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Jaguar XJ 2011 Review

Beautiful from most angles, stunning from the rest.
EXPERT RATING
9

City councils champ at the bit over citizens that fail to contain their wandering cats. It's a major problem. Unsterilised cats spray and call for kilometres to find mates and ultimately leave their fertilised fruits homeless and ready to repeat the irresponsible life of their parents. All cats, clearly, should be garaged.

During the 1980s and 1990s, most were. Jaguar went through a period where its offspring were causing havoc in neighbourhoods around the world and some spent extraordinary hours in garages awaiting to be fixed.

But that's no longer the case. Mimicing the results after a domestic male cat gets surgically neuted, Jaguar has gone from making a nuisance to making superb cars. The XJ is the best of the litter.

VALUE

Probably not value in the sense that the same money can buy a lot of wheels. Even as a whole, the $250,000-plus tag of the XJ 5.0 V8 SWB is a hurdle that only a very few of us can vault. But it's more than just a car. It is stylish enough to be viewed as moving art and, as you know, people pay even ridiculous sums of money for art.

The XJ competes with big cars from BMW, Audi, Lexus, Mercedes-Benz and even can touch Maserati. It's territory occupied by choices based on subjectivity and contemporary fashion - territory where value doesn't necessarily hold much significance.

TECHNOLOGY

Jaguar centres its vehicle control on a touch screen monitor which is the quickest and most user-friendly of car management systems. Well, not always. While the XF's system is almost flawless, the big XJ packs so much info onto the screen that the touch squares have to be smaller.

That means it can take more than one stab of the finger to get your wish and even then it may fail to register because they're not as sensitive as they could be. Your eyes are off the road while doing this, making it a bit frustrating. Electronics, however, redeem themselves in the brilliant LCD instrument panel that can change its read-out.

This depends on issues such as a desire to have the sat-nav map in front of the driver, any drama in the engine bay, driver's selection of the "sport" mode and so on. Mercedes' S-Class and BMW's 7-Series have similar systems.

The Jag also gets a superb Bowers & Wilkins audio and a smart central monitor that incorporates two screens - one angled to the passenger and idea for a movie or TV, the other angled to the driver, such as the sat-nav or trip computer. Clever. The rest is an aluminium body sprung only the way Jaguar can do it, with a normally-aspirated V8 at the front with a ZF six-speed auto behind. Sounds simple but the devil's in the detail.

DESIGN

Beautiful from most angles, stunning from the rest. Its looks make it a winner on the showroom floor. Against the rather brutish BMW 7-Series and rather bland Audi A8, the XJ is a seductively fluid shape that still has good rear passenger space and a large boot.

The cabin mixes old and new, with the boat-tailed curve of the dashboard representing a fresh look and the big, circular chrome vents echoing earlier Jag models. Visibility is reasonable but park sensors and the rear camera save any parking embarrassment. The low seating position may not suit everyone but, once ensconced, feels more like a luxury sports coupe than a limousine express.

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SAFETY

Full marks. True, you no longer have to pay the big bucks to get a five-star safety rating. The Jaguar gets a five-star, full airbags and electronic assistance plus has sufficient metal around the cabin to improve occupant protection in an accident.

DRIVING

The engine is almost inaudible and gearchanges imperceptible when treated gently, but the XJ shows its spirit when the chequered-flag button is pressed and the accelerator floored. This is the essence of a luxury performance car. But though the XJ will do a lot of the things of which its contemporaries also excel, one single factor changes all comparative dynamics - weight.

It weighs 1755kg - the same as a six-cylinder large car and up to 300kg lighter than its European rivals - and that translates into a more nimble and responsive machine. Dive into a corner and you quickly forget about its length (or price tag) because the way it turns in, its response to the brakes and the ease of steering input makes it feel like a smaller, lighter car.

So while it handles, it also goes really well in a straight line. You may argue against the 5-litre V8 for city and suburban runs. But tested on a long country trip, on major roads and twisting single-lane backroads, the XJ proves stress-free to drive. It is dismissive of rutted bitumen and always delivery sublime comfort with the subtle V8 exhaust-note backdrop.

VERDICT

This passes onlookers on the street with a sweep of their heads - a true indication of the big cat's arresting design. Jaguar's flagship lives in a rarefied, uber-rich portion of the car market - but doesn't have it all to itself. Porsche, Aston Martin, BMW, Audi and Maserati are some big players in the same pond.

But the Jaguar rates highly - purely because it looks as beautiful as it works. And if style isn't your bag, point one down an empty country road and understand how size and luxury can be melded with performance. It'll make you smile again.

JAGUAR XJ PREMIUM LUXURY

Price: $251,000
Warranty: 3 years, 100,000km, roadside assist
Economy: 11.3 l/100km; 264g/km CO2
Safety: six airbags, ESC, ABS, EBD, EBA, TC.
Crash rating: 5 star
Engine: 283kW/515Nm 5-litre V8 petrol
Transmission: Six-speed sequential auto
Body: 4-door, 5 seats
Dimensions: 5122 (L); 1894mm (W); 1448mm (H); 3032mm (WB)
Weight: 1755kg Tyre size 245/40R20
Spare tyre: Space-saver

Pricing guides

$68,480
Based on third party pricing data
Lowest Price
$31,800
Highest Price
$105,160

Range and Specs

VehicleSpecsPrice*
3.0D V6 Premium Luxury LWB 3.0L, Diesel, 6 SP AUTO $33,000 – 43,230 2011 Jaguar XJ 2011 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 2011 Jaguar XJ 2011 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 2011 Jaguar XJ 2011 5.0 SC V8 Portfolio SWB Pricing and Specs
5.0 SC V8 Supersport LWB 5.0L, PULP, 6 SP AUTO $79,600 – 100,650 2011 Jaguar XJ 2011 5.0 SC V8 Supersport LWB Pricing and Specs
EXPERT RATING
9
Neil Dowling
Contributing Journalist

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