New. In what sense exactly?
Okay, so neither you, I nor Jaguar is under any illusion that the ‘real’ new XJ can’t come soon enough. Current Jag execs admit that the decision to stick with retro design was a mistake and that the next car will look much more modern, taking cues from the C-XF concept. But that car won’t be ready before 2009, so Ian Callum and his team have done what they can to freshen up Geoff Lawson’s original for another couple of years in the showroom.
So they grafted on a bumper from the old Broadspeed racing XJs from the ’70s
There is a similarity. Every XJ now has an aggressive face with a deep front bumper and menacing air intakes. And the traditional Jag radiator grille gets some XKR-style chickenwire. It’s all about creating a sense of presence and a recognisable face, says Callum.
I suppose it’s difficult to radically change the look without making any expensive sheetmetal changes
The two items of metal that did get tweaked were the front wings that now feature the side vents we’ve already seen on the XJR Portfolio and XKR. Sticking with the side of the car, the sills are now arrow straight too, rather than curved, which Callum says was a ’90s styling trick he wanted to get rid of.
No big cabin changes though?
It looks exactly the same to us – same piss-holes-in-the-snow boring sunken dials, same frustrating sat-nav. But there are new, supposedly more comfortable front seats and a few more buttons to operate them now that Jaguar has got around to offering the cooling fans that have long-been available with Mercedes’ chairs. The backs of the front chairs have been reshaped to free up a few mm of rear knee room, but if you really want to stretch out you’re going to need the 125mm bigger long-wheelbase body that you can mate with any engine in the line-up.
Talking of engines, I suppose the 2.7 diesel is still the pick of the range?
It’s difficult to think of a reason why you’d buy anything else. Okay, so it could do with a bit more power – 204bhp and 325lb ft of torque is behind the class best although the aluminium Jag does have lightness on its side – but it’s so wonderfully refined and economical that you never feel short-changed. And in fact it’s as quick on paper as the 240bhp 3.0 V6 petrol, reaching 60mph in 7.8sec, but actually feels quicker on the road than the 262bhp 3.5 V8. But if you’re happy to completely abandon the diesel’s 35mpg economy for sheer straightline grunt, there’s always the supercharged V8 as fitted to the XKR coupe. Sixty takes 5.0sec dead and it’s electronically pegged to 155mph. A 300bhp naturally aspirated version of that engine is also available but we’d give it a miss – it doesn’t feel as urgent as the same engine does in the similarly heavy XK for some reason.
Is it still as good to drive?
Yes, and that dichotomy between how good the XJ is to drive and how dull it looks has always been Jaguar’s biggest problem. It could do with a set of steering wheel paddles for better control on twisty roads and some more meat to the steering would be welcome, but it’s still one of the best cars in its class to drive, fast or slow. All XJs sit on air springs and, apart from some very minor tremors making their way into the cabin, the ride quality is peerless.
Clearly a stop-gap until the radically different next XJ arrives, the revised car is as good to drive as ever but still suffers from the same issues: it looks too old fogey-ish to attract buyers from edgier rivals including Merc’s CLS and the Audi A8. But XJ sales are up, partly due to the success of the brilliant diesel model and while these minor tweaks aren’t going to open the door to thousands of conquest sales, they might just be enough to sustain interest in an underrated car.