Thursday, 7 October 2010

The XJ, up close and personal.

The new XJ LWB, with Hatfields salesman Michael in the background.

I’ve written a fair amount about the new Jaguar XJ on these pages. So much that if I were paid for what I write I could almost buy a scale model of one. OK, a cheap one maybe.

It’s been on sale for around a year, and yet I see none on the road. A few weeks ago, I grew bored of waiting and motored on across to my local Jaguar dealer, Hatfields of Sheffield. I wasn’t optimistic of my chances even to see it - a chap I knew a few years ago was ignored by the staff for arriving in paint-spattered clothes – still of high quality, but he was given the impression he wasn’t wanted. So he took the money he was going to use to buy a brand-new XKR and bought a Mercedes instead. A fluffy-haired young man in a slightly down-at-heel Peugeot thus wouldn’t go down well...

When in the showroom, a chap called Michael asked me within a minute if he could help me. I made it plain I wasn’t looking to buy, and that I was a writer seeking the chance to nose round a new XJ to confirm his own opinions. “Of course!” he said, showing me to both short and long wheelbase versions in the showroom and spending a good half hour discussing the future of the company with me. He confirmed my suspicions; there are no plans for a Daimler X351 nor a larger car with the Daimler brand at the moment. The 4 cylinder diesel mooted for XF is also, so far as Jaguar’s dealers know, a myth. When the time came for me to leave, he toddled off and returned weighted down with just about every piece of current Jaguar literature he could lay his hands on. Praise, then, must go to Hatfields.

And what of the XJ? Well, the first thing that sprang to mind is that it photographs terribly. In the metal it’s far more coherent – especially in LWB form and in black – than any still image allows you to comprehend. When viewed alongside an XF – as, funnily enough, most XJs in showrooms are – it makes the smaller car look lumpen and vaguely dated. Too much is electronic though – the cars in the showroom had been powered down, meaning access to the glovebox and boot amongst others was not an option. The dashboard is a very pleasant surprise – far from the plasticky appearance I’d been hoping against, it was upholstered in high-quality leather, looking and feeling most contemporary. The wood on the doors works well too, and there’s space for even my legs in the back of the SWB version.

My one remaining static issue is headroom. Maybe it’s that at 6’3”, I’m something of a giant. But the glass roof means the headlining is too low. This can of course be solved by lowering the seat, but this strikes me as a solution to a problem that needn’t exist.

I say static issue because I tried to blag a test drive. This was my one request which was denied, and then I suspect more due to my age than the dealership’s reticence. Sadly, I doubt Jaguar’s insurance covers nineteen year olds who aren’t in a position to buy. A pity, but I’ll have the chance one day to report from behind the wheel also. Sort the roof out, Jaguar, and then on what I currently know I can wholeheartedly recommend it. As for now, I recommend it if you’re under six foot tall. Or being chauffeured.