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Jaguar XJ 3.0 S/C review (2012 onwards)
Jaguar reveals promising new F-Type engine in enhanced XJ range. The car is as charismatic as the engine, combining to produce a satisfyingly different and very British luxury express.
We like: Characterful nature of new F-Type engine, immediacy and depth of performance, distinctive outside and in, well-judged improvements to suspension comfort
We don't like: The competition still have more sophisticated interior gadgetry, only LWB has luxury-class legroom, wind and road noise a bit too intrusive at speed
You can't yet buy a Jaguar F-Type but you can buy its engine - and MSN Cars has driven it. The exciting new 3.0-litre V6 supercharged motor will produce up to 375hp in the new baby Jaguar sportscar, but is already being sold in 340hp form within the 2013 XJ.
The XJ is Jaguar's luxury saloon, its rival for the Mercedes S-Class, so the V6 S/C engine will be much quieter and more relaxed here. But we'll still be able to discover enough about it to reveal strong clues about the heart of next year's much-anticipated F-Type.
Strong clues about next year's F-Type
Not that Jaguar is simply installing a new engine and leaving it at that. The motor comes as a package of 2013 updates for the XJ that standardise an eight-speed automatic gearbox, tweak the suspension, update the infotainment systems and offer a new top-line sound system.
Even fuel economy is better, particularly in the diesels which now average 47mpg. The 3.0 S/C is the one we've been waiting before, though: is it the first part of the jigsaw that will ensure the 2013 F-Type is great?
Rest easy. This engine is brilliant. Response is immediate, power delivery is creamy and linear, acceleration in the mid-range is near-electric in its positive and seamless-surge delivery. Get over 5,000rpm and you become aware it builds further, right to the redline: this is an extremely effervescent motor.
It's the combination of big-engine drive, top-end vim and lack of lag that defines it. You'd swear it has much more than 340hp, simply because the direct-drive supercharger summons it up instantly. It's also beautifully balanced, so shows a willingness to charge on at all revs. It's preferable to the more aggressive V8: strip away the XJ refinements and there seems a very charismatic V6 here.
It even sounds good. It's more audible than you perhaps expect, even at idle, but the background hum is so pleasant, you really don't care. It's a bit like a deep, burbling Jaguar E-Type with a modern (and subdued) supercharged whine. It sounds sophisticated, less throbby than a V8, more butch and British. The growl is slight but oh-so smooth. The exhausts even treat passers-by to a little burble at idle.
The eight-speed automatic is the ZF 'box fitted to so many German premium brands, and is just as brilliant here. The early-upshift gearchange pattern Jaguar has chosen as default mode does take the edge off the engine's vim, in the interests of fuel economy, but Sport or Dynamic cures this: steering wheel paddles are standard.
Ride and handling
Jaguar's master chassis engineers have been at work on the detail refinements again. For the XJ, they have recalibrated spring and damper rates, and also retuned the dampers. They're now a bit more pliant and freer-acting, changes made specifically for the new 3.0 S/C that have actually been rolled out on all models.
At low speed it remains firm and nuggety
The XJ feels no less sporting, but it's appreciably more comfortable at speed. The occasional choppiness of the old car has gone, replaced by a wonderfully fluid pliancy that seems made for British B-roads. Where an Audi A8 would stiffly jostle, the XJ absorbs and soothes, quite brilliantly. Only at low speed does it remain firm and nuggety.
As standard, the steering is very light, but still incisive. Best learn to drive the XJ with fingertips: that way, you'll get the most from its accuracy, delicacy and eye-opening ability to impersonate a much smaller car. It is balanced, rewarding and oozes confidence.
Levels of suspension freedom and roll can be cut with Sport and Dynamic modes (steering also firms up a bit). This more firmly controls body movements rather than destroying the ride quality, and is thus a fine achievement (we preferred the sportier modes). To judge what Jaguar's changed for 2013, the platform director revealed today's Dynamic is where the standard car was.
Changes here focus on the infotainment systems. Sat nav and stereo have been made easier to use (although the display remains blocky and dated), and a DAB radio is now standard. A top-end Meridian hi-fi, pumping out 825W, is a new range-topping feature.
It's still a lovely place to sit within. The dash is low, doors scalloped, seats plump and supportive, chrome and leather rich. It feels different to anything else in the sector, much more youthful and sporting, although you need the LWB to get class-matching rear legroom. Wind and road noise are also a bit too intrusive at speed.
Economy and safety
Jaguar quotes 30mpg, much better than the old non-supercharged 5.0-litre V8. The wide spread of the eight speed auto's gear ratios helps here, as does the intelligent stop-start system. Why intelligent? Why, it can sense when you've changed your mind...
Well, not quite. But it can, when the engine is shutting down, detect when you've decided to pull away instead, and reverse the shutdown instantly so the engine doesn't stop. On most cars, the engine has to completely stop in such situations before restarting, leading to a frustrating delay you don't get in the Jag. Clever.
The MSN Cars verdict
We think the Jaguar F-Type is going to get a lovely supercharged V6 engine. Fast, responsive, torque and set to have an engaging and enthusiastic engine note, we can't wait to try it in a smaller, lighter, louder car than this.
The XJ impresses as well as the engine, though. It looks wonderful, the interior is like a classy modern club and the suspension tweaks mean it's more comfortable than before without being any less agile. A genuine alternative to a Mercedes S-Class.
Need to know
Engines: 3.0-litre supercharged V6 petrol, rear-wheel drive
Torque: 331lb ft
0-62mph: 5.9 seconds
Top speed: 155mph
CO2, tax: 224g/km, tbc
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