I couldn’t believe my luck when told I had this vehicle to review. Having been out of the Jaguar world for over a decade, ever since the new XJ was launched, I’ve wanted to get my hands on one and pull it to pieces.
You see, I’m an old-school Jaguar man, one who firmly believes in tradition. So when I climb behind the wheel of Coventry’s finest, I want to be surrounded by acres of woodland, herds of premium cow-coats, and I’ll live with the odd oil leak if the engine sounds like the London Philharmonic playing “Land of Hope & Glory.”
Yes, so long as it sports the sexiest logo in the business and spins the heads of female airline service personnel, I’ll quite happily forgive one or two minor failings. After all, that’s what being a Jaaaag man is all about.
Of course now, having driven the vehicle for a few days, I’m starting to realize just how idiotic I must sound. Why? Well, because this car is nothing like what I had expected or was led to believe it would be. For a start, with Jaguar recently being placed second only to Lexus in J.D. Power's 2012 Initial Quality Study, I can forget the oil-slick jokes and my comical antidotes from the days when I worked on these vehicles for a living.
I’d also heard tell of Jaguar ditching its old customer base in favour of luring young iPad-clutching youngsters, and that’s proven somewhat wide of the mark, too. What the company has actually gone and done is simply widen its catchment net with the aim of attracting everyone!
A Jag for the ages
The woodwork in the new XJ is simply stunning. In fact, as the owner of a gracefully ageing Bentley, I did start to wonder whether Jaguar hadn’t rung around a few of its old villainous friends and set them the task of breaking into Crewe and stealing some of the interiors aimed for the flying B brand.
Not only that, but there’s chrome in there too! Did you hear me, chrome! Come on now, I’d thought just about everyone had bought into the car companies’ patter: chrome is old-fashioned today and the brushed aluminum, Coke-can finish can look every bit as good. No it doesn’t!
Wood, leather and chrome is what I want to find in a luxury automobile. I want my vehicle to appear more inviting than the finest room in my house. I don’t want to open the door to my car and invite friends to step into my modernized bathroom or stainless steel kitchen!
No problem with today’s XJ then, as its designers have achieved an amazing feat. They have somehow managed to blend old-school tradition with new-school technology and have achieved this to such an extent that it’s almost impossible to see where one starts and the other ends.
Speaking of which, gently press the small start button on the dashboard (which FYI, was made famous by Jaguar in the '60s), and magical things start to happen. A submerged chrome turn-dial smoothly rises up from the centre console allowing the driver access to both forward & reverse gears. Now, how clever and 21st century is that? After all, why fiddle with a movable stick when paddle shifters (love them or hate them) are the future?
Of course, it’s around about this time when you start to realize just how bang-up-to-date this vehicle is, as although the display may appear vaguely like a traditional dash, it is anything but. The sexy cat logo remains on the display for a split second or two once you power-up, simply and for no other reason than to remind oneself of being a Jaaaag owner.
Then as quick as it appeared, it’s replaced with a modern interpretation of what a driver information pod should look like today. The same occurs on the centre stack which is home to the 600-watt premium audio and navigation system with HDD. The whole thing is voice-controllable, and there’s even a seat massage system for both driver and passenger. Now, that’s precisely what we Jaaaag men have been waiting for… “Fancy a quick massage in the old Jaaaag?”
On the road, the XJL purrs like a kitten. The supercharged 5.0L DOHC 32-valve V8 serves up oodles of power (385 hp), and a quick press of the Sport button turns your fluffy feline friend into a scalded cat! You can feel each paw as it claws away at the tarmac, and yet the company has kindly thought to provide the beast with cushioned booties. At least that’s what it feels like while holding the luxurious wood and leather steering wheel.
It is a phenomenal vehicle in every sense of the word to look at, to ride in and to drive. All in all, I’m totally disgusted with the company. There was I, looking forward to ripping my teeth into its latest offering. I wanted to relate tales of oily patches in my driveway and I’d been practicing all my Joseph Lucas (Prince of Darkness) jokes. How dare they do this to me!
Welcome to the 21st Century Jaguar
Of course, there is an upside to all of this, I suppose. With the company finally entering the 21st century, it’s going to open up a whole new era of Jaguar ownership. Yes, the days of tweed sports jackets and cloth caps may be in the past, but that doesn’t mean I can’t help acclimatize one or two new owners into the brand’s culture. So repeat after me, and with you most caddish-sounding British accent: “Well actually, I drive a Jaaaag.”
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2012 Jaguar XJ Series Specifications
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