A fitting flagship for Jaguar, and one which grows on you the more you live with it.
(Editors note: even though the 3.0D is not for sale in the U.S. we thought our readers might like to see what is available on the other side of the pond.)
We wouldn't say that the XJ is a make-or-break car for Jaguar commercially, as the XF and XK have both proven highly successful for the leaping cat. However in one respect, the XJ is hugely important to the company - it represents the final stage of a three-phase plan to replace retro design with ultra-modern. If Jaguar gets this one right, there's no looking back.
So, we'll get on to the styling straight away. If you've been brought up on a diet of feline XJs, seeing the new car in the flesh for the first time comes as bit of a shock. The gaping grille, sculpted headlamps and sloping roof-line are a long way from the outgoing model - and initially it jars.
But give it time, take in its form on the roads, see it among traffic, and experience other people's reactions first hand, and it soon becomes clear that Ian Callum, the XJ's stylist, achieved exactly what he set out to do. He's brought the XJ into the modern age, but in such a way as to eschew conventionality - it's a large car, that combines huge road presence with a sports car stance. And we can only think of one other car in this sector that manages this feat so successfully: the Maserati Quattroporte.
In SWB 3.0D form, the first thing that surprises you when you drive off, is that the ride initially feels a little stiff-legged, a little bony on typically pock-marked UK backroads. And that's a little disappointing if you're after a car that truly cossets. But press the accelerator, allow the twin-turbo's ample torque to shove you forwards, and build up speed rapidly, and the chassis' high-speed composure comes shining through.
In high speed bends it literally glides, with swift direction changes a flick of the wrist away. Steering is accurate and well-weighted, while the lack of overall body roll inspires plenty of confidence. In short, this is a driver's car that just happens to be limousine sized. As for the engine - it's a quiet and muscular companion, and supremely long-legged. At the UK limit, the XJ's diesel is spinning over at just over 1500rpm. The only real noise is a slight rustle of wind noise, and the bump-thump of the suspension over expansion joints.
Inside, the electronic instruments take a little getting used to, but we love their flexibility - the rev counter doubles as an occasional sat/nav companion for instance. The touch screen in the centre console has a clever dual view facility, but we'd like a little more responsiveness. The rest of the interior is gorgeous to look at with fine detailing, but we'd take it in black or tan, rather than the mid-blue of our test car. Overall, it's a brilliant achievement, and a grower. The longer you live with it, the more you'll appreciate the effort that's gone into it and the ease in which you'll slip into the ownership experience. As for the styling... give it a chance, choose your colour sensitively, and enjoy...