Daimler Double Six

road test

If you have ever sat in the back of a Jaguar, you may have wondered why these cars are such a hit with government ministers. Jaguars are seriously short of rear seat space for cars of their calibre, a sacrifice forced by their low, sleek roof-line.

How do John Major and pals put up with it? It's simple: their Jags are not as other Jaguars. They're longer between the wheels, giving more room for ministerial feet.

Now, following on from last year's launch of a heavily revised range of XJ saloons, you too can have a long-legged Jaguar. The wheelbase is five inches longer than the standard car's; all this extra length is accommodated in the rear doors, which now look a little out of proportion but don't unbalance the flowing lines too drastically. The rear part of the roof is slightly more upright, too, for better headroom. Some Jags can be had in both short and long forms, but the sporty ones are short and the grandest XJ saloon of all, the Daimler Double Six, is solely a stretch job.

At pounds 65,950, the Double Six is far cheaper than the cheapest Rolls-Royce or Bentley, but oozes much the same opulence and is virtually as well made (which used not to be true of a Jaguar XJ). Polished walnut and soft leather abound, of course, and rear passengers have plenty of toys to play with. Each rear seat reclines electrically, and a further set of controls on the back of the front passenger seat even allows the left rear passenger to move the front seat.

The Double Six has lost none of the XJ's cosy ambience, nor its outstanding driving dynamics. You can feel the magic at work as soon as you hasten this big, heavy car along some bumpy, bendy roads. No other luxury car smothers bumps like this one, while remaining so agile, unflustered and easy to drive.

The Double Six is a fast car, as it should be with a six-litre, 313bhp V12 engine, and the power delivery is matched to an equally smooth automatic transmission. There's just one snag: spirited driving will see a gallon of fuel consumed in as little as 14 miles. That apart, it's hard to think of a luxury car that does what it was built to do better, overall, than the Daimler Double Six.

John Simister

Specs

Daimler Double Six, pounds 65,950

Engine 5,993cc. V12 cylinders, 313bhp at 5,350rpm. Four-speed automatic gearbox, rear-wheel drive. Top speed 152mph, 0-60 in 7.5 seconds. Fuel consumption 14-19mpg

Rivals

BMW 750iL, pounds 69,450

Electronics galore. More economical than the Daimler, but lacks its serenity, style and homeliness.

Bentley Brooklands, pounds 99,980

Huge presence, but surprising lack of refinement from both engine and suspension

Mercedes-Benz SD600, pounds 97,900

Great girth doesn't spoil its agility and pace, but offers little more than the Daimler or BMW

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