Jaguar XJ is a revelation

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SPENDING a week with the Jaguar XJ is not long enough.

It’s full of surprises and, unless you spend a few hours each day devouring the handbook, you are not going to discover them all in a mere seven days.

For example, I was driving down an unlit country lane late one night and was just about to put on the main beam to light my way when the Jag anticipated my needs and put them on for me.

I didn’t even need to turn them off again in the face of oncoming traffic; the sensors responded to the headlights and dipped them for me. Magic.

Another revelation which had me singing the XJ’s praises to all who would listen is the dual-screen monitor. The driver can watch the satellite navigation screen while the passenger can watch digital television or a DVD and listen to the sound by way of the wireless headphones.

Of course, there’s more to the XJ than a host of fancy tricks. It’s one of the sleekest coupes around with acres of internal space, especially in the long-wheelbase version we had on test.

The 271bhp three-litre diesel engine is flawless with barely a sound when you hit the throttle. It may be powered by diesel but accelration is akin to a powerful petrol engine and it manages to get to 62mph in six seconds, despite achieving almost 40mpg.

Transmisssion is an electronically-controlled six-speed auto which can be shifted by way of steering wheel- mounted paddles. I tried them a few times but soon went back to fully automatic.

As far as I’m concerned the XJ is one of the nicest looking Jaguars on the fleet. The front end is eyecatching but it’s the rear that really sets it off with blacked out C-pillars and dramatically arching tail lights.

The inside is sumptuous, with buttons and vents in high quality chrome and a dashboard that doesn’t crowd. The controls are largely accessed by way of the eight-inch touch screen which does become easier to use with a bit of practice. It’s more intuitive than the BMW iDrive at any rate.

The speedo and related dials are displayed digitally on a screen in front of the driver which jars somewhat with the rest of the cabin.

The analogue clock goes some way to redressing the balance but it’s actually quite difficult to read and I’m not sure it serves any useful purpose.

Prices are steep, the Portfolio LWB on test came in at a cool £67,400, a few thousand over and above the standard wheelbase model.

But of course the equipment list is impressive with a full raft of safety aids and just about every conceivable luxury on the market.

My only complaint if I’m honest is the lack of rear visibility. Reversing into parking spaces is not easy, even with the rear-view camera and the reversing sensors. The steeply-raked rear window does limit headroom somewhat but this is not a problem if you’re of normal height.