After 42 years of staring at its reflection in the mirror, the Jaguar XJ cracked the glass and went its own way in 2010. The X351 iteration is a fastback rather than a three-box saloon – a practical as well as luxurious car designed to compete head on with rivals from Audi, BMW and Mercedes, rather than rest on fading laurels.
There are standard and long-wheelbase versions, motorway expresses with efficient 3.0-litre diesel engines, Tarmac shredders with supercharged 5.0-litre petrol V8s, versions with just the essentials and others groaning under the weight of folding tables.
Prices range from £6000 for early high-mile diesels to £50,000 for the last, 2019-reg dealer demos. Although production ended in July 2019, you can still pick up unregistered XJs, too, at prices approaching £84,000, before a hefty discount.
The XJ was produced for nine years, during which time it played leapfrog with the competition. It means that it’s best to buy as late an XJ as you can afford. And compare those you find, too, because no two models are quite the same.
The diesel versions are most plentiful. From launch, the 3.0-litre V6 unit had 271bhp, but it’s a 2013-model-year car you want, because it’s cleaner and cheaper to tax (£200 versus £260). Better still is a 2016 car. True, road tax is back to £260, but power stands at 296bhp. Incidentally, that’s £260 road tax for examples registered before 1 April 2017. Those registered from that date attract the five-year tax surcharge for cars that cost more than £40,000 new. This year, it stands at £320 on top of the £145 standard rate – or the cost of an XJ service.
This later 3.0-litre diesel engine (badged 300) is the pick for its effortless performance and good economy (around 45mpg). That’s handy because there are few used petrols around. First out of the traps in 2010 was the 5.0-litre V8, in naturally aspirated (380bhp) and supercharged (503bhp) forms. The first is rare and around £2000 cheaper today, like for like. They were followed in 2012 by a supercharged 3.0 V6 producing 335bhp.
This is the way to go if you want a petrol with reasonable economy, and a 2013-reg Portfolio with 45,000 miles is £17,500. If you go for a low-mileage model, choose the supercharged V8 (£14,500 for a 2011-reg with 90,000 miles).
In 2013, the XJR arrived with 542bhp from its supercharged V8. (We found a mint 2014-reg one with 63,000 miles for £23,975.) By 2015, the V6 and two supercharged V8s were the only petrols, but the 567bhp V8 XJR 575 arrived in 2017 to see the model through its final years.
As for trims, Portfolio (massaging seats and premium stereo) dominates but Premium Luxury is reasonably plentiful, too.
Jaguar founder Sir William Lyons might not recognise the 2010-19 XJ, but in the context of its rivals today, it is a motor of real distinction.
Engine The V6 diesel can suffer crankshaft bearing failure. Still on diesels, check the engine oil level has been raised by fuel dilution linked to interrupted or over-frequent regeneration of the diesel particulate filter.
Transmission Post-2012 eight-speed ZF torque converter auto is more reliable than the previous six-speed unit. Check the fluid has been changed at 35,000-mile intervals.
Suspension Check the car sits level on the rear-only air suspension. Clonking noises at the front may be worn front control arm bushes
Body Where fitted, check the panoramic sunroof moves on its steel tracks; they can corrode. Inspect the corners of the body for scrapes and poor SMART repairs. Check the rear light clusters for moisture ingress.
Interior Make sure everything works including every aspect of the infotainment system because this can have its share of faults. Check the tyre pressure monitoring system is functioning (the TPMS tyre valves can play up).
Need to know
Depending which survey you believe, the XJ is either among the most reliable luxury cars on the market or about the least. All agree that its electrical systems are its most troublesome aspect, though.
The XJ has had a number of major updates. The first, in 2012, introduced a more efficient auto gearbox, four-wheel drive on some 3.0 V6 petrols, recalibrated suspension and a digital radio. Styling tweaks arrived in June 2015 and then, in 2016, there were new engines, a new infotainment system (InControl Touch Pro) and All-Surface Progress Control (ASPC). Finally, the XJ gained more new technology in 2017.
The black C-pillars work best with dark cars to create the wraparound look its designers intended.
Jaguar XJ 3.0d SWB Premium Luxury: From the 2016 model year, the 3.0 diesel engine produces a more-than-adequate 296bhp, while Premium Luxury trim brings heated seats all round, keyless go and an uprated stereo.
Jaguar XJR 575 SWB: Thanks to its 567bhp supercharged V8, the XJR dispatches 0-62mph in 4.2sec on its way to 186mph. A luxurious interior and a compelling combination of handling, fluidity and comfort make it irresistible.
Ones we found
2011 5.0 V8 Portfolio LWB, 96,000 miles, £12,495
2015 3.0 TD 275 Portfolio SWB, 65,000 miles, £17,300
2017 3.0d 300 Luxury SWB, 26,000 miles, £21,499
2019 3.0d Premium Luxury SWB, 3000 miles, £35,450