We’ve got the 2013 MY Jaguar XJ in Portfolio trim with the 3.0 litre diesel engine and the new eight-speed gearbox and stop-start in for review and road test.
The ‘new’ shape Jaguar XJ – the one that didn’t look like a Jaguar should when it first appeared – has been with us for three years (well, since summer 2010 in the hands of owners) and, on the face of it, has changed little.
But even though it’s changed little in the three years since it debuted, the XJ has changed minds about what a big Jaguar saloon should be; no longer the staid old man’s carriage of choice with a pipe holder in the centre console, but instead a stand-out car in its sector with better dynamics than anything else.
The looks have grown on a sceptical public too, and the XJ is now viewed as a real Jaguar; it doesn’t garner crowds as it did in the early days, but it’s still a car that passing strangers feel warrants comment, comments which have always been complimentary when the big Jag has been with us.
Yet despite little in the way of cosmetic changes since it launched – save for the ‘Option’ packs to give it a visual edge – Jaguar has continued to tweak and fettle the XJ behind the scenes with improved software and new gizmos, perhaps the most important in the 2013 Jaguar XJ which gets the eight-speed gearbox for the first time, and the addition of stop start.
So what’s the 2013 Jaguar XJ like?
Jaguar XJ 2013 – inside and out
The last Jaguar XJ we had in for review was a LWB Portfolio car that also got the optional ‘Sports Pack’, but this time Jaguar has sent us a standard wheelbase car in Portfolio trim, perhaps the pick of the bunch unless you regularly ferry back seat passengers around.
In terms of how the big XJ looks, nothing’s really changed. There’s still the confident nose and contentious rump; the line from the original S Type lurking on the front wings; the elegant upper half and aggressive lower; the cats claws outlined in the rear lights; the sumptuous cabin that conspires to look traditional if you want and cutting edge if you don’t; the delightful Jaguar ‘cocooned’ feel for the driver and a feel-good factor few cars manage. The XJ makes you smile.
What Jaguar has done for 2013 is have a play with the Infotainment and its functions. It’s still not a perfect example of latency and function, but it does feel to have improved from the early cars (or we’re just so used to it) both in function and ease of use.
The DAB bit of the radio now gets DAB+ and DMB and your iPod integrates better (although not the latest Android – but that’s a motor industry moan rather than aimed at Jaguar).
The SatNav is also a bit slicker, with new functions like Dynamic Zoom (where the map zooms in at junctions so you’re clear what the instructions are), overhead signal info on motorways, the ability to store ‘Avoid’ areas you want to avoid on all routes, TMC messages can be repeated (good) and you can opt for an ECO route that will minimise fuel use.
Really, all else in the XJ – inside and out – is much as it was, which in our eyes is a good thing. There are the long-standing gripes about snug headroom front and back (although it didn’t seem as snug this time – have we all shrunk?), some cheapness in some trim and, despite the latest tweaks, the Infotainment and digital instruments are more than ready for a new generation.
The tweaks to the 2013 Jaguar XJ under the skin are the most comprehensive Jaguar has implemented since the latest XJ arrived in 2009 and, on the whole, they take our favourite drivers’ luxury car up a notch in appeal.
Jaguar has had a play with the suspension setting which, they say, improve ride isolation and comfort an all roads. We struggled to feel much difference, but there was perhaps a slightly less rigid feel on pitted urban roads than before and, at times, almost the pillowy feeling the old XJ had.
But we’ve never had a problem with trading off a slightly harder ride for the stunning driving dynamics the XJ offers, so as the slight improvement to the ride has had no noticeable impact on dynamics, that’s a good thing.
The XJ still handles better than anything in its class (and better than almost anything a size smaller, for that matter) with a fluidity and nimbleness that belies its size, and the ability to feel like it shrinks around you as you blast down your favourite country road knowing just where the traction control will allow a little slip to keep the seat of your pants busy.
And yes, you can drive like that – and get the feedback – even in the 3.0 litre diesel thanks to its decent power and big lumps of accessible torque.
The addition of the eight-speed ‘box to the 2013 XJ makes changes more fluid and seamless than the old six-speed box, and you do notice a difference on a motorway run. A 100 mile round-trip on quickish dual carriageways with the adaptive cruse set to 80mph saw over 46mpg.
We didn’t get on as well with Jaguar’s new stop-start. It certainly works, and it’s no worse than any other stop-start system designed to give ‘official’ emission figures a rosier glow, but left-foot brakers found even the quick re-start irksome. We turned it off, but leave it on in heavy traffic and you will probably improve economy by 5 per cent.
Finally, there’s a new sound system from Meridian, and it’s a good ‘un.
Jaguar has enlisted Meridian (they’re British, you know) to come up with a new sound system for the XJ that produces 825W through 15 audio channels sending sound to 20 speakers. What was actually most impressive to our untrained lug-holes was the quality of sound at low volume and the balance of sound that seemed the same wherever your head was in the cabin, with volume appearing relative to ambient noise too.
Jaguar XJ 2013 – Verdict
It’s tough to come to a conclusion we haven’t already reached on the Jaguar XJ, because the 2013 Jaguar XJ still has all the things – from cosseting, sumptuous cabin to the best driving dynamics in class – on offer in the latest model. But the changes Jaguar has wrought for 2013 are important and are an improvement.
From the start-stop that irritates, but works, to the new eight-speed ‘box that gives more fluid changes and better economy on a run, to the small tweaks to the Infotainment and the improvements to the ride without impacting on how the XJ feels to hustle, we’re impressed that Jaguar has moved the XJ on.
And we mustn’t forget the new Meridian sound system too, which has a subtlety which seems second only to the stunning Naim system in the Bentley.
We’d still like some trim improvements and the digital dash and Infotainment are still not as good as they should be. But they’re small gripes.
But we’re happy to trade the small irritations for the way the XJ feels and drives; it is still absolutely sublime. If you want a big, luxury car and you intend to be the driver, the Jaguar XJ is still the only choice.
Jaguar XJ 2013 3.0 litre Diesel Portfolio Quick Tech Specs
- Engine: 2993cc, 275bhp
- Performance: 0-60mph 6.0 seconds / Top Speed 155mph
- Economy: 47.0mpg – Official / 31.6mpg – Test
- Emissions: 159g/km
- Price: £67,260 / Price as tested £73,065
- Test car supplied by Jaguar UK