So there you are, sitting in your office messing with your white-board magnets when suddenly an idea pops into your head. Why not build magnets into your desk and into your desktop items so they can’t roll off the edge and have to stay in designated desktop ‘zones’. Several hours later, instead of filing that overdue report, you’ve constructed a crude mock-up and the next day you present it to the patent office. With a month, the good folks at Sharper Image buy the patent and you retire, rich and bored and in need of wheels. Unfortunately, your impulse-bought a luxury shag pad just off the main nightclub strip in town so your parking is limited to one spot. You need a single car that shows off your newfound wealth, can burn off sadsacks in their WRX-look-a-likes, is capable of wafting you and your bawdy mates to the Alps in comfort and still look respectable when you turn up for your once-a-month board meetings.
So we’ve brought the Jaguar XJL Super 8 (AKA the Daimler Super 8) and the 750Li together for a little battle. We reckon one of these should fit the bill pretty well. What? No S-Class? No A8L? No LS 430? No, no and no. We’re waiting until the new S-Class arrives before we include it in the melee, and we couldn’t recommend the A8 on account of it being a smidge too sensible and just a little too clinical. It’s a great car, you understand, but it looks like an A4 and we want some presence for our buck here. The Lexus is wayyyyyy too mature and dreary for anyone below the age of 87.You want the kind of car that ruthless moguls would drive. Jag and Bimmer it is.
First to the looks, and our Jaguar blings so loud it hurts my ears. Everything that’s not British Racing Green is dipped in chrome and polished to within an inch of its life and it gets so much attention that it becomes irritating after a while. You can’t change lanes on the highway because there’s always someone alongside looking at the car and while that’s annoying during the day, at night it gets scary. There’s no doubt that the Jag XJ’s low, sleek shape looked great when it was new (when was that again, 1983?) but nowadays it just looks contrived and fussy. Jaguar knows this, too, which is why they’re plotting a whole new styling language for future vehicles, kicking off with the XK in the spring, not that that’s much help to the current XJ. At least it can take the long wheelbase treatment well and in a darker colour with less glitzy wheels it can look somewhat elegant and appealing.
The BMW 750Li benefits from a recent deBangling facelift, which is as close as BMW has come to conceding that the original car was a misshapen lump. To be honest, I didn’t mind the rear end of the old 7-Series and actually liked the thick bumper and squinty lights but I thought the front was very unappealing, with its drooping, too-far-apart headlamps, thick indicator ‘eyebrow’ and ill-defined grille. They’ve tidied up the front so it no longer sags like the arse on an old tracksuit, but it’s still not exactly what I would call handsome. The rear is less bulbous but fussier now, while the flanks are reasonably taut and give the car the meaty presence the XJ lacks. There’s no outright winner in the looks department, though, because both cars get it wrong in very different ways. Me? I’d take the Beemer simply because it draws less unwanted attention than the Jaguar. I like a little attention from time to time, but not the kind of burning envy the Jag seems to generate. The Jag’s interior looked fabulous when it was new (back in 1933) but now it’s just annoyingly twee.
I could live with the overdose of wood ’n’leather if the auxiliary controls were better integrated: the cheapy black switches and stalks all reek of Ford parts bin, so they not only clash with the expensive walnut and lambswool, they cheapen the whole experience. It also doesn’t help that the steering is too big, the cabin feels cramped in the front and there’s no way realistic way to shift gears manually. On a positive note, it does seem well made in there - the touch-screen trip computer and sat-nav is a delight to use and – praise the Lord – there’s a knob to adjust the fan speed without having to explore an on-screen menu. In the rear, occupants stretch out in opulent comfort. There’s a mile of legroom, an integrated DVD system, electrically adjustable rear seats and rear climate controls.
It mightn’t be too peachy up front, but in the rear it’s just swell. The roof has even been raised slightly in this LWB version to accommodate taller passengers, though I’d still recommend you try before you send Jeeves to buy if you’re anything close to 6-feet tall. I’m not going to take swipes at BMW’s iDrive again, but I will point out that in the 7Series’is the most complicated of all the iDrive-equipped cars and that’s definitely not a good thing. What a shame that the ‘i-Drive’ system is so dreadful because in every other respect the 7-Series is a delight to sit in. The steering wheel is thick and chunky, the dials are big and easy to read, and the seats bend more ways than a Chinese gymnast and the quality of the materials they use are first rate. I don’t much care for the stalk-mounted gear selector simply because I think there’s already enough going on around the steering anyway. The arrangement of the gear switches on the steering also takes some getting used to, as does the unusual way that BMW arranges the movement of the cruise control lever, but overall it’s a great place for the driver to wile away the hours.
Rear seat passengers have more space than they do in the Jag though it’s not as extravagantly appointed. All the toys that are standard in the Super 8 and optional in the 750Li and that can get very expensive, very fast. The two cars are also spectacularly different to one another on the move, with the Jaguar making a full Broadway production about going fast. The supercharger whine combines with the low, sporty feel of the cabin to make you feel like you’re absolutely flying, which, as it happens, you are.0-100 km/h takes just 5.3 seconds and top speed has to be limited to 250 km/h, unsurprising considering it’s got a force-fed 4.2-litre V8 engine under the bonnet churning out 400 bhp and 553 NM of torque. It also weighs just 1665 kg, which is a whopping 360 kg lighter than the Bimmer, so the Jag has all the right stuff to be the driver’s choice in this comparison, except it isn’t.
The steering is loose and sloppy around the straight-ahead and the ride is harsh and crashy no matter what you do with the active ride system. It does grip hard when you need it to, though, and it can really be thrown around on tight twisty roads, but it’s not the kind of car that thrives on such treatment. The transmission can, in theory, be used manually but you have to align the lever to just the right spot on the selector and it simply doesn’t work unless you’re starting right at the gate. Left to its own devises, though, the transmission is rather good, resisting the temptation to shift down constantly and allowing you to ride the Jag’s endless wave torque instead. That’s not enough to redeem the Jag, though, which remains a bit of a truck to drive and thoroughly fails to take advantage of its excellent power plant and lightweight construction. That’s a shame because it could so easily have been a cracker. The BMW might weigh a porky 2025 kg in LWB form and ‘only’ have 367 bhp and 490 NM of torque, but it’s still awfully fast for such a big machine.0100 km/h takes an entirely respectable 6.0 seconds and again, top speed has to be restricted to 250 km/h. But more impressive than its pace is its refinement and poise – it simply devours the distances that the Jag tends to make a meal out of.
When the roads get twisty the steering comes alive, offering amazing feedback and feel for such a large, luxurious car. It’s about as much fun as you can expect from a car this size and with steering operated gear selectors and big, clear dials, you can really sling the big BeeEmm around with alarming ease. The only danger is over exuberance on the driver’s part, which is given a quick refresher course in the laws of physics if he tries to do too much in what is essentially a limousine, for heaven’s sake. It’s a pretty decisive win for the BMW then, which only trails the Jag in straight-line performance and in head turning appeal. It can cross continents with ease, shock hot-hatch drivers down a country road, tell the world you have made it big, baby, while at the same time oozing upscale cache and properly reflecting your newfound, upwardly mobile status. You’ll even have an extra €20,000 to blow in a Monte Carlo casino that if you plum for the BMW .You just can’t argue with that kind of good sense.
400 bhp V8 makes a lot of noise and a lot of speed. Stomping on the accelerator just never gets boring in the Jag. Driving experience is not its best attribute. Dim-witted steering, crashy suspension and silly J-gate gear selector see to that. You’ll need to have security presence with you at all times and you’ll always be the one pulled over for speeding. Rear seat space is vast but the front feels tight and the ride quality is pretty dire for a luxury saloon. If you need to ask you shouldn’t even be thinking about his car. Everything about the Jag is expensive.
Jaguar XJ Super 8
Engine 4196cc, Supercharged V8, 400 bhp,
553 NM of torque
Boot Capacity470 L
Acceleration 0-100 km/h in 5.3 seconds
Top Speed 250 km/h Price: €151,480
Transmission 6-speed automatic, rear wheel-drive
Economy 12.3L/100km (test figure)