Jaguar XJ Review

Jaguar XJ Review

The British have a penchant for revering (and some say clinging to) things past -- old buildings and dentistry from the 16th century, warm beer, 50-year-old double-decker Routemasters, the royal family and the Jaguar XJ. For more than 40 years, the XJ's basic styling strayed very little through three generations and several midlife updates. About the wildest thing to happen was the addition of square headlamps in 1990 -- and they were generally met with a chorus of jeers and "cor blimeys!"

That all changed when Jag pulled the covers off its radical next-generation 2011 XJ. Gone was ye olde styling, and in came sexy modern duds unlike anything else on the road. The cabin ditched the stuffy fascia of wood, the ugly green lighting and crotchety old J-gate shifter in favor of a cabin so exquisitely detailed and dramatically designed that it may make a potential Bentley buyer think twice. Really, this would be like Susan Boyle walking into a pub and coming out looking like Keira Knightley. The XJ has truly gone from a forgotten player to a sought-after all-star.

Current Jaguar XJ
The Jaguar XJ is a large luxury sedan available in regular and long-wheelbase (L) body styles. The XJ comes in base, Supercharged and XJR trim levels, while the XJL has the Portfolio, Supercharged and XJR trim levels.

The base XJ and the XJL Portfolio are powered by a supercharged 3.0-liter V6 with 340 horsepower and 332 pound-feet of torque. Rear-wheel drive is standard and these trims are the only ones that offer optional all-wheel drive. This engine features automatic stop-start, which saves fuel by shutting off the engine when the car is stopped momentarily, such as at a traffic light or while in stop-and-go traffic. Upgrading to the XJ Supercharged model gets you a supercharged 5.0-liter V8 with 470 hp and 424 lb-ft of torque, while the XJR boasts a higher-output version of that engine with 550 hp and 502 lb-ft of torque. All engines come matched to an eight-speed automatic transmission.

The Jaguar XJ's interior is exquisite. Not only does its aesthetic design appeal, but the craftsmanship and materials quality are a step beyond those of its impressive rivals. Supple leather, rich wood, tasteful applications of chrome and ice-blue lighting decorate a cabin fit for and literally enjoyed by royalty. In-car electronics are dominated by a large touchscreen, which works OK but doesn't react as quickly to screen-and-knob inputs as BMW's iDrive. The instrument panel is, in fact, a big LCD, and adapts to different driving scenarios and in-use vehicle functions (navigation, for instance).

On the road, few cars balance ride comfort and sporty handling as deftly as the XJ. Even with the big wheels, it glides down the road with sophisticated composure. And yet with its lightweight aluminum chassis, adaptive suspension and sharp steering, the XJ is also deceptively agile and feels considerably smaller when behind the wheel than its pricier flagship sedan competitors do. On the other hand, those rivals also have bigger, more limolike backseats.

Used Jaguar XJ Models
The current generation of the Jaguar XJ debuted for 2011. Both regular and long-wheelbase (L) versions of the rear-wheel-drive luxury sedan were offered. Initially, there were three trim levels: XJ, XJ Supercharged and XJ Supersport. The base XJ came with a 5.0-liter V8 (385 hp and 380 lb-ft of torque) while the XJ Supercharged had a supercharged version (470 hp and 424 lb-ft). The XJ Supersport had a higher-output version of the supercharged V8 (510 hp and 461 lb-ft), but wasn't as performance-focused as the current XJR. All had a six-speed automatic (with manual shift control) and rear-wheel drive and were very quick, with 0-60 mph times in the range of 4.4 to 5.4 seconds. The following year saw some equipment shuffling, such as new reclining and massaging features for the XJL Supersport's rear seat.

For 2013, a supercharged 3.0-liter V6 (340 hp and 332 lb-ft) became the new base engine and it featured automatic stop-start functionality to save fuel when the car was momentarily stopped. All-wheel drive was a new option but it was only available with the V6, while all XJs came with a new eight-speed automatic transmission. There were a couple of new trim levels for the long-wheelbase ("L") XJ: the Portfolio, which came with the 385-hp V8, and the limited-edition Ultimate. The latter was essentially a Supersport with an ultra-swank, two-passenger rear seat compartment. This year also saw updated electronics that included a faster infotainment touchscreen and a new audio system.

These latter XJs are essentially identical to the current lineup with the exception of the Supersport giving way to the more performance-oriented XJR, the XJL Portfolio still having a V8 (versus the 3.0-liter supercharged V6 engine) and the Ultimate trim level being available (discontinued for 2014).

Those interested in an older XJ may want to take a look at one of the previous-generation models covered in a separate Jaguar XJ Series review.