If there was an award for the longest-standing automotive nameplate with the lowest number of generational updates, it would definitely go to the Jaguar XJ. For a badge that’s been around since 1968, the XJ had just three all-new models until 2009, which is as good as being stuck in a time warp. Backwards. But all that changed that year, when the current-generation XJ was revealed.
With an elegant, thoroughly modern interpretation of the historic XJs, Ian Callum and his team managed to revive interest in the iconic model, and it was once again placed firmly as a credible rival for the S-Class, 7 Series and the A8. In fact, Jaguar compensated amply for all those decades of stagnation with a car that was better looking than any of its competitors. After driving it in France in early 2010, I remember saying that despite all the nods to its storied past, this car represents a sure-footed step towards the future.
Well, that was 2010, and in the six years that passed, a lot has happened in the automotive industry, including in the flagship luxury saloon segment. The S-Class, which was already four years old in its fifth generation when the XJ came out, got a substantial update in 2013, with the sixth-gen model packing more tech than any other car before it. While the Merc set the benchmark once again, BMW also brought its 7 Series up to date with a comprehensive makeover in 2015.
That’s left Jaguar feeling the heat once more, and Coventry announced a few updates for the 2016 model year intended to keep it fighting fresh until the next-gen update comes out.
The 2016 model also introduced the Autobiography trim, which was hitherto reserved for the top variants of the Range Rover. Available only with the long-wheelbase body, this model comes with a raft of additional features and creature comforts. But these are not cheap; it starts at a whopping Dh599,000. If that seems like a prohibitive price to pay for a car that’s well into its sixth year, but you still are interested in a loaded Jaguar flagship and don’t mind scaling down to a V6, then the Diamond Edition, which has recently been launched in the UAE, could be what you want.
With a starting price of Dh399,000, it gives you many features found in the Autobiography for less dough, and lets you add even more options, obviously for more money. What you get includes Herringbone veneer in the cabin Diamond Edition script, heated and cooled front and rear seats with rear business tables and leather cushions, rear-seat entertainment with two 10.2in foldable HD screens, Autobiography twin oval chrome exhaust finishers, the same 20in Maroa wheels as the Autobiography and a smattering of Diamond Edition lettering all around including the sill treadplates, side power vents and the centre of the dashboard.
Apart from these, our test car has Dh7,000 worth of optional equipment, which includes the same 825-watt, 20-speaker, 15-channel Meridian digital sound system that comes with the Portfolio trim, and the Advanced Parking Assist Pack, which brings in 360-degree park distance control, surround camera system reverse traffic detection and blind-spot monitoring, among others.
But for these add-ons, it’s still the good-old XJ, with its streamlined profile and low roofline hiding its formidable proportions, and the cabin standing out from the rest with its elegant simplicity. The supercharged 3.0-litre V6, which replaces the old 5.0-litre V8, is super smooth, with the ZF eight-speed torque converter transmission seemingly always keeping it in the optimum band that balances refinement and performance.
Although the extra 125mm of wheelbase over the regular wheelbase XJ frees up a considerable amount of room inside, the ride quality isn’t quite on a par with that of the S-Class or the 7 Series. It simply doesn’t make you feel cocooned in isolation like the other cars in the segment do. However, the XJ more than makes up for this with its superb body control and poise when driven enthusiastically.
It’s more of a driver’s car than most others in its class, and it belies its nearly two-tonne heft like no other car does. Its dynamics are especially impressive in Sport mode, where the ZF ’box holds ratios longer and shifts faster, while the steering and chassis firm up as well.
Overall, it’s a large saloon that compares more suitably with the likes of the Quattroporte and the previous-gen Panamera than the S-Class or the 7 Series. And it’s arguably still the best-looking car in the segment, despite having been around for a while. It’s a classic design that’s been done so well that it’s sure to withstand the test of time like many Jags of yore did. If you’re willing to look beyond the lack of cutting-edge technology and a V8, the Diamond Edition XJ offers decent-value-for-money.