Broadcaster and journalist Richard Madeley is one of the first to take delivery of a new Jaguar XJ – in his case the 3.0 litre diesel Portfolio. These are his first impressions.
Regular readers will remember that Richard Madeley took a Jaguar XK Convertible for a blat down to Cornwall and back last year to give us his feedback. If you read that piece it won’t shock you to know that our old mate Richard has been waiting patiently to take delivery of a new Jaguar XJ since then. First expected in time for Christmas, he finally got it delivered two weeks ago.
So having now taken delivery – and got a trip to Cornwall and back, some running round town and a drive to Saint-Paul de Vence under his belt – what are his impressions of Jaguar’s new XJ?
e were about half way through a moderately important meeting at my management company in Chiswick when there was a knock at the boardroom door, and one of the receptionists popped her head into the room.
‘Sorry to interrupt, everyone… but Richard, the man from Jaguar has arrived with your new -’
She was almost flattened in the stampede. Only one of us – and not me – had actually seen the mould-breaking, all-or-nothing, Monte-Carlo-or-bust new XJ in the glorious flesh. Well, glorious aluminium. In this case, sprayed in black with tinted rear windows showing a bit of ankle; interior cream leather.
Business could wait.
Photos and videos do not, my friends, do this magnificent new big cat justice.
There it sat in the little car park out the back. Well, hardly sat. Crouched, more like. Dominated all the other rides. Snarled at them, even. Not for the first time did I hear the soon-to-be-familiar five little words floating through the air: ‘Bit like an Aston Martin…’
For more than 40 years, no-one would have confused an XJ with an Aston Martin. In fact, it was impossible to confuse an XJ with any other car. Since the late ’60s, that long, flat back end, low cabin and symmetrically long, front end have confided ‘Dad-Jag’ to all who gazed upon her. (When I swapped my S-Type for an XJ six years ago a friend of my son’s looked at it and patted me kindly on the arm. ‘Old man’s Jag, Rich,’ he said. ‘Old man’s Jag.’)
Hmmm. Up to a point, laddie. Actually, Jaguar’s design team should get the equivalent of a lifetime achievement award for breathing fresh life into an increasingly aged if classic design for so long. And the temptation to do the same this time around must have been powerful.
But the new and revolutionary XJ is the prize for daring to resist temptation. It is a quantum leap from the old series – and a quantum leap gloriously and unquestionably 100% in the right direction.
OK, I’m a driver and a car-owner, not a technician or a petrolhead. I speak as I find, not as I painstakingly analyse. So here is a plain-speaking verdict on my new XJ, a three-litre diesel with all the bells and whistles on.
Body shape first.
The photos give you a hint of what you’ll feel when you actually see one on the road. Think glossy, crouching panther. Hold that thought…
Power plant next.
It’s BLOODY quick. Accelerates noticeably faster than my handed-in 3 litre diesel, with or without the sports setting engaged. Its legs are so long when cruising it’s so easy to breach the national pretend speed limit that using cruise control is the only answer.
Handling, cornering (complete absence of big-arse wobble coming out of bends) is incredible. So is the ride. You can firm it up at the touch of a cross-flagged button on the central console, but the standard setting is just fine and dandy. Absorbs the bumps, gives the firm launch-pad of a sprinter’s starting blocks when you take off.
Braking (near-total absence of front-dip-and-wobble) awesome.
Extras. Just get what you can afford. I love the TV in the central console. Driver can watch when car is stationary, otherwise passenger only but driver can see any other display without interrupting passenger’s viewing pleasure (which also includes DVD). And if driver wants to listen to radio, passenger supplied with wireless TV-dedicated earphones. This is seriously cool stuff.
Climate control, satnav, seat adjustment (including massage facility) blah blah: all on the top line.
Despite high expectations, rear passenger legroom is STILL crap compared to Mercedes, Lexus, etc, unless driver below 5’10′, which isn’t the point. This won’t help Jaguar break Mercedes’ stranglehold on the chauffeured limo market. (The long-wheelbase XJ is fine is this regard, for an extra 3k, but, again, not the point).
Rear vision, whether via the driver’s windscreen mirror or over-the-shoulder, is poor. So you have to take a bit more time and care when reversing. But hey – a design as wondrously sleek and exotic as this has to make a few accommodations.
I came back from my management meeting on D-day (delivery day) and called my wife from the car once I’d pulled up outside the house. ‘Open the front door and tell me what you think.’
I wasn’t expecting a lot. Some bad fairy must have crept into Judy’s crib when she was a baby and inoculated her against appreciating car design. She just doesn’t get it, still less care.
Until now. The new XJ has somehow, miraculously, broken the spell. Judy opened the door and her mouth made a little ‘o’. ‘Beautiful,’ I lip-read her say.
A couple of hours later, daughter Chloe arrived. ‘Dad,’ she announced solemnly. ‘That is NOT an old man’s car. That is a MAN’s car…’
Last week we put it on a ferry to Calais and drove 600 miles down here to Provence.
It has caused a sensation on the Riviera. Gendarmes wander over to ‘check’ my papers but what they really want is to sit in the car and walk around it and look at it and pat it. They even smile. (Incredible, this). Yesterday we parked up in Antibes for lunch and a glossy French mother, two small children in tow, walked straight over, nodded to us both and said, simply: ‘But it is beautiful… beautiful… what is it?’
I drew breath to reply, but she was too quick for me.
‘Ah yes, the new Aston Martin, oui?’
Non, madame, c’n'est pas Aston Martin.
But James Bond wouldn’t give a damn. He’d just get in and drive. And he wouldn’t give it back, either.