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025Jag A lot can hap­pen in a dec­ade. Take the last ten years for example. We’ve col­lect­ively wit­nessed the rise and rise of social media; the inven­tion of the smart phone; and pretty much digit­al everything. Atti­tudes have changed too — Pres­id­ent Obama is liv­ing proof of that — while we also con­tend with the phe­nomen­on that is the ‘box set’ TV series.

Can the same be said for the motor­ing industry? The land­scape has undoubtedly changed, but to what extent? Jag­uar, a com­pany not renowned for its innov­a­tion, presents a per­fect case study with the release of its latest and pre-emin­ent saloon, the XJR. It’s quite a dif­fer­ent beast from its pre­de­cessor, and I should know, as it’s my daily drive — the old one that is…

Gone are the tra­di­tion­al lines that have been famil­i­ar to Jag­uar drivers for dec­ades, replaced by a longer, rak­ish body — albeit with more mus­cu­lar haunches — and an upright, over­sized mesh grille that’s any­thing but subtle. Unlike the reg­u­lar XJ, the R mod­el sports a body kit, air dams and impos­ing, matt black 20-inch rims. Very ‘un-Jag­uar like’ in oth­er words.

At the core, the two cars are not entirely dis­sim­il­ar. Both are made of alu­mini­um, are powered with a super­charged V8 power plant and are laden with lux­ury equip­ment. And it’s worth not­ing that Jag­uar has an undeserved bad rap in the tech­no­logy space — when my car was released in 2003, it was acknow­ledged as a tech­no­lo­gic­al tour de force, at least in mater­i­als if not in design.

But it’s not just the design lan­guage that’s changed. For 2014, the power out­put has jumped from 297kW to a whop­ping 404kW. If you’re more famil­i­ar with horsepower, the num­bers are even more stag­ger­ing — 420hp up to 550hp. The car is also brim­ming with elec­tron­ic aids, so much so in fact, that what was once cut­ting edge back in the 2000s doesn’t so much look last dec­ade as last century.


The dif­fer­ence is most stark when I punch the starter but­ton, the 5.0‑litre V8 rum­bling into life with a ven­geance. To say it has pres­ence does not do it justice. An explor­at­ory nudge of the accel­er­at­or is met with an instant and most unex­pec­ted throttle response. I con­fess, it was a little intimidating.

Cau­tiously under­way, I expect the new car to feel huge in com­par­is­on, but des­pite its increased size, it’s sur­pris­ing how quickly it feels ‘about right’. Our focus, with fad­ing light and lim­ited time, is to pho­to­graph the two cars, but one change is imme­di­ately notice­able — the ride qual­ity. I can gen­er­ously describe the XJR as sporty, although oth­ers might call it just plain firm.

As day becomes night and the tem­per­at­ure drops, we ditch my car and set course for Greytown. What bet­ter way to stretch the big cat’s legs than a quick trip over the mighty Rimu­ta­kas? At the base of the hill, the rain has really settled in and des­pite the XJR’s bril­liant bi-xen­on head­lights, it’s hard to see. I am patient and cau­tious, but the sheer power and depth of the XJR’s power plant comes though des­pite our restric­ted pace.

By the sum­mit, it’s sleet­ing and even with all aids engaged, trac­tion is an issue and I’m strug­gling to keep the XJR at bay. I’m start­ing to think — for the first time ever — that when it comes to power there can be too much of a good thing.

But by the time we hit the Wair­ar­apa plains, and with clear­ing skies, the XJR starts to make more sense. It feels like a true lim­ousine, albeit a dynam­ic one, and I can’t help but admire anew the beau­ti­fully put togeth­er interi­or, the lux­uri­ous fit-out and the sheer volume of tech­no­logy on offer.

Does it advance then, or detract from the cause? Design might be sub­ject­ive but think­ing back ten years, a Mer­cedes S‑Class parked next to an XJ looked like it came from the future. Today, it’s the oth­er way around. (And speak­ing of the Ger­man com­pet­i­tion, the power wars that have dom­in­ated that lux­ury seg­ment are only one part of the argument.)

Jag­uar has always embraced oth­er val­ues like style and eleg­ance. In the new XJR you win on both counts. Like Daniel Craig’s James Bond, when it’s time for a flex-off at the beach, the XJR has more than enough under its bespoke tail­or­ing to deliv­er the goods.


While it likely presents a bit of a shock for the ‘pipe and slip­pers’ set, most will see it for what it is — a genu­inely mod­ern car with old-fash­ioned Jag­uar values.



Tech specs

Mod­el reviewed: Jag­uar XJR

Price: $220,000[/warning]



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