First drive: 2012 Jaguar XJ-L V6 in the UAE
Jaguar is reinventing itself, according to their new “Alive” marketing campaign. After years of peddling classically-handsome automobiles to traditionally-older gentlemen, things took a turn for the modern when the XF debuted a few years ago. And then the XJ continued that transformation. The XK was always around in the background. Now with three ultra-futurist models making up the range, they’ve revamped their logo and are heavily pushing their cars towards potentially-younger customers. Part of the GCC launch event for the campaign involved a round in the V6-powered XJ-L which debuted last year. This was the first time in our seven-year existence that we’d actually been invited to a Jaguar driving event.
The XJ-L V6 isn’t the quickest of cars, nor the most tech-laden, but it does provide a cheaper entry-point into full-size Jaguar ownership, and it benefits from the same stylistic flair as the line-topping XJ SuperSport Supercharged, the latter one costing twice as much. The only external clue were the “smaller” 18-inch wheels. There are no special badges to indicate we were packing a V6.
But it became rather obvious that we were piloting a 240 hp 3.0-litre V6 as soon as we stepped on the throttle pedal. The motor sounds excellent, but while the car doesn’t really move with any real verve, it is an aluminium-bodied lightweight, so it makes the most of its limited horses. It does cruise well though, doing a bit more than 2000 rpm at 120 kph. The gearbox doesn’t like to always downshift as it prefers to save fuel, but it can be shifted manually using paddles, and there’s a sport mode.
As part of this media event, we were put up overnight at the lavish Al Maha Desert Resort, mingling with oryx deers in our private pools and taking long groin-straining camel rides on the dunes, while some “preferred” scribes were offered a chance to go sky-diving. While I was offered the chance to parachute as well at the last minute, I declined as I wasn’t keen on jumping out of a plane. I also wanted to get some more wheel-time with the car before heading out for another engagement.
The XJ-L V6 also seems to have a bit of a sporting streak. The suspension is firm, the steering is well-weighted and the view from the driver’s seat is just above the bonnet. That’s great if you want a full-size sedan to carve corners with on mountain roads, as the ‘Alive’ tagline is encouraging you to do, but that comes at the cost of a stiff ride, pretty much like an XK-R. To get the best of both worlds, you’d have to upgrade to an XJ equipped with adjustable air suspension. We did note that the ride feel stays constant, whether on tarmac or on a gravel washboard-surfaced road.
Still, luxury is not forgotten completely, as the cabin in our test car was trimmed in top-notch materials, with more wood and leather than any other car we’ve tested, short of a Bentley. With an LCD screen in place of the gauges, a touchscreen navigation system, and a dual-pane sunroof, we were sure we were sitting in a top-spec model. Paying more would only net you niceties that you probably won’t miss, such as ventilated seats, adaptive cruise control and other intricate gadgetry.
Up front, the surroundings don’t appear as spacious as you’d expect, especially for tall riders. From the driver’s seat It almost feels like you’re sitting in an XK-R, with a sharply-raking windshield, low roofline, recessed dashboard and knee-hugging footwells. But this being the long-wheelbase model, rear space is excellent, with ample legroom and headroom.
And with that being said, we suspect a car like the XJ will not particularly appeal to older buyers any more, especially the kind who prefer the spacious lounge-feel of something like the Mercedes-Benz S-Class, and like to do their own driving. However, it may very well appeal to someone younger, who will appreciate the sports-tourer cockpit feel of the cabin. Ironically, it should also appeal to back-seat CEOs, as the rear accommodations are perfectly suitable.
The Jaguar XJ is a very desirable car, full of character in a segment dominated by the increasingly-characterless German marques. Of course, cars with character aren’t always going to agree with everyone’s tastes. As much as we liked this British carmaker’s classic designs from a decade ago, today’s reinvented Jaguar is certainly more interesting than the previous geriatric Jaguar.