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Tuesday 4th September 2012


DRIVEN: JAGUAR XJ 3.0 S/C

A first taste of the F-Type's new supercharged V6 with a drive in the XJ 3.0 S/C


Jaguar has historically not used many engines. The AJ-V8, developed under Ford stewardship and today still forming a core of the range, was only the fourth new engine series in its history. OK, pretty much all of them have been majestic, but it still highlights the gap between this aspirational premium brand and its big-hitting German rivals. Indeed, the gaps in recent years have been filled by Ford-derived motors - most obviously, V6 and four-pot diesels.

XJ still the best limo for drivers
XJ still the best limo for drivers
Next year's F-Type is its breakthrough car. The V8 will be fun, but for 911-rivalling acceptance, a six-pot is needed too. What to do? Why, develop a new one. Which Jaguar has done. Admittedly, 75 per cent of the resultant 3.0 S/C (Jag's terminology) is shared with the V8, but is that really such a bad thing?

Jaguar's giving it an early debut. It's so confident the new motor is a winner, it's replaced the normally aspirated 5.0 V8 in the XF and XJ with it: cue one XJ outside a sleepy Stratford hotel one hazy morning, tank brimmed, to let PistonHeads grab an early first (engine) drive of the new F-Type.

Six of the best
Notepad primed, we begin. A cammy starter whirs, the engine fires. It's obviously quiet, but there's still more mechanical hum than we were expecting. A pleasant underlying purpose: enhanced by opening the windows with a subtle burble from the exhausts. This is in full limo-waft NVH-max spec, too. This is thus promising.

Supercharged V6 produces 340hp and 332lb ft
Supercharged V6 produces 340hp and 332lb ft
A few minutes' acclimatisation on the road. First impressions: the supercharger ensures it is lag-free, with throttle response so immediate it can be over-eager at times. It feels positive but lazy in regular auto mode, due to the ZF's programmed early change-up: choosing Sport makes it considerably more dynamic, revealing where its best work will be done. So it proves.

The torque delivery is electric at mid-range revs: it's instant, ample and linear, quickly delivering wonderful high-rev power. It rushes to the redline with effervescence and total smoothness, changing up to the next of eight gears with an audible pitch-drop swallow from the supercharger.

Styling remains untouched by mid-life facelift
Styling remains untouched by mid-life facelift
Promising start
How fast? Plenty, particularly in perception. 340hp at 6,500rpm is your reward (Jaguar's highest specific output ever) but 332lb ft spread flat from 3,500-5,000rpm gets you there. The combination of Eaton TVS supercharger (presumably similar to that on the Audi supercharged 3.0 V6), dual variable cam timing and a higher compression ratio than the V8 blend to give a decidedly more eager-feeling engine, particularly at the top end. And that's despite the XJ's 1,776kg weight...

Noise is just as important. It's a sophisticated sound, made up of lightweight whirr, characterful growl and high-pitched whine. You'll make this out only if you deconstruct the noise: the basic impression is of impeccably smooth, spirited character. In this combination of mellow bellow and transmission-impersonating supercharger whine, is there a hint of E-Type aurals there too?

Driver's seat the best place to enjoy the XJ
Driver's seat the best place to enjoy the XJ
And the XJ? It's still a wonderful alternative to the unflappable German competition. This is made for B-roads, seeming to shrink improbably and showing delicate enthusiasm an S-Class could only dream about. The tweaked ride means the way it breathes across undulating roads is even more brilliant - you know it would shame an A8 or 7 Series for control and freedom from disturbance - although the low-speed knobble remains some way from luxury-spec.

Overall, it's still the driver's luxury car of choice. Now further enhanced by an engine we've discovered is enthusiastic, linear, well-rounded and audibly characterful. What a promising base to work from for the F-Type...







JAGUAR XJ 3.0 S/C
Engine
: 2,995cc V6, supercharged
Transmission: eight-speed auto, rear-wheel drive
Power (hp): 340@6,500rpm
Torque (lb ft): 332@3,500-5,000rpm
0-62mph: 5.9 sec
Top speed: 155mph (limited)
Weight: 1,776kg
MPG: 30.0
CO2: 224g/km
Price: From £65,365 (XJ 3.0 S/C Premium Luxury)