Jaguar XJ50: Review
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The Jaguar XJL is now the oldest limousine in India, unlike its contemporaries which have recently been updated. This 50th anniversary special edition may also be the ‘last’ XJ considering that Jaguar seems to be toying with the idea of replacing the XJ altogether or updating it to a new hybrid/all-electric flagship. With that in mind, is the XJ50 anniversary special edition ‘special’ enough to consider?
Buying a Jaguar isn't just about buying a luxury car, it's about making a statement. You see, cars like the S-Class and the 7 Series are seen as executive carriers, ideal for someone who wears a suit to work every day and doesn't want to disturb anyone. The Jag, though, appeals to a different buyer, a rebel of sorts, who wants to make his presence known. And while the others in its class focus of an immersive rear seat experience, the Jaguar XJ pays equal diligence to the one with the steering wheel in front of him. Does it strike the required balance though?
The Jaguar is arguably the best looking of the three - S-Class and the 7 Series. It's hard to take your eyes off it when you see one driving by. The only car that can turn more heads in this class is the Lexus, but that sits in a different price bracket altogether. What makes the XJ look this gorgeous is its fastback roofline. The roof slopes down gently into the boot and gives it a properly sporty stance.
The looong bonnet gets muscular creases as well which accentuate the nose of the car with the Jaguar badge. The headlamps look intimidating with the double ‘J’ LED DRLs and get adaptive lighting to not blind the oncoming traffic. The 19-inch rims on the XJ50 fill the arches better than the 18s on the regular one and help the car look cooler.
At the back, you have a very clean layout with the slim vertical tail lamps wrapping the corners and a plain boot with the Jaguar and XJ50 badge. The XJ feels properly classy and looks like it belongs in a royal setting.
Open the heavy door of the Jaguar and you are welcomed by beautifully quilted leather seats. These get an off-white upholstery and strike a nice contrast with the dashboard which is covered in black leather. And unlike other cars, the layout isn't dominated by screens or connected vents; rather it is a very classy, old-school setup with round AC vents in the centre along with an analogue clock. There is also a wooden trim going around the dashboard to the doors, which does look quite elegant.
You sit low in the driver’s seat and the steering automatically comes into the last set position when you start the car. The seats too can be electrically adjusted in every way you could possibly want it to, and all the four occupants get heated, cooled and massage function as well. The steering wheel too is a good leather-wrapped unit with chrome inserts and the Jaguar in the centre. What it does even better is the way it makes the car change direction, but we will get to that a bit later.
The best bit here though is the 12.3-inch LCD instrument cluster which shows up in the form of three dials. The display is crisp and the rightmost dial can display various aspects like the trip, navigation, music/source, seat, door and seat belt info and drive modes. The dials also get red highlights when you shift to sports or Dynamic mode.
The next highlight you spot is the 10-inch full-colour touchscreen display filling up the centre console. It’s super smooth in terms of operation and displays the information in a clean and organised manner. An advantage here is that it is accompanied by physical buttons below the screen which helps you get to the required menu quickly. In the centre console are controls for the 4-zone climate control, cup holders, drive mode, cruise control buttons and the famous Jaguar drive selector which rises up to greet you when the car starts.
But while all of this is very sophisticated and old-school, it doesn't feel special in a 2019 kind of way. What I mean by that is, the XJ does feel a bit aged. Like, the infotainment screen display should have had a better resolution; the steering-mounted controls are just controls. The S-Class sports the uber cool and functional trackpads and a rotary selector that feel new and futuristic. There also no changeable ambient lighting and the dashboard layout to feels a bit... boring. These are gimmicky features but the fact that the competition has them may leave you feeling like you’re missing out a little.
But, you don't buy a limousine to get a view of the dashboard, do you? You get one so that the person holding the steering wheel can open the rear door for you. And when that happens, the same quilted leather wrapped seats welcome you again. But this time, you sit slightly tall because of the seat padding. The base is quite wide, which should allow for more generous-sized passengers to sit more comfortably, but the cushioning is on the firmer side. Hence, even with the seats reclined all the way, you don't feel the same sense of comfort as offered by its rivals. But you do get a nice and long window for the outside view, a glass roof for gazing at the stars, and the surrounding combination of wood, chrome and leather does make of a very premium cabin.
Signs of the XJ being the oldest of the lot are the most evident here as there are misses in the convenience and feel-good features for the rear occupants. The biggest issue, though, is with legroom. The XJ gets a removable footrest for the rear seats, and those seats don't have any room under them to tuck your feet. Hence, while you have ample knee room, you still have to sit with your feet a bit backwards. And for a car with such a long wheelbase (3,157mm), this simply isn't acceptable.
Then comes the rear seat features. Yes, you do get massage, ventilation, heating, recline controls, 10.2-inch HD monitors and a very practical table, but it's all very basic. For example, the rear left passenger seat gets controls to push forward the front seat and make more room, but you have to adjust the horizontal and recline movement separately. The S and the 7 both get a single button to get this done, which is a lot more convenient.
Also, you have to manually open the seat-back monitors, and the table-opening mechanism which manually folds out is not as fluid as we’d have liked and also requires you to use both hands. The table is nice and wide and will easily hold a full-sized laptop to finish some extra work off on your daily commute to work but this also means that it’s hard to get your legs out of the way as it folds up. Other storage options include a compartment and cupholders in the armrest and pockets in the doors.
The monitors get climate, navigation and vehicle data. You can even get the sound output on the included Jaguar headphones if you don't want to disturb the co-passengers. Speaking of sounds, the XJL gets phenomenal sound insulation from exterior elements though a bit of tyre and engine noise does creep into the cabin. But the moment you fire up the 825W Meridian Surround sound system, nothing will bother you inside the cabin.
Engine and performance
Usually, while reviewing such cars, we tend not to focus much on this bit. Because it's assumed you are buying a long sedan to sit at the back like a boss, and the car just needs to be effortless to drive for when the driver does not show up for work. But when you step behind the wheel of this XJ, and it’s something we highly recommend, you will be surprised.
The big cat is powered by a 3.0-litre V6 diesel which lets you play with a hefty 306PS of power and a massive 689Nm of torque, all available on tap at the rear wheels. The duty of getting this power down has been handed to an 8-speed automatic transmission and wide 275/40 Pirelli Pzero rubber. In the mood? Put your foot down and the Jaguar will leap ahead and reach 100kmph in a Vbox-tested 6.64 seconds. Even then, the XJ keep pushing strong and is electronically limited to 250kmph. Stopping power too is ample, with a 100-0kmph distance of 41.08 metres. But there is a learning curve with the brake paddle as it first offers a sharp bite and then becomes progressive.
There are three drive modes available - Normal, Winter and Dynamic - that affect both the steering and engine response as well as the suspension, but well get to the ride part later. In the Sport/Dynamic combination, there is a sense of urgency to the power and just a gentle tap to the throttle makes the XJ lunges ahead. On the highways, it's always in the mood for overtakes and the gearbox is very good at its job, keeping you in the right cog almost all the time. You can control the shifts manually as well with paddle shifters, but the redline is smooth to cut in and with it close to 4,000rpm, you will often hit the limiter. Furthermore, it takes just 4.23s to shoot from 20-80kmph and packs enough beef to take on the daily traffic.
Inside the city, the kitty knows how to behave. Using Weather mode humbles down the throttle response and you can control the power delivery with a lot more ease. In the ‘Off’ mode, the throttle response can further be dialled down for a more relaxing city drive. But here, you will have to provide a bit more of throttle to get the car going. Tap it frugally and the kitty will drink a litre of diesel in 9.38km. On the highways, the Jag feels more at home and returns 15.55 kmpl.
If there's one aspect of the engine which does not fit the mix, it's the noise. The motor here doesn't feel as refined as the 3.0-litres engines from the S and the 7, and diesel clatter is often audible inside the cabin, especially in Sport mode. The silver lining is that when you are in the mood for some action, this engine note becomes a character of the car and adds to the experience. But the car keeps you away from any sort of vibration at all times.
Ride and Handling
Complimenting the engine is the handling of this Jag. This is down to the XJ’s all-aluminium body architecture which makes it the lightest cars in its class, while still weighing 1.8 tonnes. The steering weighs up when you switch to Dynamic mode and the feedback too is ample, considering that this is, in fact, a luxury saloon. The initial turn-in feels a little lazy but the moment the car changes direction, it immediately becomes a lot more responsive. So much so that you will start to have fun on twisty bits once you get a feel for the grip. The size and weight of the XJ does start to bother you while going fast but the PZeros are phenomenal in keeping the car anchored to the tarmac and let you push more and more into corners. And surprisingly, the harder you turn into a corner, the better response you have from the steering.
Moving on to the ride, the XJ gets coil springs at the front but air suspension at the back. This means that with a change in the drive modes, the damping of the rear shocks changes. In Dynamic mode, the damping firms up, aiding the handling. But still, the ride remains comfortable over city roads and speed breakers. The rebound can be felt inside the cabin over potholes but it still remains fairly comfortable. If you are on a highway, Dynamic mode will keep the ride pretty stable.
Over some broken patches, Winter mode works best as it offers slightly softer damping. While this makes the ride more comfortable, it does introduce a bit of waviness. At city speeds, though, it works best. Normal mode further loosens up the damping, getting the Jag into its softest setting. Over broken roads, this is ideal but does tend to feel bouncy at speeds and takes some time to settle down. Even in the softest setting, the Jag isn't as soft as the 7 Series and favours stability over outright cushioning.
Let's start by laying out all the cards on the table. The Jaguar XJ50 looks absolutely stunning from every angle. Over the years, the XJ has received numerous updates to bring its features up to date, with touchscreen and LED headlamps for example. But this is essentially a 10-year-old platform and it’s hard to hide it. So it's obvious that there is a compromise in the feature list and especially in the rear seat experience. If you are only looking for a chauffeur-driven car, the S and the 7 do a much better job of providing a 5-star experience at the rear seats. But you don't buy a Jaguar just for the features. You buy it for the statement it makes and the way it makes you feel.
In the Jaguar, you are a part of the car’s personality, like the last piece of the puzzle. And additionally, what the XJ does better than the rivals is drive with its heart. It handles well, gets a punchy diesel and will put a smile on your face when you are out to play. So if you often drive the car yourself (pay close attention to the word ‘often’) then and only then the Jaguar will feel like it is worth owning.