Wednesday 9th May 2012


DRIVEN: JAGUAR XJ SUPERSPORT SPEED PACK

155mph speed limiters be damned, Jaguar gives its XJ full 174mph autobahn bragging rights!


There's a bit of a swagger around Jag at the moment that's enough to have one coming over all patriotic. Seen in all the right places from outside Number 10 to the royal wedding, the XJ has successfully ingratiated itself into the institutional hierarchy and even now its boldness seems shocking and the very embodiment of confidence compared with the sober ranks of BMW 7s, S-Classes and Audis of varying sizes you'll see elsewhere outside official functions on the nightly news.

Tested on the 'ring by both Jaguar and PH!
Tested on the 'ring by both Jaguar and PH!
Whatever you reckon to the looks of the thing the sheer ballsiness of it is admirable and now available with a bit more visual muscle with an optional Sport Pack (£1,900 on V8s, £2,630 on V6s) comprising a blackened grille, reddened brakes and tweaked aero, including a lip spoiler at the back.

Supersport, with added Speed
Why bother with half measures though - this is PH and the real interest lies with the full-fat 510hp supercharged Supersport version which can be specced with the new Speed Pack. Frankly the best part of three and a half grand for the privilege of saying your Supersport is now limited 174mph instead of 155mph seems a little steep, especially given Jag's boast that all it needed to do was tweak the ECU, re-programme the electronic speedo with bigger numbers and recalibrate the tyre pressure warning system to account for the additional heat in the tyres.

Raised limiter ideal for annoying Germans
Raised limiter ideal for annoying Germans
In the context of a car knocking on the door of £100K for the ability to flick the vees at BMW/Merc/Audi drivers on the autobahn it's perhaps worth it. Or, at the very least, worth accepting the invitation from Jaguar to head over to Germany and attempt to do just that. You can read about those adventures in the blog from the launch event but, suffice to say, the XJ needs very little space to headbutt its new higher limiter, making you wonder just how fast it would go without any electronic leash. Big smiles on the faces of the engineers is all we get in response to the question.

Plump and circumstance
The XJ does charismatic very well and that aforementioned confidence is reflected in every part of the experience. The interior surfs dangerously close to chintz in places - careful with that chrome lads - but there's no arguing with the fact it's a whole lot more distinctive and adventurous than that offered by zee Germans. That sweep of wood from the door cappings to the bottom of the windscreen - inspired by classic Riva speedboats if memory serves - gives a tremendous sense of space, the woods and leathers respectively shiny and plump and the general sense of opulence very well handled.

It's not a track car but 'ring testing is valuable
It's not a track car but 'ring testing is valuable
The driving experience is similarly characterful too. Jaguar has honed its adaptive dampers over the years and the body control and refinement on the XJ is wonderfully managed. There's that trademark light steering and a sense that, aluminium or not, for a near-two tonne car it feels very nimble on its feet. For all its supercharged clout the engine doesn't punch you in the back so much as discreetly build speed, albeit very, very quickly. The acceleration doesn't diminish, even above an indicated 200km/h, the measured V8 rumble letting you know it's there but never dominating the experience too much.

Confidence trick
Compared with the German rivals the Jaguar simply feels alert and lithe, rather than tied down and stodgy. If the Germans are all about iron-fisted control the XJ feels a lot more playful, albeit pinned down with some beautifully judged damping and fairly startling chuckability for such a vast car.

It's big, but it doesn't feel like it is
It's big, but it doesn't feel like it is
Whatever your thoughts about the looks of the thing the XJ is a car to be proud of, the Speed Pack perhaps verging on the pointless bragging rights end of the scale but the base package more than impressive enough and the sense of fresh air compared with its rivals very refreshing.

We'll be awaiting its arrival at bargain barge prices with anticipation, however long it may take!

 

 


Engine: 5,000cc V8, supercharged
Transmission: 6-speed auto, rear-wheel drive
Power (hp): 510@6,000rpm
Torque (lb ft): 461@2,500rpm
0-62mph: 4.9 sec
Top speed: 174mph
Weight: 1,892kg (LWB)
MPG: 23.4mpg (NEDC combined)
CO2: 289g/km
Price: £94,750/£97,445 (LWB)

 

Author: Dan Trent