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Jaguar XJ6 2004 review

The XJ6 badge has returned to give buyers a six-cylinder leg-up into the most Jaguar of Jaguar cars, the full-size XJ series.

It also sneaks the XJ into the sub-$150,000 bracket – by just $100 but more than $20,000 cheaper than its direct German rivals.

The XJ6 has been missing in Australia since 1997.

Jaguar Australia general manager David Blackhall says the new base-level XJ will boost sales for the model by nearly 50 per cent.

"We're expecting to sell 220 XJs this year and we expect about 70 to be the XJ6. We also expect the XJ6's return to stimulate sales of the X and S-Type," he says.

The XJ range has soldiered on with only eight-cylinder XJ8 variants, with the previous bottom-end variant – powered by a 3.2-litre V8 – being cut last year.

Unlike previous XJ6s, the new car has a V6 instead of the classic in-line six. And the AJ-V6 engine has working-class roots, being a development of a Ford powerplant.

Power is a very respectable 179kW, but torque is a relatively modest 300Nm.

Thanks to its new aluminium body and the new engine, the XJ6 weighs 1545kg, 195kg less than the Mercedes-Benz S350 and 300kg below the BMW 735i.

The aluminium also improves the car's resistance to minor dings.

The weight saving means the XJ6's performance is equal or better than that of the previous 3.2-litre XJ8's 179kW V8, according to Jaguar.

Equipment levels match those of the naturally aspirated (non-supercharged) XJ8s, including DVD satellite navigation, TV tuner, front car phone, 12-way power-adjustable leather seats, leather trim, cruise control, electronic park brake and 18-inch wheels. Jaguar's air suspension with CATS (Computer Active Technology Suspension) adaptive damping and the touchscreen audio and climate control are also standard.

Jaguar has struggled in Austra lia in recent years, sales falling to just 1433 last year, down from 1751 in 2002, and Blackhall admits the brand has not been well managed here.

"There's been some decisions about some of our vehicle selections that haven't been quite right.

"We've imported a sport model X-Type in the past, for example, which had cloth trim and no cruise control for around $60,000.

"It's not the right feel for a prestige brand when a $40,000 Falcon can have leather trim, cruise and other extras."

On the Road

The challenge for Jaguar in Australia has been getting on to people's luxury shopping lists. The XJ6 could be the car that gets a few more thinking about the brand.

A price tag of just under $150,000 might not sound like a value winner but, compared to its mainly German rivals, there's a lot of metal and equipment for the money.

On paper it stacks up well against the entry-level BMW and Mercedes-Benz limousines, the 7-Series 735i and S-Class S350, although that depends on where you consider the "Big Cat" badge sits in comparison to the three-pointed star or the BMW roundel.

For better or worse, everyone will know you're in a Jag. The XJ looks pretty much like the previous model from most angles, despite being a completely new car, and not much different to its predecessors over the past 30 odd years.

For the purist it might be wonderful, but there aren't an enormous number of purists left in Australia and we can't help thinking those who may otherwise be seeking a Mercedes-Benz or BMW might think the classic look is too old-fashioned.

It's not just the outside that's caught in the XJ time warp. The interior, with woodgrain highlights and small, hard-to-read instrument dials might be a classy touch, but the more technical feel of the Benz or BMW works better.

The fact the speedo is too small to have all increments of 10km/h marked is unhelpful.

Look past the "grey power" styling and image, and the XJ6 is a technologically advanced car.

Thanks to its aluminium panels, the big Jag is lighter than almost anything its size. It's also very well equipped compared to its rivals.

The touch-screen audio and climate controls in the centre of the dash are extremely user-friendly, especially when changing CDs.

We don't know how well the touch-screen would survive long-term day-to-day use, but it works.

Roadholding and handling is impressive and the car seems a lot smaller on the road than it is.

It also feels balanced, making it nimble and fun to drive on windy roads. But the steering is light.

Power from the 3.0-litre V6 is reasonable, but the engine is not torquey, which means it does its best work at mid to high revs.

The result is the car feels sluggish when launched, but is fine once it's going. The engine is also relatively noisy when pushed hard.

If people test drive the smooth-handling XJ6, Jaguar may find them keen to upgrade to the 3.5-litre XJ8 for an extra $20,000, if they want the extra pull.

The ZF six-speed automatic is popular among other European prestige cars, including BMW and Mercedes-Benz models.

In contrast to the Germans, the XJ6 has Jaguar's J-Gate arrangement instead of a tiptronic-style manual mode. Leave it in "D" and it's a regular auto, but shift it to the left and you can select gears two through five manually.

I found this easy to use and less hit-and-miss than a tiptronic, but other testers found it slow to react.

Another pleasant surprise for such a big car was the fuel economy. Jaguar claims 10.5 l/100km, but we managed 8.8 l/100km without even trying, despite doing most of our driving outside Melbourne.

It's ironic then that the car's "Jaguar-ness" could be what puts people off. When prestige is as much about perception as it is about reality, and technology equals prestige, its '60s-inspired lines and dials might be too subtle to stand out against the usual luxury car shopping-list toppers.

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3.0 3.0L, PULP, 6 SP AUTO $20,900 – 26,400 2004 Jaguar XJ6 2004 3.0 Pricing and Specs
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