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Jaguar XJ6 2004 review: road test

It is now bouncing back from the last of its bad times with some impressive additions to its line-up, while its Ford funding also means we can expect some special updates in coming years.

For now, the newest in the Cat family is the XJ6, a six-cylinder model of its flagship saloon that picks up all the advantages of the latest XJ body with a compact 3.0-litre V6 engine and a six-speed automatic gearbox.

Owners will also appreciate a bottom line that starts at $149,900.

It's still not a cheap car, but the XJ6 is good value when you line it up against its obvious and traditional luxury rivals, the BMW 735i from $178,300 and the Mercedes S350 from $177,900.

Even the new and impressive Audi A8, which has gone nowhere near bumping the Jag from third on the sales charts, has a starting price of $173,900.

The new Cat fills the space always held in the Jaguar line by some form of six-pack contender, though the latest XJ takes a new direction with a V6 in place of the company's traditional in-line six. It reflects the changing times and the changing direction for a company which, for a long time, relied on a straight six and V12 power combination.

Jaguar trumpets this as one of the world's most technically-advanced cars. You would never pick it from the retro styling, which is far too much like the previous model, but the car has a strong, but light, aluminium body and a range of technological tweaks including air suspension, electronic traction control and stability system, and the new six-speed automatic gearbox.

Jaguar believes the XJ6 will do well in Australia, banking again on its price and the chance to drive a big luxury car that still comes with 179kW of power and 300Nm of torque to satisfy shoppers.

"They are getting the ultimate in a luxury saloon, with a class-leading V6 engine and specifications that have not been compromised for a price point," Jaguar Australia general manager David Blackhall says.

On the road

We still think the top Cat XJ looks too much like the previous model. But that didn't stop us enjoying the XJ6's style, elegance and old-world charm.

It has that special look people recognise as a Jaguar and a luxury car, and that's something Audi still hasn't been able to achieve – even with its excellent A8.

And the cabin ... as always, it's leather and wood with a unique smell and the feel of a luxury lounge.

Some things don't change, and the rest of the XJ package was pretty much as we remembered from our time with an XJ8. That means a soft and compliant ride, great brakes, genuine quietness and more space than most people really need.

The XJ6 doesn't have the instant thump of the V8, or its gentle rumbling exhaust, but if you had not driven with the gruntier motor you wouldn't be disappointed by the V6.

It takes a little while to get going, which is reflected in a torque peak at 4100 revs, but it is a sweet six with good pulling power and genuine top-end urge for overtaking.

It's a good box with well-chosen ratios, but that only highlights the outdated J-gate. It was world-class stuff in the 1980s when Jim Randle – it's nicknamed the "Randle Handle" – developed a semi-manual shift with a separate gate alongside the regular PND-style selector.

But these days the Jaguar system is cumbersome and clunky, far outclassed by the touch-change system in the newest Benzes, and needs to go.

The shift is offset by the fuel economy, which averaged 11.9 litres/100km during our test and could easily be better than 10 during cruising. That's partly because the XJ6 isn't a car for going quickly.

The XJ doesn't match the technology or feel of the S-Class Benz, and the Audi is great but under-appreciated, but it still has plenty of strengths. And a lot of conservative luxury shoppers would prefer its look and feel to the ultra-modern BMW Seven.

The XJ6 is a nicely-rounded package, though there will always be people who question the value of a car that's more than twice the price of a luxury Holden Caprice.

It's a 21st-century package but it's still a Jaguar. It's a bit special. Nice pussycat.

The bottom line

A car that's easy to live with and surprisingly frugal, but still with styling that's too like the previous model.

Pricing guides

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Range and Specs

3.0 3.0L, PULP, 6 SP AUTO $19,000 – 26,400 2004 Jaguar XJ6 2004 3.0 Pricing and Specs
Pricing Guide


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