Jaguar has all the cool moves
THERE is a swagger about the new Jaguars.
Sure, they're now owned by Indian-based Tata, but the marque with a proud British heritage has once again found its charisma.
Take the XJ. If it could walk, the new big saloon would be sauntering down malls a-la John Travolta in Saturday Night Fever – well you can tell by the way I use my walk...
This new machine is bulkier than its predecessor, with some long creases and wonderful sculpted surfaces which looks brilliant in the metal.
It follows the footsteps of Jaguar's wonderful smaller XF with bolstered regality.
Yet getting behind the wheel of the larger XJ comes at a premium. The entry-level diesel costs just under $200K while the range topper is a long wheelbase supercharged V8 that has a $367,800 price-tag.
The latter makes our test machine feel far more affordable, setting you back a quarter of a million for the naturally aspirated V8 in standard wheelbase guise.
Glimpse inside and there's more silver tips than at a senior citizens eisteddfod.
Chrome touches adorn a host of dials and covers in a gorgeous cabin which trumps the German big guns in terms of overall ambience.
It's an engaging blend of old and new, with leather clad seats and trim providing the platform for a cabin which is spacious yet feels like it cocoons you in opulence.
The trim forms a semi-circle from the front doors and stretches around under the windscreen.
Operationally, it's probably the easiest and most functional offering in this genre.
An eight-inch touch screen is sensibly laid out and you easily navigation your way through the various menus.
That screen has a dual view function so that the passenger can watch TV or a DVD.
The digital dash readout is equally impressive, providing three virtual dials including the speedo, tacho and fuel/engine temperature gauges. It can also be changed to show satellite navigation or gear indicator alongside the speedo. While this model is the standard wheelbase, you don't feel short-changed on head and legroom. Five adults can be carried in comfort.
The front seats can feel too flat, but that's probably a fairer indication of the bulbous executive bottoms sitting on them in Britain.
Four of the seats are heated, while the steering wheel also has a warming function.
On the road
Once you hit the start/stop button, the big cat comes alive.
Not that you hear the throaty tones of the V8. No. The XJ is amazingly quiet and refined.
Once started the chrome gear selection pops up from the console and you select from your standard automatic transmission wares.
While the bent eight sounds gentle, it has a savage side. Hefty use of the right hoof is accompanied by a strong response and it's only once things wind up past 4000rpm to you begin to her the soundtrack delights.
This XJ model is considerably lighter than the previous, partly courtesy of an all-alloy chassis.
It's also armed with air suspension and electronically-variable dampers that deliver a magic-carpet ride when cruising and then harden when the going gets twisty.
These dynamic technologies work seamlessly to transform a limousine into a nimble compact sedan. With a 0-100kmh spring time of under six seconds, it will leave some special sports cars in its wake.
There is some roll when you attack the corners, but the XJ enables you to quietly gain momentum and it's often surprising when you look down at the speedo. The six-speed automatic transmission works well in tandem with the big V8 although when you're feeling sporty there is the sport option which sharpens steering and acceleration response, along with steering wheel mounted shifters.
Tight car parks can present some issues so you do make full use of the parking sensors.
What do you get?
As expected, most items are complimentary. There are really only three key options, including a 1200-Watt Bowers & Wilkins 20-speaker audio system, ventilated front/rear seats and adaptive cruise control.
Some of the goodies you do get without ticking and boxes are cruise control, leather everything, dual-zone climatic air-conditioning, 600Watt CD/iPod compatible 12-speaker audio system, rain-sensing wipers, rear park sensors with camera, electric boot open/close, panoramic glass roof , keyless entry/start, virtual instrumentation and a interactive voice command system with Bluetooth connectivity.
The badge at the centre of the cabin's dash, can be individualised to be inscribed with anyone's name you wish.
You can also select from eight different wood trim options.
Prestigious car, prestigious company. Competition comes from the best of the best, including the Mercedes-Benz S-Class 350L ($236,040), BMW 7 Series 740Li ($218,000), Porsche's Panamera ($270,200) and the Maserati Quattroporte ($286,000).
Apart from the price-tag, the XJ lends itself to a variety of buyers and uses. Executives and families alike will appreciate the space, while the cabin user friendliness is a standard-setter.
The rear seats don't have a fold function, but that's about the only area where is loses points for functionality.
For a hulking car powered by a V8, the XJ is relatively thrifty. The official fuel consumption rate is just over 11 litres per 100km, and our test was spot-on that mark.
Jaguar has produced a classic in the XJ. It has the airs and graces of a Bentley, while also the sporting attributes of a Maserati.
This thing is sub-zero cool.
The XJ is among the best cars you'll drive in terms of overall comfort and practicality.
While not a performance king, it never fails to deliver acceleration excitement at the whim of your right foot all while cocooned the lap of luxury. The cabin is beautifully finished. Forget the tweed jacket, it's time to disco.
Model: Jaguar XJ SWB Premium Luxury.
Details: Large four-door rear-wheel drive luxury saloon.
Engine: 5.0-litre naturally aspirated V8 generating maximum power of 283kW @ 6500rpm and peak torque of 515Nm @ 3500rpm.
Transmission: Six-speed automatic.
Consumption: 11.4 litres/100km (combined average).
Performance: 0-100kmh in 5.7 seconds; top speed 250kmh.
Bottom line: $251,000.