Jaguar XJR575 is all heart and entertainment. It might be getting on a bit, and somewhat out of fashion, but this is a fine car

Jaguar has released a new flagship for its XJ range as part of a series of small detail improvements to the 2018 model year lineup. They’re unlikely to reverse any sales trends, but the firm will be hoping they keep the model – now in its eighth year – fresh enough . As for that flagship, it’s perfecting the art of growing old disgracefully, in a very promising fashion.

Engine, transmission and 0-100 time

As the name implies, the venerable 5-litre supercharged Jaguar V8 gets a slight power hike from 400kW to 422kW (575PS), with torque rising to 700Nm from a previous peak of 680Nm. Granted, they’re only minor improvements on a car that weighs nearly two tonnes, but the new 575 clearly isn’t short on performance, particularly given its size. The 0-100km/h sprint takes 4.4sec, and the top speed is quoted as being 300km/h. The only transmission choice is, as ever, the eight-speed torque converter auto that suits these cars so well.

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Technical highlights

In essence, the XJR 575 is a fairly mild makeover of an ageing car. In addition to the power increase there’s a subtle bodykit consisting of a lower front air dam, a revised rear spoiler, new side sills and a choice of either gloss black or dark grey 20-inch wheels. On the inside, 575s have diamond stitching on the sports seats along with adjustable bolsters; there’s a broad swathe of glossy carbonfibre running through the dashboard, plus there’s a rather naff ‘575’ logo on the backrest of each front seat and in the centre of the ‘Riva Hoop’ – the panel that wraps around the top of the XJ’s cabin.

For me, these ‘embellishments’, along with the optional bright blue paint, don’t do the XJ any favours, but then I’ve never really understood the X351 XJ’s styling anyway. You may well, of course, disagree entirely. One positive new arrival – across the XJ range – is the new Touch Pro infotainment system with a 10-inch screen, and it’s a marked improvement on previous JLR efforts in this sphere.

What’s it like to drive?

Yes, the 575 is fundamentally a limo, but once you’ve shut the driver’s door behind you that’s all but forgotten. It’s a brilliantly cosy but contemporary driving environment up front, and easily Jaguar’s finest interior to date – not just in terms of quality perception but also the design, which is still pleasingly like nothing else in its overall architecture. Immediately you can sense an excellent driving position, complemented by a fine, thin-rimmed leather steering wheel, all putting the driver in the mood for far more than just chauffeuring duties.

Up ahead lies one of the best installations of Jaguar’s 5-litre V8 so far. In the ‘normal setting’ the V8 is as demure as the XJ itself, whirring away as it quietly persuades the XJ’s bulk to get a move on. Select Sport and it growls with a polished menace, and thankfully without the crass ecu-induced burbles and over-wrought exhaust blare of an F-Type. The ‘box is finely calibrated: reserved in normal, energetic in Sport, but most of all crisp in manual mode via paddles, which is how I spend most of my time driving it. To do so feels natural, which is odd in a limo, but a pointer to things to come. The brakes deserve a special mention, too, for their heroic stamina in the face of serious provocation and mass momentum.

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At first you notice the cabin’s isolation from engine, road and wind noise, all of which are superb, which means the 575 eats miles with disdain. And while modern XJs don’t ride with the same unflustered elasticity as those from previous decades, it’s still a very comfortable way to travel, and of course, the trade off is a dynamic sharpness that is all but unmatched in this class.

What makes the 575 so special is its ability to effectively shrink around the driver. It’s a 5130mm-long limo and yet soon enough you’re driving it around like some compact sports saloon on steroids: although XJs received an electro-mechanical steering rack instead of the previous hydraulic version back in 2015, to alter the car’s direction still feels very precise, natural and well-weighted, and that’s a major contributing factor.

Rather than unleash a terrifying amount of tech to make a big car do things it really shouldn’t be able to do, the 575 relies instead on a more traditional recipe of feedback, chassis balance and depth of character to not only entertain, but to draw you relentlessly into the experience. It’s relatively easy to get to the stage where you’ve such confidence in the car, you’re starting to purposefully exceed the limits of the rear tyres, accessible with just one press of the stability control button. Driven thus you probably won’t get many miles from a set of rears in a 575, but you will giggle a lot. I did. It’s an absurd sort of behaviour for a large, comfortable limousine, but it’s there for the taking, and I enjoyed pretty much every mile.

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