Jaguar XJ 3.0L Diesel Portfolio SWB22 | 02 | 2011Scotcars rating

    Jaguar brings the XJ up-to-date, but is the hype justified? We put it through its paces


    Now here’s a thing. Like the leopard, the other big cat, the Jaguar, can be identified by its spots; or, more precisely, the soft spot in the centre of the distinctive rosette markings on its body. I like that, because I too have a soft spot for the Jaguar – no, not the wild and dangerous creature that lives in the jungle, but the gentle, luxurious beast that can trace its ancestry to the bustling heart of the industrial Midlands of England.

    I have to confess that over my many years, the Jaguar summed up everything that was special about quality British cars. I know how it happened. When I was a callow youth having education drummed into me at Forfar Academy, I had a very special girlfriend. I was very fond of her, but that we went our separate ways to live separate adult lives is more to do with the fact that I was more fond of the MKII Jaguar in which her father occasionally ran me to school.

    I can confess now, I was in love with that car, from the rich red leather interior to the walnut dashboard and the smell and feel of quality craftsmanship.

    "One day I shall have one of these,” I muttered under my breath, and true to my word, I now do. My 1968 MKII 240 is a basic model but it does have the red leather seats and the walnut fascia, and it also has that distinctive smell of old car – a rich mix of leather, wood, burnt oil and petrol. Without power steering, it's hard work to drive and over the winter months it can take a few minutes to get it stirred into action when it would rather stay hibernating in the garage.

    What is much easier to handle is my other Jag – John Prescott’s not the only one with two Jags – a 1995 XJ which is in pristine condition with a genuine odometer reading of only 55,000 miles. Its gearbox and transmission is as smooth as silk, it is superbly comfortable and bursts into life at every request, even though it too spends only six months of the year (the summer) on the road.

    It feels like a huge car and I thought it was, until I got behind the wheel of the latest XJ model – which is truly massive. Put the two together and the 16-year-old version is dwarfed ... not just in size, but in the level of luxury and specification. It is a coupe in style and performance – hitting 60mph in just six seconds — but because of its dimensions it has acres of room inside for the largest of families in superb comfort. And that’s just the standard short wheelbase version. The long wheelbase limousine could probably stage a test match in the back.

    On the road

    I have to say I was surprised by this car’s agility and performance. From its size I expected it to be something of a lumbering giant, but far from it. It happily shoots away from the lights and out on the open road; it swallows the miles with effortless ease, reassuring high speed stability and surprising economy.

    Jaguar claims just over 40 miles from every gallon of diesel. I didn’t quite make that, but came close, even driving it enthusiastically. The entry level three-litre V6 is well up to the job in hand, but if you want more power there’s always the option of the 5.0 litre 510PS V8 supercharged V8 direct-injection petrol which will thrust you to 60mph in a mere 4.7secs.

    You can tailor the car’s handling characteristics to your mood, which may sound grand, but does actually work very well. The Jaguar Drive Control offers variable modes — Dynamic, for a sporting response; to Winter, for greater confidence in low-grip conditions, something which the older XJs sadly lacked.

    Where the car becomes something of a liability is around town. I was grateful for the parking sensors and rear view camera while trying to shoehorn it into what would otherwise be a normal parking space. Even in car parks I found it overhanging the white lined box as it poked its nose and bum out at front and rear. The only other time I’ve experienced this was at the wheel of a Bentley Continental – and that really is a big car.

    Comfort & Safety

    The interior looks the business from the traditional piped and stitched leather upholstery to the subtle chrome and piano black detailing around the fittings. The panoramic glass roof creates a nice light interior, but what I loved most of all was the virtual dashboard. Instead of the traditional instrument cluster, there’s a foot-wide screen on which is displayed all the information normally available through the conventional dials, such as speedometer and rev counter, along with fuel and temperature gauges. It means you can call up whatever is important at any time and the car itself can prioritise information, for example when fuel is running low, the rev counter fades away to be replaced by a warning message.

    When the driver selects the Dynamic mode, the dials take on a sporting red hue and a bold gear position indicator glows red as you reach the rev limiter. It is smart, but I’m not sure I would describe it as the Jaguar PR people do as “creating a real sense of theatre” for the driver.

    Sure it’s clever, imaginative, innovative and builds in valuable new features such as the highlighting of the specific speed on what otherwise looks like a conventional dial. But the marketing people seem to have gone overboard and maybe they just need to calm down a little and curb their excitement at this new object of their attention.

    Gears are selected by a circular aluminium knob, a very simple device to flit from Park to Drive, Neutral and Reverse. It first appeared in the XF and it is a very useful device, but according to the blurb, “the driver is greeted by the signature Jaguar ‘handshake' ... which rises into the driver’s palm”. No, it’s a gearshift – a clever one certainly, but it’s only a gearshift.

    The large touchscreen in the centre console allows you to control climate, audio (through a 1200W Bowers and Wilkins surround-sound system), hands-free phone and navigation; but it also has a split-screen dual-view facility which means the passenger can watch a DVD movie, while the driver follows the sat-nav directions.

    This really is quite a car inside and out. I’m delighted with the bold step that Jaguar has taken with the new XJ under the leadership of Dumfries-born design director Ian Callum. The previous XJs, going right back to the Sixties, have all followed an established style which held up well but was beginning to look too set in its ways.

    Following on the success of the XK and more recently, the XF, the XJ is clearly the flagship of the marque, which some would say, sadly no longer is in British ownership but still carries the traditions of all that was best in our automotive industry.

    Should I buy one?

    It’s expensive, although you get a lot for the money ... but do you really want to flash the cash in these austere times?

    CLICK HERE to hear Scots design chief Ian Callum talk about 'his' Jaguar XJ

    CLICK HERE to see the Jaguar XJ on-the-road

    Keep up-to-date with all the latest news by following us on

    Alan Douglas

    Quick Stats
    Price OTR/As Tested £64,400/£66,950
    Engine / Power: 2993cc V6 / 275PS
    How fast?: 0-60mph 6secs, Max 155mph
    How big/heavy?: H1448mm W2110mm L5122mm / 1796kg
    How thirsty/CO2?: Combined 40.1mpg / CO2 184g/km
    InsGP/Road tax: 49 / Band I £200
    Alternatives: Lexus GS; Mercedes S Class; Porsche Panamera; Audi A8

    User Comments

    Login or register to post comments.
    Send to friend
    Click here to add message:

Car Review Finder