Jaguar's latest XJ variant is no pussycat despite having the smallest engine
Feline power The Jaguar XJ offers pace and grace despite its small engine. -- ST PHOTO: CHRISTOPHER TAN

A 2-litre engine in a luxe barge such as the XJ? What was Jaguar thinking?

But as it turns out, the XJ with the smallest power plant is pleasantly driveable, with almost the same level of pace and grace as its better endowed siblings.

What is more amazing is that the car is able to leave that impression despite the writer having driven the 431bhp BMW M3 right before it. Which again proves that it is not always the horsepower of a car that determines how powerful it feels.

In the case of the XJ 2.0, each pony is pulling its weight, aided by an eight-speed transmission that suffers very little loss because it is so smooth and intuitive.

The engine - turbocharged to make 240bhp and 340Nm of torque from 2,000rpm - is the smallest power plant found in the XJ's segment of cars. It is the same unit found in the hit Range Rover Evoque.

And despite being visibly bigger, the XJ pips the Evoque in the century sprint by 0.1 seconds at 7.5. This is a very decent timing for a limo measuring more than 5m front to back.

It is 125mm shorter than its long-wheelbase XJL sibilings though, and at least 6 per cent lighter. In fact, at 1,660kg, the aluminium XJ is merely 95kg heavier than a noticeably smaller Honda Accord.

This gives the XJ 2.0 a somewhat respectable power-to-weight ratio of 145bhp per tonne. Which explains its relative effortlessness to drive.

A light and linear throttle works wonders to evoke the sense of responsiveness, as does a well-sorted gearbox. The slightest tap sends the XJ surging, and the car is more than able to keep pace with flowing traffic.

It is only when you are in a real rush that you feel the cat is more tabby than tiger. Floor the accelerator and there is a lapse of at least one full second before the engine spools up and lets fly.

While the car has little trouble attaining autobahn speeds, getting there in a hurry is a bit of a challenge.

So, unlike the M3 which excels when driven aggressively, the XJ 2.0 is at its best when the driver is in a zen state of mind.

It is not too difficult to be serene when you are in an XJ. The ride is lush and the cabin is plush.

While it is effectively the entry-level variant of the XJ family, it is still better equipped and more luxuriously appointed than some rivals.

But it is short on a few features found in other XJs, such as adaptive xenon headlamps, wood-and-leather steering wheel, massage seats, rear "business tables" and electric rear window blinds.

But other top-tier luxury items remain intact, such as soft-closing doors, motorised boot lid, 8-inch infotainment touchscreen with navigation, blind-spot monitor, cruise control and self-releasing electronic parking brake.

The cabin still boasts plenty of leather, wood and chrome; and is just as well-insulated as the interior of other XJs. The second row remains relatively roomy despite the shorter wheelbase.

Being shorter has at least one advantage: The car takes corners with neater, tighter lines. Of course, the XJ is not a car for carving up S courses. Its forte lies in its "glidability", which allows the car to maintain its momentum long after your foot has left the right pedal.

Found in better limousines, the trait makes a car feel luxurious and laidback as it coasts from start to stop, seemingly with no effort at all. Certainly, it goes some way in masking the obvious limitations that come with a small engine in a big body.

CAR INFORMATION

Jaguar XJ 2.0 Premium Luxury SWB (A)

Price

:$360,000

Engine Type

:

4-cylinder in-line Turbocharged

Engine Cap

:

1,999 cc

Horsepower

:

237 bhp / 5,500 rpm

Torque

:

340 Nm / 4,000 rpm

Transmission

:

8-speed (A)

Acceleration

:

7.5 sec (0-100 km/h)

Top Speed

:

241 km/h