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JAGUAR XJ12 / DAIMLER DOUBLE SIX

A comparatively rare experience for any motoring scribe is to be able to test 2 versions of the same new car on the same day, but such was my good fortune at a recent Jaguar day when I was able to try both versions of the stunning new V 12, 6 litre, engined Jaguar, the XJ 12 and the Daimler Double Six, 2 cars which, sharing the same body, are outwardly alike but are very different under the skin.

Both models have very distinctive characters all of their own, the XJ 12 more overtly sporting, the Daimler - with that characteristic fluted radiator surround - a more genteel express with absolute creature comforts, sybaritic in it's luxury.

The newly introduced 6 litre, V12, saloons are the latest - and probably the last - evocations of the timeless XJ6 shape, a sleek, purposeful, design which has steadily evolved in the many years since it's introduction without ever looking dated.

With these new cars, Jaguar has restaked it's claim to a share of the very exclusive V12 club and hopes to claw back the ground it has lost in the all important American market.

The new engine might crudely be described as a longer stroke version of the elderly 5.3 litre V12, but nothing is further from the truth. The company's engineers boast some 1,500 improvements, not just a lot more power but a far greater flexibility from a wider torque spread and a new refinement and quietness which is immediately noticeable. This stunning piece of automotive technology lays claim to a remarkable 318 bhp which translates to a sub 7 second 0-60 time for both cars but, more importantly, a massive 342 lbs feet of torque is available over a very wide band. The result is an effortless and seamless power delivery with only a slight growl to indicate the degree of urgency being commanded by the driver's right foot and a bare 3 second 50- 70 mph time, the all important overtaking speeds.

This wonderful engine is mated to a 4 speed automatic gearbox which shifts almost imperceptibly no matter how hard it is being used. The box has sport and normal modes, the gears being held much longer in sport, and is commanded by the "J gate" shift which allows fully automatic or fully manual control, with undetectable switching between the 2 modes.

Equipment specification and handling are the main areas of difference between these 2 superb cars. Both models share a superbly appointed cabin with massive amounts of head and leg room, acres of hide and lashings of classic burr walnut and most of the in-cabin features are common to both.

A superb driving environment features clear, classic, dials, many newly revised and more comfortable controls, an adjustable steering column and 10 way, electrically adjustable, leather faced, seats with 2 memories, small, whirring, motors adjusting height, rake, reach and lumbar control, but on the Daimler the seats are also heated.

Both share remote central locking, a remote security system - with intruder detectors in the Double Six -, climate control, cruise control, ABS, trip computer, driver's side airbag, an excellent stereo - with CD on the Daimler -, power windows, and mirrors, the Daimler adding full leather upholstery, a sunroof and front foglamps to the already superb package.

On the road the other main difference, in the suspension setup, is readily apparent. The Daimler has softer suspension and a higher ride height, which, coupled with higher profile tyres, gives a supremely comfortable ride for those rarely in a hurry, remembering, that until recently, this would have been a car most often driven by a chauffeur.

The XJ 12 is tailored to the more exacting owner driver, lower riding, with lower profile tyres and stiffer suspension, the handling is superb, exhibiting a composure which the softer Daimler lacks during high speed cross country runs.

The well weighted power steering allows both to be placed inch perfect, yet the firmer XJ 12 benefits most from this agility and the prodigious reserves of grip and minimal roll but the ride is noticeably firmer.

Both models have immensely powerful, all disc, braking systems with the added benefit of ABS.

Back with a vengeance, the big cats offer a totally different driving experience to their BMW and Mercedes rivals, the new V12's providing grace and space but, now, with ever more pace. Superb engineering and build quality that is the very epitomy of classic English sporting saloons.

FACT FILE

  • PRICE £46,600 XJ12, £51,700 DAIMLER DOUBLE SIX
  • TOP SPEED 155 MPH
  • 0-60 MPH 6.8 SECONDS
  • 50-70 MPH 3.2 SECONDS
  • FUEL CONSUMPTION 13 MPG [ URBAN CYCLE ] 27 MPG [ CONSTANT 56 MPH ]

First Published 1993 - Article © Graham Benge 2007

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