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Click for pictures“Driving two Jaguars
  in such a short space
  of time may have made
  us feel as affluent as
  John Prescott but —
  unfortunately — ours
  had to go back...


IF YOU'RE A REGULAR VISITOR to MotorBar, you will have already seen the recent review of Jaguar's flagship XJR. Now, hard on its heels, comes its worthy stablemate, the twin-turboed 2.7 V6 diesel-powered TDVi XJ Saloon. Its introduction marked a significant development for Jaguar's flagship XJ range. Following on from the highly-successful introduction of diesel engines to the X-Type and S-Type model line-ups, the availability of the XJ TDVi means Jaguar now has a diesel alternative across its entire saloon range.

First impressions count, and our first impression was that, as good as the opposition is — and it is good — the oil-burning XJ is not just refined when compared to its rivals, but also when judged against its own in-house flagship. This in no way detracts from the ultra-smooth XJR — what it does do, however, is to underscore exactly how competent the TDVi is.

Jaguar, happily, is on a roll. By all accounts the new XK is a knock-out, both in the looks department and in its ability to meet the competition head-on. And while the all-aluminium XJ range is well-populated with accomplished and luxurious models, the latest addition — the 2.7 TDVi — is definitely not out of place.

Externally — apart from a black grille framed by a colour-keyed surround and 19-inch 5-star alloys wheels — the TDVi looks much the same as other XJs. Very much like a Jaguar. Our test car was a real looker, painted a fabulous metallic blue called Ultraviolet. See an XJ in this colour and it looks thoroughly modern throughout. And as we've mentioned the S-word — Styling — it's worth remembering that all looks are subjective. Beauty is very much in the eye of the beholder, and if you find the new S-Class Mercedes attractive, for instance, you may not be smitten with the XJ. And vice versa.

Inside, our 'Sport' specced XJ benefited from 'R' sports seats, an 'R' leather-trimmed four-spoke multi-function steering wheel and pattern-ed aluminium veneers in place of the more traditional burr walnut. The metal is much snazzier and does a lot to add a contemporary quality to the cabin. Getting behind the wheel is made very easy by the powered entry/exit 'tilt-away' steering column — remove the ignition key and the wheel rises to its maximum height while the seat simultaneously sinks down and back. Re-insert the key and the wheel and seat return automatically to the last memorised position. Along with height and reach adjustment of the steering column, you can also move the pedals closer or further back, all with a quick touch of the knurled knob at the side of the steering column.

Luxury can be taken for granted. The driver gets 16-way electric seat adjustment which includes powered lumbar support, powered headrest and wonderfully supportive seat cushion extension as well as the customary up/down, fore/aft and tilt functions. Once you've fine-tuned your ideal driving position and set the powered, heated electrochromic side mirrors, you can memorise your personalised combination (including pedal and steering column) using the 3-setting memory switch conveniently sited on the door panel. Both front seats are heated, naturally, and there's a choice of three settings.

Sit in the XJ for a few minutes and you get the distinct feeling that somebody (a real person) actually sat inside it and thought carefully
as to what it would be like to live with before they signed off the design — which explains the number of thoughtful touches. These range from door mirrors that not only auto-dim and power fold back
but both of which tilt down for a view of the kerb when reverse gear
is selected and a three-setting 'lights-off' delay switch neatly integ-rated into the lefthand light stalk, to a comfortable left foot rest, large sun-visors that really do keep out the glare, a neutral position for the door mirror joystick, a user-friendly electronic parking brake that releases automatically as you move off along with lots of useful nooks and crannies for everyday storage.

Dash-wise, the TDVi's interior configuration is generic XJ, which we've covered in depth in other XJ reviews so you won't want to read it all again. However, worth a mention is the clear, foolproof fascia and dash. Proving just how easy it is, you can find whichever switch or control you need quite quickly without recourse to the handbook. The only thing you might want to look up is where to find the switch for
the near-silent electric rear blind — it's in the panel above the auto-dimming rear-view mirror, along with the handy drop-down sunglasses holder.

Almost all of the significant centre stack is taken up with the auto-matic climate control and audio/telephone controls. All work fine and there's the added benefit that the steering wheel carries remote switches for the audio, voice control, telephone and cruise control. And while our Sport test car didn't have Jaguar's touch-screen SatNav (now standard on Sport models), it did have adaptive cruise control with an automatic speed limiter function and a tyre pressure monitoring system that measures the pressure in each of the tyres on the vehicle and issues warnings if any of the pressures deviate to a significant level.

The XJ is a long car but you might wonder where all the space has gone when you first open the door. It's there, all right. It's just that the heavily upholstered and bolstered seats hide it. Sit down and you will find that there's ample room in every direction no matter which seat you're occupying. Rear seat passengers can snuggle comfortably against the large centre armrest (which, along with cupholders and lined storage, also has a fold-out multi-media control panel). The powered rear blind is supplemented by manually-operated side and rear quarterlight privacy mesh blinds.

So, once everybody is safely aboard and sitting comfortably, it begs the question. How does the twin-turboed V6 perform? Wickedly well.

Fire up the diesel and you'll be hooked. The V6 sounds more like a V8. And a petrol one at that. Blip the throttle: it revs cleanly. Jaguar has honed and refined this powerplant since it appeared in the S-Type. It was good then, but it's even better now — a highly-efficient, 24-valve diesel with the latest-generation high-pressure, common-rail direct-injection fuel system and twin-turbochargers that sets new standards in refinement and performance, helped by state-of-the-art electronic actuation, low-inertia twin-turbochargers for quick, responsive power delivery.

It's an inescapable fact that diesel engines generate much greater levels of vibration than their petrol equivalents. However, the XJ 2.7 litre twin-turbo diesel unit is best-in-class for isolation from engine idle vibration. This is down to Jaguar fitting active engine mounts — an industry first — which use an electronic control system and a powered mechanism to cancel an additional 90 percent of this engine vibration at idle.

In addition to being especially refined, it's also pretty potent: 204bhp and, more desirable, a peak torque of 321lb ft delivered at just 1,900 revs. Admittedly, some of its rivals employ more powerful diesels but they can't compete with the XJ's 1,659kg kerbweight, courtesy of its all-aluminium body. Combined, the two translate to convincing perform-ance: 0-60mph in 7.8 seconds and a top speed of 141mph — at half of which the V6 needs just 1,800 revs. Plus economy benefits are equally admirable: we recorded 32.4mpg overall. The official urban, combined and touring figures are 26, 35 and 43.7mpg respectively. In other words, an easy 580+ miles between forecourt fills. And that's at our combined 32.4 figure.

On the road it feels a damn sight perkier than the paper figures suggest. Not only does it step away as seamlessly as any larger capacity V8, but with peak torque on tap from 1,900rpm, mid-range acceleration and real world overtaking are totally unruffled. What's more, it has a knack of wafting up to three-figure speeds without letting the driver or passengers know just how swiftly it's travelling. Another spin-off from the way it accelerates with no sense of being 'wound up' — you pull away, and the next thing you know is you're travelling at speed. Put that down to the twin electronically-activated turbos and the lack of any perceptible lag. On the road there's an uncanny feeling that off the mark to 30mph it runs the supercharged XJR pretty close. We didn't measure it, but you certainly get that impression.

What helps create this feeling is the TDVi's refinement. Credit here goes equally to the super smooth and responsive six-speed automatic transmission as well as to the refined diesel. Unless you're in full-bore kickdown mode — when you can hear the V6 emit a growl that most people would swear is petrol-sourced — you barely hear the engine.
At the legal limit it simply lopes along in almost stealth mode. Even
the massive 19-inch 255/40 Pirellis P Zeros are surprisingly hushed at speed. And conversations at high speed can be conducted at a normal volume — even when talking to rear seat passengers. And that's
pretty rare. Talking of conversation, one topic that will be coming up over and over again will be your passengers' asking: "Are you sure this is a diesel engine?" and we also got "Are we there already?" as we approached Kettering sweeping up the M11 from Kent.

Ride comfort is equally remarkable. Sport specification diesel models don't — as the 'Sport' grade would suggest — have Jaguar's sports suspension set-up. They do, of course, have self-levelling air suspen-sion that irons out just about all road surface irregularities while keeping the XJ composed and assured. It constantly maintains a level ride and compensates for varying loads, and at speed on motorways it automatically lowers the body for improved aerodynamics and stability. Most owners are unlikely to throw their TDVi about in an extreme manner — the TDVi is, after all's said and done, a luxury saloon — but that's not to say this XJ is not game for some serious hustling. If you do decide to tango, you'll find the TDVi has a real sense of agility.
And while for most driving styles it remains predictably neutral, there's sufficient feedback from the light, crisp steering to make pressing on
a pleasure.

Usually, a diesel engine mounted up front means a nose-heavy handler. Yet the TDVi feels no different dynamically to its petrol-engined XJ brethren. This is thanks to its lightweight, compacted graphite iron (CGI) cylinder block weighing in at just 202kg, making it the lightest unit of its type. Jaguar's engineers certainly deserve due credit for the well-judged blend of agility and compliance its chassis demonstrates
on every journey — an agility that gives it the feel of a much smaller car. And only on the tightest of roads are you reminded of its size.

The bucket-style 'R' sports seats and the spot-on driving position certainly put you in the mood for some manual input via the tactile 'J-gate' shifter. Engage Sport mode — the button's right next to the shapely and nicely-to-hand chrome and leather selector lever — and shift points are delayed to make full use of the power while at the same time the electronically-controlled, self-levelling air suspension settings are modified to deliver a tauter, more purposeful ride.

Not that engaging Sport mode compromises the TDVi's ability to glide over poor surfaces. It's notable that our test car spent much of its time with us driving in Sport mode and never once hinted that it was capable of anything other than first class body control.

The recently uprated braking system with bigger discs (ventilated front and rear) and calliper assemblies provides reassuring stopping. Pedal feel is likewise good, although there was just a touch of sharpness on take-up — only noticeable in slow moving stop-start traffic. Nothing to worry about as your braking foot soon adapts.

The XJ has safety and security comprehensively covered with Jaguar's Adaptive Restraint Technology System and multiple airbags (front
and side for driver and front passenger, and side curtain for front and rear heads). There's an energy absorbent seating system, the front seat belts are height adjustable and all belts have pre-tensioners.
Plus there are rear child seat Isofix anchors. Brakes are ABS with Emergency Brake Assist backed up by Dynamic Stability Control and Traction Control. Voice control of the automatic climate control, sound system and Blue-tooth telephone add another layer of safety. You
also get drive-off automatic door locking and two-sandwich laminated side glass that keeps out noise and deters the bad guys.

Front and rear parking sensors ensure your paintwork stays pristine with the added benefit that the front sensors are active when you reverse — useful to warn of hazards should you need to swing round. And, just to make sure you don't overtax your back, the boot is self-locking! And last but not least, a Forward Alert feature sounds an
alarm if you close too fast on the vehicle ahead — you can vary the gap (there are 4 distance settings) to suit your driving style or, if it bugs you, switch it off completely. But it certainly makes you realise how easy it is to drive too close in traffic — no matter how careful
you intend to be.

The TDVi is one of those rare cars that, however stressful the driving conditions, gets you to your destination more relaxed than when you first set out. It's not something you can easily put your finger on,
but rather a combination of attributes starting with the serene cabin ambience, the sweet powertrain, the cosseting ride and what can only be described as its untarnished 'Jaguarness'. When Jaguar first mooted the idea of putting a diesel engine under the XJ's high-tech aluminium bonnet, who could have guessed it would have turned out so well.

In some ways the TDVi is like a gem of a restaurant or unspoilt holiday destination you've discovered yet are reluctant to share, even with your friends. However, if you can stop yourself praising the TDVi's abilities to all and sundry once you've driven it then you're a better man than I am, Gunga Din…

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Jaguar XJ TDVi Sport | £49,995
Maximum speed: 141mph | 0-60mph: 7.8 seconds
Test MPG: 32.4mpg | Power: 204bhp | Torque: 321lb ft

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-------------------------------------------------------------------- Jaguar XJ TDVi