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Jaguar XJ 3.0D facelift review, test drive

7th Mar 2016 11:00 am

More equipment, new tech, sharpened looks and more power make the most charismatic luxury limousine even more desirable.


  • Make : Jaguar
  • Model : XJ

What is it?

It is an updated version of what’s possibly the most charming and likeable luxury limousine on sale today. The Jaguar XJ’s shape is long, low and swooping like no other car in its segment, its look is aggressive and powerful, and it always managed to pull this off without compromising on the things owners wanted from it. Things like ride comfort, luxurious appointments, high-tech equipment and space are all part of the package, and it just so happens to be an invigorating drive too. After the recent launch of the new BMW 7-series, however, the big Jag is now the oldest car in the class, and so this facelifted version couldn’t have come at a better time. The next-generation XJ is still some years away after all.

So what have they done to keep things relevant? The gorgeous exterior styling, thankfully, has barely been tampered with. The only differences are a new design for the chrome blades in the front bumper, a blackened out lower section in the rear bumper, new oval tailpipes, slightly re-profiled tail-lamp graphics and, on this top-spec Portfolio trim, smart full-LED headlamps with a new ‘double J-blade’ signature daytime running lamps. The other thing to note is that the wheel size has gone down from 19 inches to the segment-standard 18 inches, and though they don’t look quite as cool as the old wheels, the design Jag has chosen is still pretty smart looking.

What’s it like on the inside?

Just like the outside, the interior of the XJ is like nothing else on the market. Its flowing surfaces and surfeit of curves is the complete antithesis of the comparatively straight-laced German interior design. We still love the bulbous AC vents, the thick slabs of wood on the doors and the ‘Riva Loop’ trim that runs along the back of the dashboard, and a lovely new addition is quilted leather upholstery on the Portfolio trim. Fit and finish, as before, is perhaps not at the ridiculously high benchmark set by the German sedans, but it’s close enough to not matter.

The seats, as before, are huge, plush and generously cushioned – more luxurious than sporty in design. All four seats are electrically adjustable, and can be reclined, heated, cooled and provide a massage to their occupants, and as before, legroom and headroom are not the best in class, but still more than sufficient. The rear seat is a bench, but you have to fold away the central arm-rest (which also houses several control switches) to find the fifth seat; as with any of these cars, the back seat is designed primarily for two. The only change is that the rear screens are new and can be folded shut when you don’t need them.

A huge update on the tech front is the addition of JLR’s new InControl Touch Pro infotainment system. That last word ‘Pro’ makes all the difference, because although it looks almost identical to the smaller XE’s InControl Touch unit, this one is a lot smoother, quicker to respond and has more features. Flicking through it feels no different than a modern smartphone or tablet. You can even control each of the four seats’ position, heating, cooling and massage functions from the touchscreen. The instrument cluster is all-digital as before, but it’s a new, smoother, sharper looking screen with much better graphics. It can also be customised with a few different dial patterns, and the whole screen can even be turned into a sat-nav map.

What’s it like to drive?

For a big limousine, it’s brilliant. There are a few key mechanical changes, the first of course being the more powerful diesel engine (the 237bhp, 2.0-litre petrol remains the same as before). The 3.0-litre V6 diesel now produces a mighty and class-leading 296bhp and 71.4kgm! You notice this as soon as you near the 1,500rpm mark, at which point the power just wallops in really strong; in fact, modulating the throttle to set off smoothly needs some getting used to, and initially, you will find yourself leaping off the line a little too jerkily. It’s a similar story with Jag’s version of the eight-speed ZF automatic – you have to be smooth with your inputs for it to shift smoothly, because it can hesitate when you kick down at low revs. It’s still not the most refined engine in the segment, and it actually seems a tad noisier this time around.

The flipside, however, is the performance. We managed a 6.4-second 0-100kph time from what is essentially a two-tonne-plus diesel limo. Once you get past the initial hesitation, the XJ will just rocket forward. It loves to rev and will go all the way to almost 5,000rpm in Sport mode. And the slight grumble you get at low revs soon turns into a soulful, six-cylinder growl, and that really goads you on to push it harder. Forget the big V8 petrols, this is all the motor you need in a car like this.

The second mechanical change is the steering, which has moved from a hydraulic to an electric power assisted setup. Interestingly, it feels a touch heavier than before, although it’s nowhere near being uncomfortable for it. And as we found with the XE, Jaguar’s first crack at electric power steering has been phenomenal – the weight, accuracy and feedback feel like an old-school hydraulic setup, and that’s actually a compliment. Sure, it’s no F-type, but the XJ is a massive joy from behind the wheel, given how huge it is. Yes, there’s a little float and roll from the air suspension, but it’s an acceptable amount, and the best part is you don’t have to be going flat out to enjoy this car. It’s fun even at city speeds. The final change is the wheel size, which is down from 19 inches to 18 inches, with a correspondingly higher tyre profile – 50 at the front, 45 at the rear. The big Jag already had impressive ride quality on its old wheels (a sporty, five-spoke design we will miss), but now it’s just a little bit better at smoothening out sharp-edged bumps than before.

Should I buy one?

When we last brought all the cars in this class together, even we were a bit surprised with how well the Jaguar XJ fared. It lost out to the S-class because it lacked those last few degrees of refinement, quality and technology the segment demands, but still managed to come second because of its incredible charm and uniquely British version of luxury motoring. With the update, some of these issues – namely comfort and technology – have been addressed, but refinement and quality still have a little way to go. It continues to be the more emotional choice in the segment, especially if you occasionally drive yourself, and if you want that little extra X-factor from your luxury limousine, this is still definitely the one we’d recommend.

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