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Jaguar XJ: Test Drive Review

Date: 16 March 2010   |   Author: Rachel Burgess

German brand sympathisers will struggle to fault Jaguar's new premium rival, the XJ, as it makes leaps ahead in the luxury car market.

At this level, any car's good. And while the XJ might not be better than the Mercedes S-Class, BMW 7-series or Audi A8, it is refreshingly different.

Aesthetically, it has sleek, modern and fresh lines. To drive, it feels lighter than its core rivals (and it is - by at least 150kg) and the main engine, a 3.0-litre V6 diesel, is a lesson in refinement.

Specification includes a boot with customisable height adjustment, rear parking sensors, panoramic roof with electric blinds, virtual instruments, pedestrian contact sensing and a Bowers & Wilkins audio system.

The mid-range Premium Luxury specification will be the most popular fleet version. Costing from £57,275, it adds metallic paint, 19-inch alloy wheels, rear heated seats and front parking sensors.

For those wanting something extra special there is the Supersport. A 5.0-litre supercharged V8 with 510hp, this is a boy's toy primed for long open roads. But you'll pay: it starts from £87,455 compared to the XJ's starting price of £53,775.

The XJ predecessor sold around 1300 last year in retail and fleet. While Jaguar won't release expected figures, it hopes to sell more than this but only expects 20% of volume to come from fleet.

Managing director Geoff Cousins said it wants to be at least number two in the segment (behind the Mercedes S-class) if not in first position.

With emissions starting at 184g/km CO2 Cousins realises this cuts out many fleets with 160g/km restrictions, but said Jaguar is working to improve this figure for the future.

Against its competitors, only the 7-series has lower CO2 at 180g/km. It also offers the best value, with BIK (40%) at £513 and cost per mile at 115.65p - all cheaper than the main rivals.

Interior build quality might not be quite up there with the German rivals but it's still hard to fault it. It's luxurious, quirky and more reminiscent of high-end British cars like Bentley and Aston Martin in looks.

Despite being a diesel, noise from engine, road and wind is kept to a bare minimum thanks to excellent soundproofing and torque is more than enough for road-goers.

On sale in May, both short and long wheelbases are available with the latter hoping to improve the XJ's share of the chauffeur market. Interior touches such as mirrors for rear Seat passengers can only strengthen this remit further. And a WLB doesn't mean compromised performance - it weighs only 18kg more than the standard version. Boot space is slightly less than the S-class, compromised by the coupe curvature of the car but still perfectly respectable.

The XJ not only stands up well against its arch rivals but goes further with excellent styling, good value for its class and brilliant handling.

Jaguar now has another car in its line-up that strengthens its position as a premium brand: I would choose the British-built XJ over the ubiquitous German models any day.