Thanks to how busy my street is, any time I receive a car to test, we do the actual exchange in either the parking lot of a Dunkin’ Donuts next to my house or at a gas station across the street. We stick with it because it’s the most practical way to make the exchange, and it simplifies the process for everyone involved. It’s also not exactly weird to be handed the keys to, say, a Volkswagen Golf in the parking lot of a Dunkin’ Donuts.
I have to say though, it felt pretty weird to be handed the keys to a 2015 Jaguar XJ at a gas station. I knew in my head it was just a car, but all I had to do was look at it, and it was obvious there was something special about a Jaguar. Treating the exchange so casually just felt wrong.
Even the short drive from the gas station to my driveway felt wrong. I didn’t feel worthy. I was too young. I hadn’t done enough with my life, and I wasn’t even dressed properly for the occasion. Surprisingly the Jaguar didn’t seem to care — it didn’t want to make me feel small or inadequate. It didn’t want to make me feel bad about not being enough of a man. It felt like it wanted to inspire me to become the kind of man – the kind who knows he deserves his place behind the wheel.
I’m aware that’s not a normal way to describe a car, but the Jaguar XJ is not a normal car. It’s an emotional car. It wants to make every drive an experience. Despite being in production since 2009, the design has aged much better than most of its competition, and while it’s attractive, it’s still subtle. It doesn’t have to be bold and aggressive because it doesn’t need anyone else’s approval. The Jaguar XJ is there for the driver.
Initially, I wanted to draw comparisons between the Lexus LX570 I tested last year because both vehicles are priced similarly. I still don’t understand why Lexus sells the LX570, but it’s a car that felt great to drive in a way that defied logic. My feelings behind the wheel of the Lexus were quite different than they were in the Jaguar, though. The LX570 was a confident car that made me feel like I could conquer anything in my path. The XJ, on the other hand, made me feel like there was nothing left to conquer.
“You’ve made it,” it would whisper to me. “Who cares about slow traffic? Who cares that you’ll be a few minutes late? You don’t really have any troubles. Just relax. You’re in a Jaguar.”
The front seat of the XJ was certainly an easy places to enjoy the serenity of the drive. Not only were the seats themselves covered in soft leather, but nearly every surface was wrapped in it as well. The chrome accents and wood trim fit the character of the car well, and the suede headliner was an exceptionally nice touch. You certainly don’t need a suede headliner in a car, but you also don’t need a full-size luxury sedan in the first place. You buy it because you want it.
Really, there wasn’t much in the Jaguar that was there because it was necessary. Take the air vents, for example. There’s no concrete reason why they needed to be round and chrome. They looked amazing, though, and they added to the luxury experience. There’s also no need for the gear selector to lower itself away when you turn the car off, but watching it rise up when you turn the car back on still felt special.
Least necessary of all, though, were the massage seats. Jaguar includes them if you order your XJ with the Portfolio Package, and I have a hard time understanding why you would ever order a car without massage seats if they’re an option. They’ll never be better than receiving an actual massage from a massage therapist, but that doesn’t mean they don’t still feel good.
On the one hand, having massage seats is a great way to impress a friend or relative, but on the other, they’re a great way to reduce driver fatigue and keep your back loose while driving. Mostly, though, you should spring for them because they’re awesome, and they’ll make you feel special. Jaguar wants you to feel special. You deserve to feel special.
Looking at its humongous size, you might think the XJ was built with only comfortable cruising in mind, but perhaps surprisingly, that’s not the case. Yes, the standard wheelbase version is just barely under 202 inches long, but it drives like a much smaller car, and in the city, I was much more comfortable behind the wheel than I was in the smaller Hyundai Genesis sedan.
Outside of the city, when I finally managed to find a mostly-open road, I realized Jaguar built the XJ to be much more athletic than I had initially expected it to be. With the transmission in Sport mode and with Dynamic Mode engaged, I would even go so far as to say it felt light on its feet. Since this version had all-wheel-drive, it weighed somewhere north of 4,100 pounds, but thanks to Jaguar’s excellent chassis and suspension tuning, you would never guess it.
There’s a 470 horsepower 5.0-liter supercharged V8 available if you upgrade to the XJ Supercharged, but don’t underestimate the base 3.0-liter V6. It’s supercharged as well, making 340 horsepower, and while it’s down 130 horsepower from the V8, it pulls much harder than you would expect. I haven’t had a chance to drive the V8 version, but my suspicion is that the reasons people choose to upgrade from the V6 to the V8 have more to do with how amazing Jaguar’s V8s sound and not how much faster they’re able to drive.
Not everything about the XJ was amazing, though. Considering how nice the rest of the interior felt, the gear selector didn’t feel quite up to par. The backseat was also not nearly as spacious as you would expect from such a long car, and both the infotainment system and the digital gauges could use an update. I had to turn off the stop-start system, too, because of how noticeable it was each time the engine turned on or off.
With a refreshed version of the XJ coming for 2016, it looks like those issues will all be addressed except for the rear seat legroom one. Then again, anyone genuinely concerned about legroom should buy the extended wheelbase version anyways.
I know the XJ has some dated technology, a few flaws, and isn’t exactly practical city transportation, but when my time with it came to an end, I legitimately missed how it felt to drive the big Jag. I missed not caring about traffic. I missed resting my hand on the steering wheel while receiving a back massage. I missed the looks I got from people as they tried to figure out who I was and why I was driving such a nice car. I missed other drivers yielding to me in traffic and keeping the horn honking to a minimum.
Ultimately, though, I missed driving a car that made me feel special to be driving it every time I slid behind the wheel.
It might not sell as many units as BMW or Mercedes does, but Jaguar has succeeded in one incredibly important area – building a car that taps into your emotions instead of your practicality and common sense. I can’t necessarily tell you whether the XJ is objectively better than the Audi A8, BMW 7 Series, or Mercedes S-Class, but especially with a refreshed version coming, if you’re in the market for a full-size luxury sedan, you’d be foolish not to at least consider the Jaguar.