To mark the X350’s 15th anniversary and understand its continuing appeal, we’ve gathered together six of the most important variants, from an early XJ6 3.0 to a late XJR 4.2. Words Craig Cheetham. Photography Paul Walton.
THE SIX OF THE BEST X350 at 15 The continuing appeal of this landmark saloon. X350 XJ SPECIAL
To mark the X350’s 15th anniversary and understand the model’s continuing appeal, we drive six of the most important variants: XJ6 3.0, XJ8 4.2, XJ 2.7 TDVi, XJR, Super V8 and Daimler Super Eight.
The Jaguar XJ X350 has always been a contentious model in the XJ’s 50-year history. When the car was launched to the public a decade-and-a-half ago, its traditional XJ looks were something of a cliché and the car’s incorrectly perceived old-fashionedness was to always overshadow the modern and lightweight aluminium chassis underneath.
Yet, today, that paradox of traditional styling on a hugely advanced architecture has suddenly made it very appealing, especially to those who aren’t a fan of Jaguar’s current and very modern design direction, yet still want a big saloon that’s modern to drive.
Another advantage of this car is that it has one of the widest and most comprehensive model line-ups of any generation of XJ. From an economical diesel to the supercharged V8, the entry XJ6 and the luxurious Daimler, there’s an X350 for every taste and budget – just as when it was new. Add in reliability and ever decreasing values, and it’s easy to understand why the model is one of the most rapidly appreciating Jaguars in classic circles. To understand the car’s continuing appeal, we’ve brought together six examples of the most important X350 variants, each with a different powertrain, performance and trim level.
GROUP TEST X350 XJ6 3.0
The 3.0 might have been the X350’s entry model, but it has far from entry-level performance.
The entry-level X350 saw the return of the XJ6 name to the XJ line-up, as well as the reappearance of a six-cylinder engine for the first time since the disappearance of the AJ16 engine in 1997 when the X300 was superseded by the X308.
Under the bonnet, it has the 240bhp AJV6 engine (debuted in the S-TYPE) that was based on Ford’s 3.0-litre Duratec V6. With 240bhp on tap, the high-revving V6 was eager and benefitted from a wide torque curve, enough to give it the poke to get from 0-60mph in less than eight seconds – only fractionally slower than the V8-engined models that were positioned above it in the range.
Even in standard trim it was well-equipped, with heated seats, cruise control, parking sensors, a CD multi-changer, traction control, front fog lamps and metallic paint, while sat-nav and climate control were offered as options, or were standard on the SE trim.
The praise doesn’t end there, either. Not only has the 3.0 V6 proven itself to be one of the most reliable engines ever used by Jaguar (with the only common problem being coil pack failure, and that is easy enough to rectify) but it is also eye-openingly efficient.
Thanks to the lightweight structure and pressed aluminium bodyshell, the XJ6 in standard trim weighs just 1,545kg, making it the same mass as a contemporary Volkswagen Passat, and a substantial 132kg lighter than the S-TYPE with the same powerplant.
Jaguar’s quoted combined fuel economy figure for the XJ6 3.0 was 27mpg, although this is very much a conservative estimate for those who use their cars on motorway journeys, where 35mpg-plus is more than realistic.
Driving the XJ6 is a revelation. While the temptation when buying any used Jaguar is to get as much as you can for your money, the entry-level X350 is a car that needs to make no apologies for its existence. It’s not a compromise at all in comparison to better-equipped examples – indeed, it’s far from it.
Inside, you have everything you need, and more besides, with leather, heated seats and climate control adding to a sense of luxury that Jaguar’s German rivals struggled to muster. Even after 15 years of use, everything in our example still works as well as the day it left the factory, too. Fire up the 3.0 V6 and it settles to a near silent idle – as will all X350s, Jaguar’s engineering team went the extra mile to ensure that the model was as refined as it could be, and even in the base model X350 it shows.
Plant the throttle and it behaves in a typical Jaguar saloon fashion – a subdued but guttural growl from the exhaust pipes, a slight shift onto its haunches and it accelerates away with gusto, and without any clunkiness between gear changes.
Indeed, on the immaculately maintained example in our group test, the shifts are almost seamless.
As the lightest of the XJs, the V6 has slightly different handling characteristics, with more of a tendency to initial understeer, tempered by fabulous balance. Jaguar’s chief chassis engineer–Mike Cross – often said that the V6 was his favourite ‘non-performance’ X350 in terms of balance, and it certainly has an agility that none of its contemporary rivals could match: it feels lighter and nimbler, and that’s because it is.
The ride is excellent, too – better than larger-engined X350s, which were more firmly sprung, but arguably not as good as the pre-V8 X300s, which remain a high watermark in ride quality for the entire car industry, as anyone who has owned one will testify. Nevertheless, the 3.0-litre X350 is a fabulous car to drive. Charming, beguiling and extremely refined, it also has an agility and performance that defy any perceptions that its size may present.
As a daily driver, then, the 3.0 is the most appealing of the petrol-powered XJs, with excellent refinement, decent enough performance, and all the spec features you need. It certainly doesn’t feel like an entry-level car – but then it was £40,000 new.
Today, at a mere fraction of that, there are very few executive cars that can beat it in terms of what it offers for the money.
Thanks to: Owner, Tim Barnard
2003 Jaguar XJ6 3.0 X350
Engine 2,967cc V6
Top speed 145mph
Transmission six-speed auto
Price new £39,805
Value now £1,500-£4,000
ABOVE: The X350 saw the reintroduction of the famed XJ6 badge that had been missing since 1996.
LEFT: These 18in ‘Luxury’ alloy wheels were standard on the XJ6 in 2004.
GROUP TEST X350 XJ8 4.2
Thanks to plenty of power, refinement and a reasonable economy, the V8 was the X350’s backbone model.
The V8 engines in the X350 were an evolution of the 3.2- and 4.0-litre units fitted to the X308, with an increase in stroke to take them to 3,555cc and 4,196cc, respectively.
The 3.5 variant was something of an incongruous fit in the UK market, where its 265bhp was only marginally more than the V6-engine 3.0 could offer, although it did give Jaguar an entry-level foothold in V8-favouring markets, such as the USA, Australia and the Middle East, where the V6 would be perceived as too weedy by many customers, despite its merits. It’s unsurprising, then, that although it was sold here, the 3.5 V8 was one of the slower-selling X350 variants in the UK.
However, the 300bhp 4.2 is a different matter, with a near 25 percent power increase over the V6 and more low-down torque – 310lb ft compared to the 3.0’s 220lb ft. The difference is tangible, most notably in the mid-range, where the 4.2 V8 X350 is a markedly more eager performer – as, in fairness, is the 3.5, although not to the same extent.
Then, there’s the soundtrack. Whereas the 3.0-litre V6 delivers a subdued growl that gets increasingly more urgent as the revs build up, the V8 gets ready to clear its throat much sooner, with a constant rumble from the twin exhaust pipes even at low speeds, and a prominent bark if you prod the accelerator.
In a straight line the difference is quite clear – the V8 is the faster and more eager car, although that’s not to denigrate the V6’s performance at all. Their characters are very different, and while the 3.0 is a swift and comfortable conveyance, the 4.2 is a hungrier car with added performance pretensions.
Yet, despite its more sporting flavour, the 4.2 is less fun through the twisty bits than the V6 thanks to the added weight upfront. It’s a whole 70kg heavier, almost exclusively over the front axle, and that gives it a more nose-heavy feel as you turn in, which then makes the rear end feel lighter.
In reality, it never feels less than planted or secure, but it’s far easier to make the traction control kick in if you’re too eager on the throttle and, in many respects, it’s a less-relaxing car to drive on single-carriage-way roads, despite the meatier steering feel.
On the flip side, take the 4.2 out on the motorway and you’d be hard pushed to find a more cossetting companion. Both road and wind noise are minimal, while the engine sits at a barely stressed 2,400rpmat a 70mph cruise. As a relaxing long-distance mile-muncher, there probably isn’t another car, certainly at this price level, that can hold a candle to it.
What’s more, thanks to its high fuel consumption and steeper running costs, there’s no real price difference between the 3.0 and the 4.2 when it comes to purchase price, as at the age these cars are today, the cost of ownership is often more important than what it costs to buy the car in the first place.
For less than £3,000, you can get behind the wheel of a massively over-engineered, beautifully finished and supremely well-equipped luxury car that won’t corrode, is more than capable of holding its own in modern traffic and has a big old V8 under the lid – and that’s simply astonishing value.
While we wouldn’t go out of our way to recommend a 3.5 V8 over a 3.0 V6 X350 (not that they’re bad cars, should you find one), there are compelling reasons to choose the 4.2 if the added grunt and V8 soundtrack are your thing, assuming you don’t mind feeding its thirst. And there’s the rub–while the official mpg figures may be very similar – 26mpg for the V8 versus 27mpg for the 3.0 V6, the reality is that the smaller-engined car is a much more economical companion in daily use, unless your motoring is mostly made up of long-distance cruising.
If it is, then the X350 V8 could well be your perfect companion. It’s worth noting, too, that after the X358 facelift in 2007, the V8 models were moved further upmarket to distinguish them from the six-cylinder models, and if your budget can run to one of the later cars, they’re extremely plush.
2003 Jaguar XJ8 4.2 X350
Engine 4,196cc V8
Top speed 155mph
Transmission six-speed auto
Price new £51,500
Value now £1,500-£4,000
TOP: As an XJ8 Sport, the boot finisher and grille surround are body coloured.
MIDDLE: The X350 was the second generation of XJ8 but featured the 4.2 V8.
BOTTOM: These 18in ‘Dynamic’ wheels were standard on the XJ8 Sport.
GROUP TEST X350 XJ 2.7 TDVI
With its real-world economy, the XJ TDVi was the first XJ for the owner-driver.
It’s almost implausible to think of it today, but 15 years ago Jaguar was extremely cautious about launching its first diesel engine. The oil-burning powerplant was seen by many as the threat to the brand’s very Jaguarness – after all, how could a company renowned for making some of the most refined, whisper-quiet cars in the world cope with a power source that found its feet in commercial vehicles?
That first diesel Jaguar was the X-TYPE 2.0d, a car that could very easily hide behind the “It’s not a proper Jaguar” excuse that the brand had tried its hardest to dispel ever since the model’s introduction two years previously. The X-TYPE, after all, needed the diesel powerplant to compete against the BMW3-Series and Audi A4, which were threatening to sew up the compact executive car market in the derv-hungry early 2000s. When the X-TYPE was not only well received, but quickly became the brand’s best-selling model, the notion of diesel was introduced into the S-TYPE, this time in the form of the 2.7-litre V6, co-developed with PSA and found in vehicles as diverse as the Citroën C6, Peugeot 607 and Land Rover Discovery 3, the number of turbos directly relating to the car’s status in the executive car park. The S-TYPE was posh enough to get two. While some die-hard Jaguar enthusiasts were still a bit reticent, the world didn’t end, so Jaguar took a few more brave pills and, in 2005, finally fitted the same twin-turbo 2.7 TDVi unit to its luxury flagship.
The XJ TDVi was positioned in the range between the six-cylinder and V8 petrols, with the 3.0-litre V6 still perpetuated as the entry-level and the V8 repositioned a little as the pure luxury alternative.
For the executive who covered big mileages, the XJ TDVi was the mile munching option – a direct rival to the Audi A8 3.0TDI D3, BMW 730d E65 and Mercedes-Benz S-Class S320 CDi W220, all of which were enjoying strong sales success against a backdrop of rising benefit-in-kind taxation and gradually inflating fuel prices.
It was a logical step, but Jaguar was still extremely nervous. Indeed, its approach to the media was almost apologetic. It was pitched as a case of ‘we had to do this’ rather than ‘we wanted to’, and during the initial press presentations the company’s engineers went to great lengths to try to explain what had been done to ensure the diesel XJ was still every inch a ‘proper’ Jaguar.
The engineering answers went as far as hydraulic engine mounts, additional soundproofing (including an insulated engine cover) and acoustic engineering, which was designed to emphasise the six-cylinder element of the engine note while smothering the diesel clatter, not that there was much of it.
Indeed, other than at idle, where the tickover was slightly more noticeable than in petrol models (albeit not disastrously by any stretch of the imagination), the engine note was lovely – a deep ‘whoosh’ as the turbos spooled up and an exhaust note that wasn’t noticeably that of an oil-burner.
Between 80mph and 100mph, which was where most XJ TDVis covered the bulk of their mileage (on private roads, of course, officer…) the unit was a paragon of refinement, and if our 120,000-mile test car is anything to go by, it still is. Other than the position of the red line on the rev counter, and short gearing through the first three ratios, there’s little to suggest that the XJ is a diesel at all.
There is a hidden surprise, as well. The TDVi unit is only marginally heavier than the petrol V6 and is lighter than the V8, which gives it surprising agility; when you couple that to the urgent in-gear acceleration that feels much more eager than the 3.0 V6, it makes the TDVi a surprisingly athletic companion, especially in Sport Premium trim, which gets XJR-spec suspension and sports seats.
So, all things considered, does the combination of heady performance and decent fuel economy (35mpg combined, 45mpg-plus on a run) make the TDVi the pick of the XJ range in a modern context?
Well, not quite. In terms of performance, economy and even in some respects driving characteristics, it has a huge amount of potential, but there are some reliability concerns, with oil pump and gearbox failure being expensive ones. There have also been cases of blocked oil lines causing catastrophic engine failure, caused by over-filling the oil or leaving it too long between services.
Keep on top of it and it should be fine, but a TDVi is only worth considering if you’re happy to pay for specialist maintenance to go with it.
Thanks to: Owner, Wayne Dowson
2006 Jaguar XJ2.7 TDVi X350
Engine 2,722cc V6 twin turbo diesel
Top speed 141mph
Transmission six-speed auto
Price new £49,995
Value now £1,500-£4,000
DAIMLER SUPER EIGHT AND JAGUAR SUPER V8 4.2
Thanks to improved levels of refinement, the Super Eight and Super V8 were the X350’s undisputed luxury models…
With the X350, Jaguar was aware it was building a car that was truly up there with the big guns in terms of technology, build quality and desirability, so it decided to exploit those traits by offering an ultimate luxury model – a car that would go head-to- head with cars that had previously been beyond the XJ’s reach, such as the Audi A8 W12 D3, BMW760iL E66 and Mercedes-Benz S600 W220. The one thing that Jaguar no longer had and its rivals did, though, was a 12-cylinder powerplant. That was something Jaguar addressed by taking the 4.2-litre supercharged V8 from the XJR and fitting it to its luxury flagship – a move that would, at least, give the company a comparable power output, if not the same complement of cylinders.
The Jaguar Super V8, priced at £71,765 and introduced in 2004, was essentially a long-wheelbase XJR with sculpted individual rear seats and a few other luxury accoutrements, such as lambs wool over mats and a heated steering wheel. It had the same urgent throttle mapping, loud induction whine and sports-tuned suspension as the XJR, and was as much of a terrific driver’s car as it was a car to be driven in.
The problem was, for some haute couture customers, the performance oriented Jaguar was a bit too brash, a little too gauche for their liking. It was a ‘new money’ car being sold into an ‘old money’ market. Jaguar had just the tool in its armoury, though, in the form of the Daimler badge that had lain dormant since the end of X308 production, when the Daimler Super V8 was put out to pasture. Introduced in 2005, the Daimler Super Eight came with a starting price of £79,995, although it was very easy to specify one up to a six-figure sum. The car – also marketed in the USA with a Jaguar grille and badged Vanden Plas – was the ultimate luxury expression of the X350, with a traditional fluted radiator grille and a similarly sculptured pattern on the rear bootlid plinth. It also had unique Daimler alloys, which could be chosen in a distinctive chrome finish if you so desired, Daimler-labelled dashboard inlays and thick wool carpets, along with picnic tables in the back, individual climate and audio options for rear-seat passengers, sat-nav, heated seats front and rear, Bluetooth connectivity (a big thing back in 2005), TV screens mounted in the rear of the head restraints and a range of walnut veneers and paint finishes, a number of which weren’t offered on Jaguar models. Like the Jaguar Super V8, the Daimler was long wheelbase (naturally) and also used the 4.2-litre V8 supercharged engine from the XJR, with comparable performance despite the extended wheelbase.
However, the Daimler had a unique ride set-up: softer damping through the car’s air suspension, which also no longer lowered itself at high speeds. This was a luxury car that just so happened to have blistering performance, rather than the other way around.
It was a car that, like most Daimler models before it, came with a real sense of occasion. Against its contemporaries, it hid its light under a bushel. While the BMW 760iL E65/66, Mercedes-Benz S600L W220 and Audi A8 D3 were drawing in the punters with their sea of technological features, the Daimler was quietly getting on with the job of being plain beautiful, which is a job it did really well. On paper, it lacked many of the innovative high-tech features, gadgets and widgets of its peers, but the execution was exquisite – even though mass-produced, the Super Eight still had the feel of the hand-finished Daimlers of old, a great testimony to the dedication of Jaguar’s engineers, designers and manufacturing team, who clearly took a great deal of pride in creating the brand’s luxury flagship.
Yet, despite its undeniable beauty, the Daimler was a slow-seller and was withdrawn after two years. It is the last Daimler model produced to date, although rumours circulate that the brand could be about to make a glorious return on a range of super-luxury cars. The Jaguar Super V8 was also discontinued in 2007 when the Jaguar X358 debuted, albeit a long-wheelbase XJR – available by special order – was essentially the same car.
Unsurprisingly, production numbers for both were fairly limited, with around 600 Jaguar Super V8s and 150 Daimler Super Eights registered in the UK between 2003 and 2009, which in turn makes either variant hard to find, but especially the Daimler. If you’re prepared to seek one out, these are the X350 variants most likely to first achieve classic status, if they haven’t done so already.
Thanks to: Owners, Matthew Dodd (Daimler) and David Quarterman (Jaguar)
The Daimler Super Eight’s (main) and Super V8’s (right) interior were to a better standard than other X350 models.
Super Eight and Super V8
Engine 4,196cc V8 supercharged
Gearbox six-speed auto ZF 6HP
Top speed 155mph (limited)
Price new £79,995 (Daimler) and £68,500 (Jaguar)
Value now £5,500-£15,000
GROUP TEST X350 XJ
XJR 4.2 Supercharging the 4.2 V8 gave the XJR 400bhp and a supercar-like performance…
There was never such a thing as a slow X350, but the XJR took things to a different level. It used the formula of the supercharged super saloon that had been its signature since the X300 version debuted in 1994, and added the X350’s technology and refinement into the mix. The result was a big, 400bhp, saloon car that was truly something else – devilishly quick, supremely well equipped and sensational to drive. However, unlike previous XJRs, the new model was expensive. Both X300 and X308 variants had offered sensational value in 1994 and 1997 respectively, whereas the new performance flagship for the X350 era was a hefty £58,500 – almost £30k more than the standard 3.0-litre XJ6.
It was, however, an incredible car. As well as the fabulous chassis, sensationally comfortable sports seats and striking styling, the ‘R’ had a couple of party tricks of its own, including sports-tuned air suspension that would automatically lower itself by 15mm at speed to increase aerodynamic downforce and reduce drag, without compromising the traditionally supple ride quality that defined it as a Jaguar.
Our test car is a late example, and the only car in our sextuplet that harks from the X358 post-facelift era. The X358 appeared in 2007 and was effectively an X350 facelift, which saw very little in the way of mechanical changes, but some major styling tweaks to all models, including distinctive vertical cooling gills on the front wings, a different grille, wider, squarer bumpers, side repeater lamps in the mirrors and a host of interior refinements, such as increased rear legroom.
Although the changes were minor, they helped to keep the model contemporary until it was finally replaced by the X351 in 2009.
At the time of the XJR’s launch, there were faster saloon cars on the market, including smaller Japanese models that could nail the 0-60 sprint in less than the XJR’s five seconds. But, to draw comparisons on performance alone is to completely overlook the way in which the XJR delivers its power, or, indeed, its wholly soulful driving experience.
Hit the accelerator and the XJR gathers pace in a somehow refined, yet hooliganistic, manner, the revs building in line with the timbre of the howl from the supercharger. Jaguar’s method of forced induction may seem inefficient and old-fashioned when compared to the modern approach of multiple turbocharging to compensate for cubic inches, but it’s the old school approach that makes the XJR the car it is.
The fact that it has an agility and level of grip that completely belies its dimensions and traditional rear-drive layout simply adds to its appeal – it’s part-muscle car, part sophisticated performance saloon, and there are no other cars than can vaguely come close.
Thanks to the higher purchase price, and no doubt further emphasised by the government’s decision to increase road tax for Band K cars to £555 a year, there were far fewer X350 ‘R’s sold than there were 300s and 308s, so the chances of finding one for silly money are unlikely, with even the highest-mileage example still commanding upwards of £4,000 at 15 years old. But what a car you get for the money.
Thanks to: Owner, Phil Norton (www.jagchat.net)
2008 Jaguar XJR X358
Engine 4,196cc V8 supercharged
Top speed 155mph (limited)
Gearbox six-speed auto
Price new £58,500 (2003)
Value now £3,500-£12,000