With an exciting new model range, and some special editions, wheelworldreviews Editor David Hooper catches up with the latest Jaguar range at Silverstone race circuit.
THIS year marks an important anniversary for one of Britain’s best loved car company’s, for it was exactly 75 years ago that the Jaguar name was used for the first time.
Since those early days, with Sir William Lyons at the helm, Jaguar has produced some of the most iconic cars of the 20th Century, and today, it produces some of the most desirable.
A company which is going places, it has worked hard in the last four years to refresh its range. Gone are the X-Type and S-Type model lines, having been replaced by the XF. I, like many observers, were at first unsure of the new car’s styling which is a radical departure from the previous curvy outlines, but the designs of Sir Ian Callum, Jaguar’s chief designer, definitely grow on you, and once you have driven the car, I guarantee you will need little further convincing.
Don’t take my word for it though, just look at Jaguar’s sales figures. In what has been a tough market for all carmakers, Jaguar’s XF sales are up 44% year to date, but the best news is that 60 per cent of those sales are conquest customers, coming to Jaguar from other brands.
Residual values stand up to scrutiny, too, with the company delighted at being the best in its sector, especially following the introduction of new E-Class and 5 Series models by its German rivals.
And then there is the XJ. A completely new car, it is again vastly different to anything the company has built before, and distinctly different from the XF. It has only been on sale for a couple of months, but has received a fabulous response from the world’s media, has won What Car? Magazine’s Green Luxury Car of the year award, and has again attracted lots of new, younger and wealthier customers to the brand.
Taking all this into account, Jaguar’s recent sale by Ford to Indian company Tata seems to have done it little harm, and a chance to remind myself of the range, and drive some different versions of the XJ at a Silverstone based event, was an opportunity not to be missed.
I took a short wheel base version of the XJ, with its 3.0-litre V6 diesel engine out for a good test drive around Northamptonshire and was hugely impressed with the car’s refinement, comfort and agility. With the ride quality of a limousine, it is just as capable as a cross-country express when the need, or the mood arises, with virtual silent running in its beautifully fitted out interior.
Another run out saw me at the wheel of one of my all-time favourites, the gorgeous XK Convertible, which now also features the push-button start, and the brilliant rising gear selector seen in the newer models.
The XK, with its raucous V8 engine, sounds wonderful on the road, especially as you pass low walls, or go through a tunnel with the loud pedal pressed. It’s addictive. It’s also very quick and comfortable, but the high performance R version takes things to the next level, as I found out on a very wet Stowe circuit, which sits inside the main grand prix track.
Tight, twisty and with plenty of standing water, these powerful cars were still highly capable on a wet track, although without the excellent traction control and DSC systems, they would be more difficult to keep pointing the right way, as an instructor demonstrated in a superb XFR, without the aid of the safety systems.
But perhaps the biggest surprise of the day was the new XJ. I took the long wheel base version around the track at pretty unreasonable speeds considering the conditions – and the car was hugely impressive. You won’t often see a £60,000 XJ being driven like that, but even the lady instructor in the passenger seat was impressed with its agility and all round capability in these challenging wet conditions.
For those who want to make a real statement, the XKR is available with a Speed Pack which raises its top speed to 174mph for quick cross-Europe trips, while those who really like to be different could opt for the Black Pack, which comes with eye-catcying 20in gloss black alloy wheels and virtually no chrome, just bright red brake callipers! It looks superb.
If you are lucky enough to be able to afford a Jaguar, but haven’t driven one of the latest models yet, then I would certainly recommend that you do so. I think that you will be pleasantly surprised and hugely impressed – just as I was.