2012 Jaguar XJ Sport & Speed Review
Twin option-packed XJ super-saloon
By Shahzad Sheikh
It’s the alternative exec’s limo, the maverick’s motor, the contrary CEO’s choice, that’s what the Jaguar XJ is when compared to its German rivals from BMW and Audi. It also makes them looks utterly staid and devoid of character – but that’s what most MD’s want these days: a low profile is often seen as a judicious option in these chastened times.
So aside from being an eccentric extrovert in this class, is the XJ any good? Oh yeah, very much so. We’ve driven it extensively in the past, and its smooth flowing looks grow on you. That odd black-clad c-pillar still jars slightly, but if it’s really an issue, just get the XJ in black and that disappears.
The big cat has presence and style even in standard guise. It also matches the BMW 7-series for being the driver’s car in the segment. And long-wheelbase editions like the car we tested, pretty much the only XJs you can buy in the region, provide acres of room both front and rear, in an exquisitely appointed interior that is classy, inviting and a delight to behold.
In the back of our car were footstools and fold down tables – proper limo appointments. Yet at the same time, in the front, despite the massage seats, the driver sinks into this car, moreso than others in this segment, and it instantly feels a sportier, more driveable proposition. Unlike say the Lexus LS, this is a car where the chauffeur is most likely to be instantly relieved of duty.
And that’s even more the case when it comes to this sensational version of the car we just tried. This heralds the arrival of two new option packs for the XJ, both of which were fitted to this car.
The Sport pack (available on all engine derivatives) includes aerodynamic tweaks to the front and rear, massive 20-inch alloy wheels, red-painted brake callipers, sports seating in the front and more trim choices.
For the 5.0-litre supercharged V8, the Sport pack can only be had in combination with the Speed pack which does exactly what it says on the tin, it gives you more speed – 30kph extra in fact, raising top speed to 280kph for the supercharged 503bhp (510PS) V8 model, simply by adjusting the engine management software.
Until something more powerful comes along, this is the XJ-R in all but name. Something that’s underline by the fact that Jaguar is running this car as the ‘Ring taxi’ at the Nurburgring, complete with four racing bucket seats and a full roll cage.
So does it feel quick? Cor blimey guv’nor, yer kiddin, aintcha? With 150kg less than its rivals, thanks an all-aluminium body, it feels even faster than the 0-100 time of 4.9 seconds would suggest, the response feels more electric than you would guestimate from knowing its 461lb ft it on hand from just 2500rpm up to 5500rpm.
If anything, this car seems way to over-eager for a big limo, feeling even more light on its feet than the smaller XFR. It’ll happily overwhelm its traction systems from the get-go and give you a most unseemly chirp from the tyres on take-off. Put it in ‘trac-DSC’ the halfway house, or if you’re really brave considering the 5.3metre length, press and hold to properly burn some rubber.
The fact that this car seems to have a natural inclination to hoon is obvious from the amount of work the traction system seems to be doing when left on. You’ve just got to remain aware that this is a full-sized limo.
We’re raving about the XJ aren’t we? Surely there are some downsides? Of course there are. It wouldn’t be eccentric otherwise. The boot is comparatively tiny, which will put this out of favour with hotels as the VIP cars, and the air-conditioning struggled no matter what we did to the settings. Admittedly it’s 46 degrees outside right now, but even so, this is meant to the height of performance luxury.
Oh, and the big wheels and liquorice-like rubber has ruined the ride – okay, perhaps ‘ruined’ is a extreme word, it’s not really THAT bad. But putting it into context, you do expect Jag’s to ride beautifully, traditionally it was their forte. So even the subtlest of vibrations and rumbles annoy in an otherwise sublime experience – but then 19 and even 18-inch wheels are an option on the lesser XJs.
Overall though, it terms of pure appeal the Jaguar XJ Sport & Speed has got the edge on everything except the Big Boss Mercedes S-Class – the ‘best car in the world’ this side of a Rolls-Royce at least anyway. And it’s close on price too, AED479,000 ($130k) for Jag versus AED475,000 ($129k) for the S500 with AMG Sports Pack.
The XJ is fresher, newer, has a far more appealing interior and is way more lithe, but the other one has a three-pointed star on the bonnet. Talk about hard choices… well without testing them back-to-back, we’ll have to call it a draw.
Price: AED479,000 ($130k)
Engine: 5.0-litre, Supercharged V8, 503bhp @ 6000-6500rpm, 461lb ft @ 2500-5500rpm
Performance: 0-100kph 4.9seconds, Top Speed 280kph, 12.1L/100km
Transmission: six-speed auto, rear-wheel drive