Review: Jaguar XJ says goodbye after 50 years

It’s sad, really, but after half a century in the motoring world Jaguar is pulling the plug on its XJ luxury sedan. It’s a devastating blow for many who grew with the car and who followed the XJ throughout its generations, but at some point everything does come to an end. Unfortunately, that’s the sad part, but every dark cloud has a silver lining.

Let’s start at the beginning. Way back in 1968 the very first XJ rolled off showroom floors. Here you have a car that can take on the very best of luxury saloons the world had to offer and the car itself had the best technologies of the time fitted. Norman Dewis, the man who penned the XJ, must have been proud seeing his artwork come to life. For any designer it must be one of those awesome, life defining moments to see your work being put in production for fifty years!

Fifty awesome years that Jaguar celebrated in 2018 with a special XJ50 model. The ‘50’ representing the XJ’s fiftieth birthday. And now, finally, the local motoring fraternity has the chance to sample this exceptional car and was Car Choice one of the first publications in Cape Town to do so. It really is a special moment.

‘XJ50’ embellishments

At first glance there isn’t much difference between this XJ50 and the rest of the range. It’s all pretty stock standard, except for the ‘50’ tags scattered across the exterior and interior. On the boot lid, the front fenders, on the storage bin between the front seats, and atop the dashboard under the windscreen. These are the only giveaways that this is not your average XJ and is it easy to wonder why you’d fork out R1.8-million for the non-long-wheelbase model.

It’s then when you take a harder look at the model and what it offers that you come to realise just how well equipped it is. For starters, the front seats are operated electrically and feature memory function, while both it and the rear seats have heating and cooling function. A panoramic sunroof is fitted as standard, there’s a suction function on the doors, an electrically operated boot, lane keep assist, and blind spot alert, air suspension on the rear axle, and a driving mode selector – to mention a few.

The car is well-kitted and the comfort it’s endowed with leaves a lingering taste of class and achievement. Fair enough, this eighth-generation XJ has been in production since 2009 and is it much older than rivals such as the Mercedes-Benz S-Class and BMW 7 Series, but the car has lost none of the appeal that’s made it a stalwart in Jaguar’s line-up.

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Image: Warren Wilson

What power!

The XJ50 tag has only been added to the turbocharged 3.0-litre V6 diesel models; both this standard version and the long-wheelbase variant. Power outputs remain unchanged on 221kW and 700Nm, but it gives the XJ50 some proper shove and push. Switch the drive mode selector into Dynamic mode and feel the surge take over. 0 – 100km/h is said to be dispatched in 6.2 seconds; and though we never put it to the test, the manner in which the car gathers speed makes you want to believe Jaguar’s claim. It’s sudden and direct, and it makes you want to feel it every time, all the time.

Jaguar claims that the XJ50 has a fuel return of 7.0 L/100km, but our tenure had a slightly higher reading of just under 9.0 litres.

Despite being 10-years-old, the XJ is still a comfortable cruiser. It has a supple ride quality and rewards its driver tenfold over. Those in the rear have the benefit of the air suspension that ensures that they have (as much as possible) the same ride comfort as those in front. It’s a pretty decent car and a damn fine birthday gift.

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Image: Warren Wilson

Saying goodbye

In June 2019 Jaguar announced that production of the XJ will cease in July 2019. Why? Because XJ sales are dwindling and when compared to Jaguar’s SUVs, it shows dim signs of hope that the XJ would’ve ever made it in these trying times.

To add to the heaviness of the news, shortly after Jaguar’s announcement the aforementioned Dewis passed away. It’s a deeply sad moment, but it’s come full circle in a way as father and son will meet again in motoring heaven. It’s a poetic moment of sorts that out of the sadness one can still pull smile at the sombre thought of these two legends meeting again.

But this does not mean the end of the XJ name, no. As early as 2020 we could see the XJ return, but not as we know it. Jaguar, the last couple of years, has had a drastic focus on electrification and the next XJ will be an all-electric vehicle sitting at the top of Jaguar’s hierarchy. Much like the I-Pace; Jaguar’s all-electric SUV.

But until such time that the XJ’s hiatus is over, we can at least appreciate and remember the sedan for what it is. For what it was.