litre supercharged V8 engine, six-speed automatic transmission.

Supercharged 5-litre Gen III V8 produces 375kW power, 625Nm torque; 0-100km/h in 4.9 seconds, top speed 250km/h (electronically limited). Six-speed automatic transmission with manual shift paddles.

Dynamic Stability Control with Traction Control, ABS with cornering brake control, brakeforce distribution
and emergency brake assist; adaptive cruise control, radar blind-spot warning system; adjustable sports suspension; 1200-watt 20-speaker premium audio system; virtual instrument display, dual-view touch-screen central display for satellite navigation, DVD and TV, two USB ports, Bluetooth connectivity, hard-disc drive; multi-zone climate control airconditioning; panoramic glass sunroof.

About 12L/100km.

There's nothing sexier than money and power - and this car represents both.


Source: Adelaide Now...

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