x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 18 December 2017

Road test: 2017 Jaguar XJ

Jaguar’s XJ is a handsome executive car that exudes classic British style

The Jaguar XJ luxury saloon is a status-maker. Ravindranath K / The National
The Jaguar XJ luxury saloon is a status-maker. Ravindranath K / The National

The stats: 2017 Jaguar XJ

Price, base / as tested Dh326,700 / Dh342,700

Engine 3.0L V6

Transmission Eight-speed automatic

Power 340hp @ 6,000pm

Torque 450Nm @ 3,500rpm

Fuel economy, combined 9.1L / 100km

You might be forgiven for thinking that, as an Englishman, I would have a patriotic affinity with Jaguar. Not especially, I’m afraid – as a member of Generation X, I was born in the wrong era for that, with the notable exception of the awe-inspiring XJ220. Indeed, after two decades filled with some of the most-hideous, least-inspiring Big Cats of all-time, it took the purring charms of the fabulous F-Type to get me to even look in Jag’s direction again.

The current XJ has always been a decent enough looker in a quieter, more-reserved manner. It is the grand old man of the range, with a badge lineage that can be traced back to the 1960s – a decade, lest we forget, when Jaguar’s finest of all-time, the E-Type, reigned supreme.

With its hexagon-packed grille completing a stubby nose framed by a prowling curve to the headlamps, the XJ has the air of an executive car for a well-dressed businessman who accepts no nonsense; a dealmaker who might not be averse to scuffing up his knuckles once in a while.

In the cabin, the refinement is there for everyone to see, with lovely interior lines from doors to dash creating a rounded effect that is as visually appealing as it is character-filled.

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There is an argument to be made that the proliferation of Jaguar logos, which seem to adorn almost every surface, isn’t necessary for a company of such standing and history – it smacks a little of “hey, don’t forget what car you’re in”, when nobody should need a reminder here.

Once on the move, there are a handful of issues that compromise the XJ’s overall aura of quality. Some of the build quality inside feels flimsy – anyone who has ever been near a gym might fear snapping off an indicator or wipers stalk, while the mounting of the ceiling panel around sunroof controls isn’t especially rock-solid. There is also a rattling in the driver’s door when the stereo – which keeps resetting, seemingly struggling with the UAE heat – is pumping out songs embellished with any semblance of bass.

Thankfully, it is not all a return to the bad old days of dubiously constructed British cars. And the XJ certainlyhas plenty of luxury touches that go beyond regular kit: dual pop-down mirrors for rear passengers, a rear automated sunscreen, a touchless sensor to open the glovebox, plus a handy external boot button.

The pop-up gear-selector dial, which emerges from the centre console when you hit the starter button, is neat. Ravindranath K / The National
The centre console. Ravindranath K / The National

The pop-up gear-selector dial, which emerges from the centre console when you hit the starter button, is neat, and near-hypnotic the first few times. Behind that, storage space is chiefly within cubbyholes beneath a double-hinging cover.

With a dash swathed in more brown leather than the average 19th-century British members’ club, there is also a touch of Biggles about two central circular air-conditioning vents and the mini “XJ” branded analogue clock between them. The intuitive touchscreen infotainment system almost looks a little out of place in such timeless company.

Rear-seat passengers have the benefit, should they be so inclined, of the back half of an expansive two-panel sunroof, although they will most likely be more interested in the plentiful legroom and a separate set of air-con controls.

Perhaps most crucially, the 3.0-litre V6 has plenty of get up and go, making it something of a growling bigger cat than its relatively refined exterior might suggest.

And that is what the XJ does best as a status-making luxury saloon: it doesn’t outwardly shout loudly about its capabilities, but it will still make many peers look sluggish, while maintaining that air of British respectability that Jaguar holds so dear.