In Part 1, we talked about the incredible luxury that awaits the driver of an ’09 Jaguar XJR. But the luxury is only part of the story. To really understand this car, you have to look at the bigger picture.
It’s worth reiterating what we said earlier. This is a beautiful car. Journalists have criticised it for being “retro” in its design. As we said above, these people are idiots. The XJR is not retro, nor is it dated. Anyone stating this is clearly doing nothing more than pandering to one of the German companies who has bought the most advertising space. The XJR is not retro for two distinct reasons; firstly, the term is simply inaccurate. “Retro” implies that the car is designed to resemble an earlier, legendary car, like the New Beetle or the Ford Thunderbird or GT. This car is a natural continuation of the XJ line. It is an update on a classic series of lines that Jaguar has proudly maintained for decades. While other cars dramatically changed the look of their car with each generation, Jaguar ensured that each generation still maintained the design language of the original. You can look at the latest, and the oldest versions of an XJ, and clearly see the familial resemblance. That is not “retro”, that is a proud heritage, and that is a design that has been executed with a sincere respect for the original.
Secondly, calling it “retro” is unfair to the real beauty of the car, and calling the XJ “dated” is another travesty. The car is not dated. It simply avoids the irritating “flame-surfacing” of the Bangle BMWs, or the new “disco-bling” of the latest Mercedes-Benz cars. It is elegant and simple. Now, in fairness, we can understand where these statements might come from. If you were a big fan of Bangle’s designs, and parked an XJ beside a 7-series, the XJ would probably not look as modern as the Bangle car. Alternately, if you think the 7-series looks bloated, as I do, the XJ looks pretty fantastic.
Another criticism of this car is that the engine was developed sometime during the reign of Queen Victoria by blacksmiths with hammers and anvils. This criticism is a valid one. The engine is old, there’s no dispute. A simple counterpoint, however, is that the Bentley Arnage uses an engine originally developed to power the first limousine for Queen Elizabeth the First, and the Corvette uses a Small-Block Chevy (SBC), an engine which has been around in fundamentally the same form for so long it has become an acronym. The age of an engine is irrelevant, it’s how it works that matters.
And let’s be honest, it works very, very well. This is a big feline, and it’s easy to forget that when you’re driving it. It is not just nimble, it is actually agile, and particularly so for such a large car. It feels cliche to say it, but let’s face it, the phrase that keeps coming back to mind is “cat-like agility”.When reviewing this car, too, it almost feels like there is a need for a disclaimer. Again, this is old-world British Luxury dragged kicking and screaming into the twenty-first century by an exotic sports car. It’s a tricky concept to wrap your head around, particularly if you are used to driving some of its German rivals, and it may be for this very reason that the car has not been a sales success. Jaguar knew they had designed an excellent car, and set out with the Germans in their sights. But the target markets for each are not the same.
The Germans have designed excellent cars that have a distinct, tailored character to them. They are designed to be sterile and civilized for day-to-day use, and when the moment strikes you, they provide a carefully calculated thrill. The engine note hits a carefully-designed note and volume, the car launches forward in a carefully-designed leap, and you carve through corners with carefully-designed glee.
The Jaguar is nothing like that. Where the German cars perfectly suit the precision-engineered and highly polished slices of stainless steel decorating their dashboards, the Jaguar suits the carved and polished hardwood chosen instead. It has an organic, natural feel to it that is thrilling – and dare we say it, refreshing — to drive. On aggressively-winding roads, it is composed and beautifully balanced, but there is an elusive hint of an absence of control lurking beneath the surface that feels very real, very authentic, and very exciting. The engine note at full-throttle sounds more than a little savage. Stomp on the gas in the busy downtown center of a large city – as we may or may not have done – and you will actually scare pedestrians. The tires will break loose in a very uncalculated fashion, and the roar from the polished, elegant dual exhaust tips will make passers-by think, not of a sleek jaguar, but of a very pissed-off sabre-tooth tiger. Eating land-mines.
If it sounds like I am being effusive in my attempts to wax poetic about this car, it is probably true. It is certainly not a perfect car; it has its foibles, and if one were to look for them, it would be easy to find points to criticise. But why would you? I walked away from my day with this Jaguar with a grin on my face that took hours to get rid of. It feels luxurious, it feels special, but most importantly, it feels organic. There really is no better way to describe it. After years of driving sports sedans that leave you in awe of their impressive mechanical engineering, it was an exhilarating experience to step out of a car and feel that you were stepping away from a living creature.
This car, quite without exaggeration, is everything the most ardent of car enthusiasts have been crying out for, begging automakers to give them. It is incredibly powerful, and just that tiny bit unrefined enough to ensure you keep that thrill of driving on tap whenever you need it. It is everything a true car lover with a taste for comfort and luxury could ever want in their car, and it has, quite decisively, taken a place very near the top of the list of our favourite cars of all time.