The Jaguar XJ has never been much of a Mercedes-Benz or BMW 7 Series rival. It has always been simply a large, flagship Jaguar saloon.
The Jaguar XJ has never been much of a Mercedes-Benz or BMW 7 Series rival. It has always been simply a large, flagship Jaguar saloon.
Image: Supplied / Business Day

Given the number of Jaguar XJ derivatives that could have borne the limited-run XJ50 anniversary badge, it came as a surprise that the company chose a 3.0l V6 diesel rather than any of the rowdy 5.0l supercharged V8s in its catalogue. 

This is of course the rant of a youthful and ruffian heart. Fifty years ago when the Series 1 XJ appeared it was powered by either a 2.8l and 4.2l six-cylinder engine. The intentions were clear. It would continue the tradition of dignified, understated but fast saloons like the Mk II of 1960 and sold for the indulgence of discerning lords of manors, dukes and duchesses.

The more scintillating XJ-R dragsters with their oversized alloys and fire-breathing V8s we have come to know appeared only in the early nineties. I guess the 3.0 diesel lump is the most reminiscent of the ethos of the first cars from 1968. 

The special interior is tinged with an aroma of old money thanks to being clad in soft grain diamond-quilted cow hide. A Jaguar leaper is embossed on the headrests of seats that are both enormous and comfortable.

XJ50 is stamped on the armrest padding and lit up as tread plates on the door. Poking through the gentlemen’s club ambience are brushed aluminium buttons and a TFT screen with a most comprehensive menu. A Coventry emblem sits like a centrepiece of a cabin that’s crafted like the bow of a boat. A multifunction steering wheel is standard XJ fare, but features anodised gearshift paddles. 

And because it had been a while since my last encounter with the XJ, the things that have changed over the years include the front facia of the car. It’s now smoothed out and closely resembles the XF in look.

There’s also a discernible enhancement to chassis, steering, braking, drivetrain and damping compliance introduced during the hiatus because suddenly it’s considerably more refined and nimbler on the move than I can remember.

What hasn’t changed is the rest of the elongated silhouette that’s uniquely sportback-part saloon. Just as it was in 1972, the XJ50 is available in regular 5.1m regular wheelbase guise which is on test here and as a 5.2m long wheelbase variant.

TECH SPECS: JAGUAR XJ50

• Engine: V6 turbodiesel
• Capacity: 2,993cc
• Power: 221kW
• Torque: 700Nm
• Transmission: Eight-speed automatic
• Drivetrain: Rear-wheel drive
• Top speed: 250km/h
• 0-100km/h: 6.2 sec (claimed)
• Fuel Consumption: 6.2l/100km (as claimed) 7.3l/100km as tested
• Emissions: 184g/km
• Price: R1,815,000

Thanks to its aluminium structure it weighs some 200-odd kilos less than rivals from Mercedes-Benz and BMW and thus performance and agility is sensational. The 221kW and 700Nm diesel engine that Jaguar has elected for this XJ50 is a wonder in the way it powers the car, and Jaguar quotes figures of 6.2 seconds to 100km/h and a governed 250km/h top speed.

How that monumental 700Nm comes to the fore is a story on its own, and you’ll find overtaking opportunities where none exists for lesser cars.

The next perk of its being a diesel is thriftiness. You can hammer it all day long and it never goes far off the 6.2l/100km claimed averages. The worst, despite taking liberties of its power was 7.3l/100km used and seemingly there’s always more than enough fuel left for another long drive.

And the driving dynamics? The XJ50 is pure RWD and the result, relatively speaking, is a limo that you can engage, if a touch too long and spongy in its damping. Steering response isn’t the most responsive out there but there is enough feedback to keep things interesting.

It’s at its utmost best cruising. The fantastic build quality doesn’t allow even a peep of wind or road noise in. When in comfort mode the suspension is sumptuously pliant.

XJ50 adds a little something to an already elegant looking sedan.
XJ50 adds a little something to an already elegant looking sedan.
Image: Supplied / Business Day

Drawbacks? There are a few. It did not have active cruise control nor was there any driving autonomy in our test unit.

These are modern expectations that in all likelihood are sought after by customers in this luxury segment. As a commemorative piece, I had reservations at first but by the end of the test period I’d been won over by its charms. It’s definitely a keeper. 

WE LIKE: Ride quality, performance, digital interface

WE DISLIKE: Clunky door and boot action

VERDICT: A fine birthday gift to yourselves, Jaguar!

This article was originally published by the Business Day.

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