Cartrade Comparison Test
Featuring every conceivable mod-con and brimming with luxury and refinement, the 7 and the XJ reside at the top brass of the motorised food chain and are the very definition of eight-figure automotive excess. But unlike the norm, these two luxo-barges are for driving as much as they are for being driven in. So how do you pick a winner in posh company such as this? Well, that’s simply down to what each limo feels behind the wheel and how impressive it is inside and out, not to mention the back seat comfort and toys.
Both 7 Series and XJ L are big beasts, no matter which way you look at them. Measuring over 5.2m in length, they would barely fit in our company parking slot. At nearly 2m wide, you won’t be taking liberties in either when driving through narrow lanes. Even so, it’s the latest-gen 7 Series that cuts a seriously imposing figure as it wafts up the road. Finished in rich coloured metallic grey, our test car was always the first to turn heads as both limos rolled down the streets. This is partially down to the M Sport trim that gets you more angular front and rear bumper with oversized air dams upfront and a faux diffuser at the back. The side profile is equally as impressive; lashings of chrome adorn the window frames and the lower half of the doors, while the massive 19-inch alloys scream sporty more than luxury.
The much older XJ L looks innocuous by comparison, doesn’t it? Despite its harmonious proportions, low-slung stance and some nice design touches like the black-clad C-pillars that are designed to gel seamlessly with the rear glass, the big Jag isn’t so alluring anymore. The 2016 MY upgrades – including a larger, more upright grille, new headlamp and taillight detailing and different air intakes – are simply too subtle to be noticed.
Despite occupying more road space and packing in lot more features than before, the new 7 is 105kg lighter than before. This is down to the body being made out of a healthy mix of aluminium and carbon-fibre reinforced plastic. The car’s also got heaps more driver-centric tech like adaptive driving modes and self-levelling air suspension that can raise and drop the ride height. In comparison, the XJ L gets relatively basic driving modes and no air suspension either.
Inside, there is a stark difference between these two. Whereas the BMW is thoroughly modern and in line with current high-end cabin designs the Jaguar has a more classical approach. Climb inside the 7 and it’s evident that the thing has been tailored for ferrying delegates around – it’s truly a first-class ride, what with the incredible detailing on the lacquered dark wood, high quality leather and the brushed aluminium finish on the controls. There is a bucket load of gadgets too such as the 10.25-inch touch screen with displays for the iDrive, 360-degree cameras and 3D imaging. If that’s not impressive enough, the 7 also comes with a 7-inch tablet that is neatly integrated into the rear armrest. The tablet can be used to control a plethora of functions including front and rear seat adjustment, air conditioning, ambient light and of course, the entertainment functions linked to the iDrive.
An intoxicating smell of leather hits you as you step inside the XJ L. While it doesn’t have the space-age look of the Beemer, the Jag oozes that old-school charm and appears like it has been handmade as opposed to assembled, thanks to leather and well finished wood adorning most of the cabin. While the all digital instrument cluster is very impressive with its high resolution and some neat graphics, the 8-inch touchscreen system on the dash is infuriatingly slow to respond and feels dated and a generation behind the 7 Series. What’s more, some of the materials like the window switches and the centre console feel fairly average for the price. The feel of Jaguar’s rotating gear knob, a novelty item no less, cannot match its appearance either. All that said, the leather used is of high quality and is splayed all across the cabin to lift up the overall ambience.
Given that buyers of these vehicles will spend a fair bit of time upfront, it needs to be noted that the front seat comfort in both the 7 and the XJ is as good as it can get by modern limo standards, thanks to a gazillion adjustments for the steering and the seat. That said, the BMW definitely is airier upfront thanks to the lighter coloured materials (in this particular car) and more supportive seats. The Jag, on the other hand, is slightly short on space due to a rather high transmission tunnel and smaller foot well. In here one feels a tad cramped despite the Jag being longer and wider.
Now for the all-important rear seat experience, the comfort in the Beemer is truly unparalleled with acres of legroom and back support. The backrest and seat base can not only be electrically reclined and adjusted, but also be used as effective stress busters, thanks to the eight-level massage function. The XJ L, meanwhile, is identical when it comes to seat comfort with electrically adjustable and massaging seats but again, feels a little dated and lacks the essential niceties to keep the rear passengers occupied.
Under the long bonnet of the new 7 Series sits a 3-litre straight-six diesel engine that develops 265bhp at 4000rpm and 620Nm of torque. The XJ L, on the other hand, nestles a 3-litre V6 engine with 296bhp and 700Nm.
In the new 7, there’s plenty of torque down low giving you effortless acceleration, even at higher speeds. Given its luxury limo credentials, the build-up in power is gradual through the rev range and peaks at 4000rpm, meaning if you really want to get somewhere quickly, you will be exploiting this sweet sounding motor’s strong bottom and mid-range. Throttle response is frankly brilliant; there is virtually no turbo lag and when this 1.8-tonne behemoth gets moving, there is no relent until high triple digit speeds, as it swaps cogs from its quick-shifting 8-speed auto box and continues charging forward.
The XJ L may be a fair bit heavier but it’s just as soothing to drive in the city and when the need be, properly quick as well. The power delivery isn’t as linear as the 7 but the shove in the back, once the turbo comes on song, is reassuringly pleasant. The punchy V6 is also nicely matched to the 8-speed auto which upshifts and downshifts at appropriate moments. When pitted head to head, it’s the lighter 7 Series that’s quicker flat out, taking just 6.29 seconds to Jag’s 7.28 seconds from 0-100kmph. Even during in-gear acceleration, the BMW’s lightness and the more responsive gearbox prove their might, with a 20-80kmph sprint time of 3.78 seconds compared to the XJ L’s 4.28 seconds. Nonetheless, while it’s hard to appreciate on our roads, both these luxo-barges would be right at home on a German Autobahn.
Despite their weight and girth, both these XXL-sized sedans handle the corners and change in direction surprisingly well. True to its genes, the 7 Series offers good body control through the corners but it is softly sprung and as a result, rolls noticeably more than the Jag. The XJ L on the other hand has always stood out for being rewarding through the bends and this 2016 MY model is no different. It’s flatter through mid-corner bumps and has a front end keener to turn in as well. The 7 gets better in the sportiest of settings however it’s still not as composed as the XJ L. The latter certainly should be your pick if you happen to be an executive with a penchant for spirited driving.
Sitting on air suspension, the new 7 glides over imperfections, including some of the worst roads we could run it through. In Comfort the car is cushy to the point of feeling a bit floaty whereas in Sport Plus, the firmer setting just ties it down enough to feel planted over medium to high speeds. As for the XJ L, there’s an extra suppleness to the suspension, though the big Jag doesn’t isolate its occupants as well. Now even though the ride is flatter and more comfortable overall, it’s the 7 Series that’s less taxing over rough roads, thanks to a more refined set up.
The newer 7-Series clearly impresses with its lounge-like rear-seat comfort and 22nd century gadgets whereas the XJ L continues to be a rather special alternative to the usual German limos, mixing old-school charm with brilliant on-road dynamics. You wouldn’t really go wrong buying either but in the end, it’s the new 7 Series that’s objectively a much better car here. It’s not just quicker and more refined but also boasts of more features and a better rear seat experience.
Pictures: Kapil Angane