It is not uncommon for me to spend the next few hundred words explaining why I had lusted after a certain German or British barge, and this time it’s no different apart from the fact that I have owned such a car. It has become somewhat uncommon to find interior panels smothered with wood; rather it is much more popular to have lavish coverings of imitation carbon fibre in the middle managers Audis A4/A5 and BMWs 3/5 series and now the ever popular Jag XF.
Jaguar has always been a brand that has interested me, the history, tradition and the evolution of the styling or lack thereof mean it has been the default choice for the older gentleman. More recently that has changed somewhat, and appeals to a younger generation – there are more edges than ever and the use of the word sport is now compulsory in the marketing material. The X350 XJ was one of the last, traditional Jags quintessentially true to the core strengths and values that have made generations of the car so popular. For more than three decades, the XJ has been the definitive Jaguar saloon. It has poise, elegance and a rather understated image. These are all reasons why I chose to buy one for my first car, aged only 18 – a surprised look on the dealers face was worth it!
The Gentleman’s cabin
Only a year and several other cars later, prices seem to have crashed further. I only sold my latest Range Rover for a more economical Volvo because it was almost half the cost of the big V8 – now it seems for the same price as my Volvo, I could once again own the big cat. Prices now seem to range from £4500 to £20000 for the X358. To understand the significance and value for money, it is fundamental to look into the cars history. The X350 was launched at the Paris motor show in 2003 – for the first time it used a technology that was more ordinary with its German counterpart. The whole car was made from aluminium and its underbody components were bonded together with aerospace-grade epoxy adhesives while around 3,200 self-piercing rivets, this made the car even lighter than the smaller X-Type. “We chose lightweight aluminium vehicle architecture for the new XJ not because it was something new, but because it enabled us to deliver real and significant benefits to our customers” David Scholes, Chief Programme Engineer. To show this off, the launch car was shown with polished aluminium bodywork as shown below.
Polished aluminium bodywork – more than just a stunt!
The use of rivets is not very welcome in XJ circles of today mainly due to the contamination of steel with aluminium causing bubbling and corrosion across many parts of the bodywork. The issue has been reported widely across numerous forums but Jaguar only ever offered to paint some cars which were under 5 years old. Fundamentally, this never cured the problem. Instead it covered the problem up with shiny paintwork. My car also suffered from this problem, and despite being in its early stages I just could not live with it. Due to the age of the vehicle, most cars which would be affected have been affected, so buy carefully.
The X350 also sported air suspension rather than conventional springs and dampers; most of these systems as used in Range Rovers and BMWs often suffer from compressor problems, these are relatively cheap to replace at an average cost of £250 for the part. Other cars have more severe issues, for instance I was, without warning faced with an Air Spring Failure; £1000 was kindly taken for me and three days spent in a workshop. Despite these faults, it was a very enjoyable car to own – the quality of materials used was very good and has stood the test of time. Other cars with similar age and mileage tend to suffer from odd squeaks and rattles but all the XJ’s that I have experience of have been free of faults. “The interior of the new XJ is epitomised by true craftsmanship, a sense of greater space and what I believe are the most comfortable seats we have ever designed. There is warmth and richness that welcomes you into the car and makes you feel special.” Ian Callum, Director of Design.
Since its launch in 2002 the XJ’s exterior styling attracted much criticism from many motoring journalists who claimed that the car looked old fashioned and barely more modern than its predecessor; though that was much of its appeal. In response to this, Jaguar modified the car for the 2007 model year. Introducing a mildly revised front grille, though still of a similar design to that of the pre-facelift XJ, while the new front bumper assembly featured a prominent lower grille. Finally, the front wings on all models were remodeled to feature side vents. This in my honest opinion made the car look like an OAP dressed up in a hoody and a pair of low slung jeans.
Facelifted but more youthful than a Gentleman’s transport should be
For me, the search begins to find another XJ – though this time, in V8 form.