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Jaguar XJ 2010 review

Big cars normally frighten me. Put me in one ahead of a long and winding, rutted country road with broken shoulders and I’d rather partner Molly Meldrum on Dancing With The Stars.

Thankfully, gowning up with Mr Meldrum won’t happen because this week there was a big car that could dance its alloys off on roads that only a NSW taxpayer would defend.  At 5.1m long in standard wheelbase, Jaguar’s latest XJ flagship is clearly a big car.

What makes it take to gnarly roads with such unexpected aplomb is a combination of chassis dynamics and darn good suspension. But, more than anything else, it’s because despite its physical presence on the road it weighs not much more than a Commodore.

Aluminium body panels, magnesium castings, rivets and epoxy glues make the XJ diet to as low as 1755kg for the 5-litre V8 – about the same as a VE Calais V6 automatic.

Jaguar offered test cars with three engines and two wheelbases for a run through roads inland from Tweed Heads – a 3-litre bi-turbo V6 diesel, 5-litre petrol V8 and the supercharged version of the V8.

First impressions are its quietness. Even the turbo-diesel was ridiculously quiet for an oiler. Double glazing makes a considerable difference to keeping the noise of road, wind and envious fans away from the inside while keeping the extraordinary breadth and depth of music soothing from the 20 speakers of the optional Bowers and Wilkins 1200-Watt audio.

All XJ’s have steering column paddles to pluck the ZF’s choice of six cogs. Many drivers may not wish to interrupt thoughts of corporate takeovers with the tedium of flicking alloy levers but I loved it.

That’s because the XJ doesn’t quite feel like a limousine should. There were many times that I’d forget that behind my head, I was towing three seats and a commodious boot. It felt like a coupe, or at least a smaller sedan, as the car dived into a corner. Where there could be that lurch as the mass finally figured out there was a major directional change in progress, the XJ showed no indecision.

Where a big car may lean nervously through a tight bend, the Jaguar remained flat. And where some steering systems were uncomfortably vague and without transmitting direction, the XJ knew where it was going and was continually letting the driver know.

So good is the steering – in relative terms – that it exceeds the confidence, precision and firmness of the XF Jaguar. The fact that it is similar to the more dynamic XFR version is because the steering rack is the same.

I enjoyed the mid-range kick in the pants of the diesel and its ability to keep shovelling on the torque as the car wound its way through the hills. The V8 petrol was wonderful for its speed and engine note – deliberately a product of an engine-mounted diaphram aimed at the cabin – and the supercharged version for its total disregard of the XJ buyers’ luxury ideals. Opt for the even more explosive Supersport engine – available later this year and not tested this week – and you’re well into Panamera/Quattroporte/Rapide territory.

Styling

Clever in engineering detail, this big cat also comes with something that its nearest rival – BMW’s 7-Series – doesn’t have: Looks.  This is a very pretty car. OK, one could point to some conflict with the rear flanks where the screen wants to wrap but is stopped by the big chrome C of the back door’s  window frame. The rear window’s high brake light could look a tad stuck on. Admit it. You’re being to fussy.

On the road, everybody stares. Park it at the side of the road for a driver stop and girls in bikinis would fill less eye sockets.  It’s not just because it’s new. It’s size dominates the road and its fluid shape and arresting colours – tested in black, silver and a beige that sounds yuk but looked great – caught eyes that missed the car first time.

Interior

Occupants are equally in awe. The cabin is fresh yet there are quaint touches of the past that are topped by the cabin-edged sweep of timber that Jaguar calls reminiscent of a Riva boat.

The instrument panel is virtual – all electronic Playstation readouts but displayed as a conventional three-dial unit – that is glare-free and can be tailored to relay specific data. All Jags get a big touchscreen for most audio, ventilation, sat-nav and comfort adjustments and it doesn’t take to long down the road to see how these are quicker, safer and easier to use than central controllers such as BMW’s iDrive.

There are, as you’d expect in a car of this class and price, a lot of switchgear and readout options but there is a sense of logic to the XJ’s layout that doesn’t confuse the driver.

It is surprisingly easy to drive. It has everything a mortal should want in a car and above all, it has shown that a small car maker like Jaguar can adapt to a buyers profile very different to the one 42 years ago when the first XJ was unveild.

Once there were limousines that chauffeured their owners.  It’s now a different world. Chauffeur-driven rides are for children and guests as a more driven species of executive opts for - and will pay for – the privilege of getting behind the wheel.

In Jaguar’s case, luring the owner combines a teasing of luxury, opulence, silence, a sophisticated array of electronic wizardry, stunning performance, loungeroom comfort and space. It’s a big ask. But the XJ delivers.

Pricing guides

$67,820
Based on third party pricing data
Lowest Price
$31,800
Highest Price
$103,840

Range and Specs

VehicleSpecsPrice*
3.0D V6 Premium Luxury LWB 3.0L, Diesel, 6 SP AUTO $33,000 – 43,230 2010 Jaguar XJ 2010 3.0D V6 Premium Luxury LWB Pricing and Specs
3.0D V6 Premium Luxury SWB 3.0L, Diesel, 6 SP AUTO $31,800 – 41,580 2010 Jaguar XJ 2010 3.0D V6 Premium Luxury SWB Pricing and Specs
5.0 SC V8 Portfolio SWB 5.0L, PULP, 6 SP AUTO $43,700 – 55,220 2010 Jaguar XJ 2010 5.0 SC V8 Portfolio SWB Pricing and Specs
5.0 SC V8 Supersport LWB 5.0L, PULP, 6 SP AUTO $73,100 – 92,400 2010 Jaguar XJ 2010 5.0 SC V8 Supersport LWB Pricing and Specs
Neil Dowling
Contributing Journalist

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Pricing Guide

$31,800

Lowest price, based on third party pricing data

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