You’ll find a plethora of new car verdicts tucked away in the reviews section of CAR’s website, but (unsurprisingly) very few appraisals of a car from the back seat only. After all, a car would have to be a more than moderately special machine to warrant a mention of the rear quarters lengthier than ‘the headroom is adequate.’
Such a vehicle sidled up to CAR Towers this week: a £122,000 Jaguar XJ Ultimate. Unveiled – tellingly – at the 2012 Beijing motor show, the Ultimate is pitched unashamedly at the chauffeur-focused Chinese and Russian car markets, where consideration for rear-seat passengers is priority number one. As the man from Jaguar informed us: ‘this is a three-seater (two in the back, one in the front, rarely) – we don’t expect any owner to drive it themselves.’
That means they’re missing out on command of the 5.0-litre supercharged V8 from the XFR and XJ Supersport, and all 503bhp it offers. Handily, there’s plenty of toys rearward to keep your magnates and oligarchs occupied.
First up: the on-board champagne bar
It’s a slight cliché to see champagne flutes perched in the back of a stretched car: too many hen night limos and tabloid scandals have seen to that. The XJ Ultimate plays the minibar card too, but tries to inject some modern joir de vivre with a motorised table that rises from the enormous rear console, and then rotates (albeit manually) out of the way, revealing champagne glasses stored in a velvety purple-trimmed cubbyhole.
Pop open the hidden compartment in the rear seat backs and there’s a refrigerated bottle of champagne lurking inside. Rest assured it remained corked, and the CAR team’s judgement consequently unclouded.
What about the toys?
Insert ‘more gadgets than a branch of well-known electrical retailer’ gag here, because the XJ Ultimate is teeming with tech. Up front, you find the familiar LCD dials and clever dual-view display that allows the driver to check the sat-nav while the passenger watches a film simultaneously. Rearward, the seatbacks get integrated iPads with 3G internet access as standard, and the headrests incorporate digital television, so buyers can waft along catching up on re-run motoring shows or a Come Dine With Me omnibus.
When patience with daytime TV wanes, you can pop in a DVD and settle down in the reclining, heated, ventilated, massage-o-matic leather seats. Sound is piped through padded wireless headphones, or an 825W Meridian surround-sound system, with the visible members of the 20-speaker family integrated neatly into the polished ‘Herringbone’ veneer – exclusive to the Ultimate.
So, is the XJ Ultimate worth it?
It certainly lives up its moniker – this is without doubt the most laden XJ you can lay your hands on. Thing is, the standard XJ’s chrome-embellished and mood-lit cabin is still so special, so cossetting, that you might question the need to shell out one-hundred-and-twenty grand for one set up like a trendy inner-city vodka bar, when you can enjoy the same sense of occasion in the long-wheelbase 3.0-litre diesel, for £59,260. Budget £1200 for a couple of internet-equipped iPads and you’re catching up on the Ultimate.
Of course, the XJ Ultimate’s target audience aren’t looking for the most cost-effective way of being driven around – and Jaguar has rightly tapped into the desire for discreet status and privacy; the heavily tinted rear glass has an mirror-like effect, like one of those one-way windows you see in TV police stations. It possesses an almost sneering attitude, and yet XJ remains likeable, charming, and eminently modern – an intoxicating luxury vehicle. Even if you stay off the champers.