2011 Jaguar XJ Expert Review:Autoblog
Xynthia ripped into France merely hours after our arrival. Packing gale-force fury, the ruthless wind and rain battered the coast before moving inland with its crushing blow – sadly, it was the country's deadliest storm in more than a decade. While we were spared most of its rage, the countryside outside Paris was a soggy debris-laden mess – not exactly optimal conditions to test the latest flagship sedan from Jaguar.
Soldiering forth – and more intrigued than ever with the all-new saloon – we ignored the rain and spent a long day trekking around the drenched landscape with both the short- and long-wheelbase models. What makes this new XJ so different from its predecessors? Does its performance mirror its powerplants? And, what's up with that painted C-Pillar? The answers, and more, are found after the jump.
Photos by Michael Harley / Copyright ©2010 Weblogs, Inc.
Originally launched in 1968, the Jaguar XJ was cast as the flagship of the British automaker's lineup. The new four-door saloon rolled into the public's eye with a straight-six engine and rear-wheel drive. Within a few years, a V12 would be fitted under the hood and the XJ would be sold as the world's only twelve-cylinder sedan. It was more than appropriate for Jaguar's jewel.
The Jaguar XJ went through several updates and a couple generations before the third-generation (or "Mark III") debuted in 1986. Ford Motor Company arrived as the brand's new owner shortly thereafter. The big American automaker updated the XJ's electrical system, improved the engine and taught the British company a few things about manufacturing... before selling the company in 2008.
Tata Motors Limited, a $16 billion multinational corporation headquartered in India, is the current owner of Jaguar – though you really wouldn't know it unless someone told you. The company purchased the traditional British automaker (in a sale that also included Land Rover) in the midst of the development of "Project X351" – better known as the fourth-generation XJ. Seemingly uninterrupted by the change at the helm, the design team pushed far beyond what would have been expected of an XJ successor, in both draft and engineering.
While most of the sedans in this segment are rather indiscernible in a crowd, the all-new 2011 Jaguar XJ draws mesmerized stares at first glance. Jaguar, intent on designing "beautiful fast cars" with "seductive designs," has delivered a sleek, fluid and contemporary shape – it isn't difficult to visualize that leaping black cat in its elongated silhouette.
Instantly recognizable as a Jaguar – thanks to the massive front grille – the XJ's figure doesn't overtly build-upon the styling of the XF, as many would have expected. Instead, it is a charge in a more cultured direction. Its lines are bold and deliberate, yet very graceful to the eye and wind (its drag coefficient is just 0.29). Artfully added bright accents, on the front fascia, quarter panel and rear valance, synthesize well with the chrome trim surrounding the cabin windows. Unlike the horizontal lights on the rear of the XF and XK, the rear LED lamps on the XJ boldly spill over the rear decklid. The license plate housing is dropped low – centered between two very prominent oval exhaust pipes.
The typical luxury automaker pens a new luxury sedan with a "standard" wheelbase. At some point during the development process, they draw it out to create a "long wheelbase" variant. Jaguar's team took a different approach as their initial design was the limousine – the standard wheelbase was drafted second. While many other long wheelbase vehicles appear mildly out of proportion, in Jaguar's case the stretch makes an already sexy XJ even more sensuous.
Of course, styling controversy swirls around that awkward painted gloss black C-Pillar (we remember it on the 1995 Dodge Intrepid). While it is nearly invisible on the darker paint shades, the inelegant accent cleaves through the graceful roof arch on the lighter cars. Jaguar says the blackened panel "reduces the visual weight of the pillars and gives the impression of an exotic floating roof." We get it, but we don't like it. The good news is that the XJ looks simply stunning in black– an exterior hue that effectively hides what we consider to be the only glaring misstep in the sedan's exterior cosmetics. We're also guessing that more than a few dealers will do a thrifty trade in offering body-color painted panels.
Matching the elegance of the exterior, the flagship's cabin is all about luxury, glitz and glamour. With the exception of the glass, switchgear and digital displays, leather covers nearly every surface – the Supersport even has a leather headliner. Those articles not swathed in natural hides are laminated in genuine wood, carbon fiber or plated in shiny chrome.
While there are plenty of "Jaguarisms" (the pop-up "JaguarDrive" selector in the middle console was expected), no-nonsense is the recurring theme. The all-leather three-spoke multifunction steering wheel is free of thumb detents and the wheel-mounted paddle shifters are nondescript (and barely visible to passengers). Jaguar made no attempt to hide those retro-cool oversize climate vents – thankfully.
Most obvious to the driver is the 12.3-inch high-definition "Virtual Instruments" gauge cluster. After booting with an image of Jaguar's "Leaper," the 614,400-pixel thin-film-transistor (TFT) screen defaults to a digitalized "analog" speedometer, tachometer, fuel level and water temperature graphic. That's only the beginning, as the multi-function screen also displays navigation, vehicle menus, gear selection, infotainment data and more at the touch of a button. We liked the virtual "torch effect" that highlights only pertinent numerals while ghosting the others and the red "hue" that envelops the cluster (complete with a small checkered flag) when running in sporty "dynamic" mode. The center cluster includes its own eight-inch WVGA color touchscreen that is tasked with managing climate control, audio functions, navigation and more.
One more thing... if the standard 600-watt audio system doesn't have your ears ringing, the 1,200-watt (15-channel) Bowers & Wilkins upgrade with 20 yellow-cone Kevlar speakers sprinkled throughout the cabin will surely send you straight to the otologist – yes, it sounds as good as it reads on paper.
Aluminum. That's that oft-repeated word when detailing the 2011 XJ's chassis and body panels. Jaguar used the lightweight alloy, plus magnesium and composites, to fabricate just about the entire structure (in case the question comes up on Jeopardy: the door and trunk hinges, and side-impact beams, are still steel). Most everything is assembled with aerospace-proven riveting and bonding technology – much like a modern aircraft. The resulting platform is not only reportedly the lightest in its class (saving 300 pounds over a steel equivalent), but the metallurgical properties of aluminum allow it to absorb the energy of impacts better than steel in a crash.
The extensive use of alloy helps kept mass at bay. Curb weight on the standard XJ is just 4,045 pounds, undercutting nearly everything in its segment by a least a few hundred pounds (the Mercedes-Benz S550 is nearly 600 pounds heavier). The new flagship XJ is even lighter than the smaller Jaguar XF – the XJ 5.0 model is lighter than its sibling by 22 pounds while the Supersport weighs 25 pounds less than the XF-R (SWB models, of course).
The suspension underpinnings aren't as radical as the platform supporting them, but they are sophisticated. Up front, Jaguar chose unequal length wishbones (with forged aluminum components to reduced unsprung mass) and coil springs – Jaguar has reverted back to a non-isolated front subframe on the new XJ after testing revealed it enhanced steering response and handling precision without consequences. The rear end features a subframe-mounted multi-link setup, with lightweight cast aluminum links and air springs to level the load. Active damping, originally introduced on the XK and XFR, automatically tailors settings to the road and driving conditions. Oversized disc brakes reside on each corner – the supercharged models are fitted with larger rotors all around and upgraded twin-piston aluminum floating calipers up front. The standard wheels are 19-inch cast alloy, while the forced-induction models have special 20-inch wheels (our favorite are the big-faced "Amirante" 20s, as they reminded us of the unique alloys fitted to Jaguar's XJ220 supercar nearly two decades ago). All models sport 245s up front, and wider 275s on the rear.
Jaguar is offering its new XJ in three trim levels. The standard XJ has a base price of $72,500 and is fitted with the normally-aspirated 5.0-liter engine. More than well equipped, the "entry-level" XJ arrives with appointments such as Xenon headlamps, panoramic moonroof, heated and cooled front seats, heated rear seats, hard drive navigation, front and rear parking aids, a 600-watt audio system and 19-inch wheels. The XJ Supercharged starts at $87,500. With its higher performance supercharged 5.0-liter V8 comes active differential control, adaptive front lighting, active seat belts, four-zone climate control, heated and cooled rear seats, suede-like headliner, a 1200-watt Bowers & Wilkins audio system and 20-inch wheels, among other things. The XJ Supersport, available on special order, starts at $112,000. In addition to the tuned supercharged 5.0-liter V8, the flagship XJ adds automatic cruise control, rear seat entertainment and upscale upholstery and trim throughout the cabin. The long wheelbase option (LWB) adds about five inches of legroom, business trays on the seatbacks, rear vanity mirrors, and privacy/sun blinds on the rear side windows – it gives rear seat occupants more than enough room to comfortably stretch out or cross their legs. At just $3,000 (regardless of the model) it's a steal.
All new XJ models are fitted with Jaguar's familiar 5.0-liter direct-injected V8 (AJ133) under their aluminum bonnet. It's the same jewel shared with the Jaguar XK, Jaguar XF, and a few Land Rover models. It breathes normal atmospheric pressure in the standard XJ model making 385 horsepower and 380 lb-ft of torque. The XJ Supercharged adds a twin-scroll supercharger to develop 470 horsepower and 424 lb-ft of torque. Sporting the same supercharger, but with a few engine management tweaks, the XJ Supersport cranks out 510 horsepower and 461 lb-ft of torque. All engines are mated to a ZF six-speed automatic transmission and gearing is identical on all three models. Combined fuel economy, on the U.S. EPA cycle, ranges from 17 MPG for the Supersport long wheelbase to 19 MPG for the standard XJ short wheelbase.
Jaguar says the standard 385 horsepower model will hit 60 mph in 5.4 seconds – and it feels it. The Supercharged variant does it in 4.9 seconds, while the Supersport needs just 4.7 seconds (those times nearly mirror the XF lineup model-for-model). The Supersport is only a tenth slower than the XKR Coupe. Top speed on all XJ models is electronically limited to 155 mph.
Thanks to unfortunate timing and Xynthia, that devilish winter storm, all roads around Paris were a mess during our time with the new Jaguar. Nevertheless, we strapped ourselves into the quiet cabin – isolated from the rain, wind and cold – and pushed the XJ through the paces.
The front of the cabin is comfortable – intimate, actually – with a very warm and inviting feel that the Germans still cannot seem to duplicate. It only takes a few seconds to get the steering wheel and seat at a comfortable angle (the heated seats will cook you after a few minutes, we actually had to turn them down). The seating position is tall, offering a commanding view over the reasonably low dashboard. Visibility outward – past all of that sumptuous leather and glossy wood – is fine, but you will appreciate the standard back-up camera and sensors when in Reverse. The rear seating area on the standard models is comfortable – think "Economy Plus" if you are an airline passenger – but the LWB model (expected to comprised 67 percent of the U.S. sales) is much, much more accommodating. With the key fob in pocket, and a quick push of the start button, the V8 spins to life.
Jaguar engineers tuned the engine note with fancy intake snorkels that give it a very pleasant growl (um... purr?) under heavy throttle. The standard engine – nearly 400 horses – pulls very strongly. Without question, the supercharged powerplants offered greater satisfaction to the enthusiast in us (foot to the floor, the XJ will lay as much rubber as the child in you commands) but they delivered more power than most people need in a 4,000-pound luxury saloon. Furthermore, those who feel automakers need seven or eight forward gears need to take a spin in the six-speed Jaguar. Shifts are smooth and imperceptible and the gearing is about perfect. Along that note, we noticed that the highly caffeinated XJ Supersport, when encouraged, would spin its rear tires at 70 mph on the wet highways – splendid fun!
We expected the XJ to cruise the highways in a dignified manner. It delivered. The cabin is very quiet at speed and the ride is smooth, comfortable and undisturbed. The XJ handles very obediently for such a large sedan. However, the steering seemed quicker than we would have preferred (especially above 60 mph). We actually fancied the more relaxed turn-in of the LWB model more on the highway as the additional five inches between the wheels seemed to buffer the initial steering response when the steering wheel was moved off from center. Most owners would never know the difference, really.
The 2011 Jaguar XJ faces strong competition as it rests on the same horizontal plane as the all-new Audi A8, BMW 7 Series, Mercedes-Benz S-Class and Lexus LS460. Jaguar is also aware that its new XJ will be cross-shopped against the Maserati Quattroporte, Porsche Panamera, Mercedes-Benz CLS-Class, Bentley Continental GT/Flying Spur and the Aston Martin Rapide – don't think those last few are such a stretch for this greatly improved cat.
Yes, the Jaguar has an impressive horsepower-to-weight ratio and commendable handling, but even in its most predatory variant – the standard-wheelbase Supersport – the XJ may never be hawkish enough to triumph in a dogfight against this segment's (current) handling benchmark, the Porsche Panamera. The Jaguar maneuvers very well for a street car, but the Porsche is unquestionably a better sports car. The XJ is a luxury car that handles well and is very fun to drive, not an athlete with a dollop of luxury thrown on as icing.
At the opposite extreme is the Lexus. Loaded with the latest technology, the sole Japanese contender promises isolation and convenience. Jaguar engineers scoff at fully automated parking systems and sensors that alert you when you have fallen asleep behind the wheel. The Jaguar XJ seems unfazed by such wizardry and appears to not even consider trying to beat Lexus at its particular game.
More specifically, the new XJ is a solid alternative in a concentrated segment of formidable Germans and one nearly faultless Asian. This completely redesigned sedan at last delivers the nobleness of spirit and prestige of the Jaguar marque that had gone missing in many of its predecessors. Jaguar has once again introduced a traditionally British full-size four-door saloon that exudes eye-catching styling, exquisite luxury and traditional wealth. Let us just say in our most complimentary tone, the new Jaguar is decidedly British; a gentleman in its class.
Photos by Michael Harley / Copyright ©2010 Weblogs, Inc.
There's a sect of motoring nihilists out there who would have us all believe there isn't a single thing in the automotive universe that hasn't been done before. It's the "Simpsons did it" meme on methamphetamines, though instead of a yellow animated family, our cast is populated by the likes of Plymouth, Cord, Studebaker, Hudson and any number of other equally innovative yet forgotten brands. Think adaptive headlights are a trick piece of tech? Think again – Willys-Knight employed a third directional headlight as early as 1928 on its 70A, and Citroën made use of similar methodology on cars like the DS and SM way back when.
Few segments seem to have accepted this grim reality quite like the luxury sedan world. Automakers that once strove to create unique products now seem to be operating from the same design template. Line up the profiles of the BMW 7 Series, Audi A8 and the Mercedes-Benz S-Class, and the vast majority of the car-buying public would have no idea which car was which. Each vehicle is attractive in its own right, but we wouldn't accuse any of them possessing the same kind of gravitas as, say, a '38 Mercedes-Benz 770.
Which is one of the big reasons we're smitten with the 2011 Jaguar XJL. Whereas the only way you're going to stop traffic with a 7 Series is to put the drivers around you to sleep, the newest interpretation of the stately Jaguar flagship is the kind of beauty that sends jaws clattering across the concrete.
Photos copyright ©2010 Zach Bowman / AOL
The design evolution of the XJ line has been downright glacial since the car first debuted in 1968. With its quad headlights, squared but forward-leaning grille and well-shaped tail, the company's designers realized they penned one of the world's most iconic shapes and left it at that. For nearly 40 years, the car remained always within arm's reach of the original look – swapping headlights here, adding a few more curves there, but never straying too far from what made the XJ, well, an XJ.
So when Jaguar announced it had something special planned for 2011, most of us auto journo types expected a revised engine and maybe a few tweaks to the car's exterior, or perhaps a scaled-up XF. What we got instead was something much more special – a clean-slate redesign of one of the world's most easily identifiable sedans.
Jaguar started by penning the long-legged XJL first, then subtracted nearly five inches out of the wheelbase to create the standard XJ. That helps to explain why the larger of the two sedans seems so proportional compared to its competition. Typically, designers put pen to paper on the short-wheelbase version before stretching the design for limousine products, but with the XJL you're rewarded with what the designers intended from the get go.
That includes a long, arching roofline that's can't be described as anything but beautiful. As drivers and not designers, we tend to avoid heaping praise on a vehicle's sheetmetal, but if the look of the XJL doesn't stir something primal in the pit of your stomach, you might want to check your pulse. Up front, the XJL lifts a few design elements from its smaller sibling, the XF, but mixes in an extra helping of aggression for good measure. With a set of glowering headlamps dominated by projection lenses and accented by LED daytime running lights and a bullish, upright grille, the face of this car fills rearview mirrors like a bouncer fills a doorway.
We were notoriously displeased with the blacked-out C-pillars on the XJL during our First Drive, but after a week with the car, we have to say they don't really confront us with the same vehemence. We're guessing that's partly due to the fact that we have a hard time pulling our retinas off of those sculpted taillights and similarly curvaceous rump. We've heard all of the noise saying that the look was swiped from Bentley or the French, but in the flesh, the XJL makes those tilted lamps its own.
Inside, the 2011 XJL is fitted with the kind of interior that can make you resent your proletariat upbringing. Every surface is wrapped in supple leather, stitched with the kind of loving care that only the English can supply. Surprisingly enough, the front seats are built with firm, supportive bolsters that kept us from sliding around the hide-lined cabin like dead fish – something unexpected in a vehicle of this size. The XJL wears a dash that's a vast expanse of double-stitched cow skin dominated by two large, aeronautical-looking air vents. Those vents boast chrome accents that double as airflow shut off knobs – the kind of mechanical detail that makes us wish every manufacturer had a budget for cleverness.
Rear passengers enjoy the kind of leg room that sufferers of economy class can only dream about. As a friend pointed out, the average owner of an XJL likely spends very little time behind the wheel. He's probably right. But while the front seats are no bad place to spend time thanks to their massage, heating and cooling surfaces, it's the back bench that offers up a new class of travel. With enough space to comfortably orient your legs any way that behooves you and seats that are more comfortable than a fair portion of the nation's furniture, we might have to look into finding a driver for ourselves.
That feeling is amplified when trying to master the mysterious touchscreen on the 2011 XJL. We've never found ourselves pining for the simple torture of the BMW iDrive until now. Keying in locations, radio stations or climate control settings requires the kind of patience that only comes from having multiple financial institutions named after your forebearers. After about five minutes of frustrated screen mashing, we eventually retired to the back seat, where we curled up and cried ourselves to sleep.
Fine, it's not quite that bad, but considering the MSRP on this big kitty, we'd like to see tech that's at least a little quicker on the draw.
Fortunately, the XJL has a comforting balm to soothe all aneurysms derived from matching wits with the navigation system – the drivetrain. Our particular car was fitted with the base 5.0-liter V8 engine, complete with 385 horsepower and 380 pound-feet of torque. Paired with a six-speed automatic gearbox, the engine has no problem generating speed for this mammoth four-door. Despite being longer than the Brooklyn bridge (206.6 inches, stem to stern) and wider than the Hudson (74.6 inches, hip to hip), the 2011 Jaguar XJL can hustle to 60 mph in a scant 5.4 seconds according to the company's figures. Judging by the seat of our Dockers, we'd say the sedan is probably quicker, if just by a few fractions of a second.
How is it possible to have a car of this size scoot to 60 in such short order? For starters, the XJL weighs nothing, or at least as close to nothing as a sedan of these dimensions can weigh. Despite its proportions, the four-door hits the bathroom scale at a mere 4,131 pounds. Just for comparison's sake, that's 245 pounds lighter than the considerably smaller BMW 550i.
Jaguar made our holiday card list for that reason alone.
Not surprisingly, the engineers managed to pull off the ultimate Jenny Craig by building as many of the XJL's components as possible out of aluminum or magnesium alloy. In fact, you can name the sedan's steel chassis and body components on one hand even if you'd lost two digits. The company says that of all the body and chassis structure, just the door hinges, trunk hinges and side impact beams are steel.
That philosophy was carried over into the suspension as well. The 2011 XJL wears forged aluminum unequal-length wishbones up front to keep unsprung weight to a minimum. Likewise, the front brake calipers are made of the same material to keep the pounds off, and as a result, you're rewarded with a driving experience that feels lighter than its girth would suggest.
While the rest of the world may know that a large car doesn't have to handle like a half-melted marshmallow, here in the States, big means just one thing – float like a butterfly and leave the stinging for your employees to handle. But the 2011 XJL simply doesn't ascribe to that philosophy. Even safely away from the XJ's Dynamic Mode, turn-in is surprisingly sharp for a vehicle this long. Really start sawing on the wheel, and you'll quickly be introduced to the expected understeer, but this thing is a luxury chauffer-mobile, not a track-bred heathen. It's easy to forget that you could be lugging around a dignitary, their spouse and all of the imperial china while leaning on that big eight-cylinder engine and aiming for an apex.
Thanks to the miraculously low curb weight of the 2011 XJL, the brakes have no problem scrubbing off speed in a hurry. The stoppers aren't oversized, just perfectly matched to the capabilities of the engine and chassis. We typically expect to be yanking on the reigns for a country mile before something of this size comes to a stop, but the big Jaguar simply sheds its speed without bellyaching.
Click the XJL into Dynamic Mode and you're rewarded with slightly sharper throttle response and a tendency for the transmission to hold its gear well into the rev band. It's fun, sure, but we're thinking that the trick would be more at home on the supercharged version of the sedan. We tended to just leave Dynamic Mode off and enjoy the XJL's comfortable cruising ability. Point the kitty's nose toward the horizon and this four-door is more than happy to soak up mile after mile of interstate with a suspension that's just this side of soft.
Jaguar has priced the naturally aspirated XJL starting at $78,650, though our tester was optioned up to $85,700 with the addition of a mind-melting Bowers-Wilkins sound system as well as a few other technological and creature comfort wonders. From down here in the realm of the auto-journo salary, that's a mountain of dollar bills, but if we were shopping amongst the pillars of limousine luxury out there, the car's MSRP is actually more than reasonable. For equal money we could just as easily slip into a 7 Series or the like, but why bother?
In a world dominated by variations on the same theme, the 2011 XJL is as close to shrugging off the bland, conservative lines of the luxury sedan as you're apt to find. With its lightweight body, capable 5.0-liter V8 and an interior that will swaddle you in all of the niceties that money can buy, this is a car that satisfies all of the prerequisites for a high-dollar automobile while still striking its own chord. Is it a brand-new recipe for luxury driving? No, not entirely, but it's different enough to woo us without breaking a sweat.
Eat that, nihilists.
Photos copyright ©2010 Zach Bowman / AOL
Second Opinion: 2011 Jaguar XJL
by Chris Paukert
Bowman has it right – the new Jaguar XJL is a deliciously hedonistic and competent luxury craft, and it has comfortably nabbed the top spot in the premium sedan market for me (though I admittedly have yet to sample the new Audi A8).
For perhaps the first time ever, it's perfectly reasonable to view the Jaguar XJ as not just an excellent car, but an excellent value as well. Standard equipment levels are beyond generous – in fact, with items like a dual-pane moonroof, lane-departure warning, navigation, quad-zone climate control and power sunshades as standard-fit on the $79,500 XJL, the Germans look like they're plying base-level taxi cabs in comparison.
Yes, Jaguar continues to need to update its infotainment system with faster processor speeds, as just about everything from accessing a satellite radio station to inputing an address is a frustratingly deliberate exercise, but the way Jaguar has deftly incorporated a raft of high-tech features into a cabin that delivers its traditional wood-and-leather values is nothing short of graceful. In fact, it's my leading candidate for interior of the year, with a richness and design that rivals its British brethren that carry MSRPs upwards of double (or triple) this Jag.
To Coventry's credit, it hasn't simply just scaled-up the XF's (successful) interior, it's given the XJ a look all its own, with a full-perimeter band of veneer that looks sensational, bullseye vents that sit proud of the center stack like artful little turbines, and a gorgeously crisp TFT display for the gauge binnacle that is easy-to-read in any light.
Any gripes? Aside from the slow-access infotainment, not much. I might recommend plumping for wheels larger than the standard-pattern 19-inch alloys – especially on the long-wheelbase model as they tend to look a bit undersized. I still find the blacked-out rear pillar to be gimmicky, but I'd order my XJ in Ultimate Black Metallic, book an appointment with my local dealer's paint booth or forget about it altogether.
Either way, even in its heaviest and least-powerful form, the XJ is an athletic and sparklingly luxurious driver, and it's more than fairly priced. Cool Britannia is back.
New Car Test Drive
All-new flagship returns to sporting luxury heritage.
From a company steeped in tradition the 2011 Jaguar XJ line marks the biggest departure in Jaguar's flagship luxury sedan in half a century, returning to its legacy of sporting, stylish cars. The 2011 XJ is a new car from top to bottom, sharing nothing more with its predecessor than the name, an occasional piece of hardware, or a seatbelt buckle.
Sleek in profile, the XJ abandons the box-on-box shape but keeps the delicate roof pillars of the previous century in favor of a single flowing line from windshield to tail lamps without the drawbacks of many of the so-called four-door coupes. The Jaguar XJ is longer than a BMW 7 Series or Mercedes S-Class. The new Jaguar is sexy and won't be mistaken for anything else.
Leather and wood feature prominently in the saloon, now an enveloping shape filled with conveniences in a blending of Acura-esque low-cowl and technology, Italian shapes, and English materials. You may think English materials mean only flat wood planks, leather seats and wool carpet, yet the English make a majority of the world's racing cars so they know advanced materials and processes as well.
The XJ is made of a rigid aluminum structure that keeps weight to a minimum. This weight advantage of roughly 10 percent over the competition pays dividends in economy, acceleration, handling precision, ride comfort, and longevity with no detriment to strength or added cost.
Jaguar's newest engine is a 5.0-liter V8, with 385 horsepower in standard versions and 470-510 hp in supercharged cars. They've been powering Range Rovers for nearly a year and, with almost a ton less weight to haul around, give the XJ more than satisfactory performance. Propulsion is always smooth and satisfying, the supercharged models are merely faster than the normally aspirated version. Supercharged come with 20-inch wheels, optional on other models, and a Supercharged badge added to the front fender trim.
Each of three Jaguar XJ models is available as a standard or long-wheelbase car. The long-wheelbase XJL models are nearly 5 inches longer in overall length and have an additional five inches of additional leg room in the rear seats, matching cars that appear substantially larger. XJL models have longer rear side doors and glass, and an L badge on the trunk.
The Jaguar XJ competes with the Audi A8, BMW 7 Series, Mercedes-Benz S-Class, Lexus LS, Maserati Quattroporte, Aston Martin Rapide, and Porsche Panamera.
The 2011 Jaguar XJ is offered in six models: XJ, XJ Supercharged, XJ Supersport, XJL, XJL Supercharged, XJL Supersport. A 385-hp 5.0-liter V8 powers the XJ; the Supercharged version gets a 470-hp version of the same engine, and the Supersport a 510-hp version. All use a six-speed automatic transmission and rear-wheel drive.
Standard features include leather upholstery and wood trim in at least four choices of each (or carbon fiber trim), canvas headliner, dual-zone climate control, power heated and ventilated front seats with memory, heated rear seats, electric tilt/telescopic and heated steering wheel with fingertip controls and shift paddles, panorama moonroof, touch-screen voice-recognition navigation, adaptive suspension dampers, blind-spot monitoring, bi-xenon headlamps, keyless entry/start, DVD/Sirius/HD radio, rear side window shades, power trunklid, LED lighting inside and out, security system, and a no-touch, heat-sensitive glovebox release.
The Jaguar XJ ($71,650) may be equipped with the Luxury Package ($4000), consisting of 20-way power front seats with massage, ventilated rear seats, four-zone climate control, electric rear window shade, suede cloth headliner and piped floor mats and leather upholstery. The long-wheelbase XJL ($78,650) includes the Luxury Package and offers rear seat business trays on the front seatbacks, six leather shades with up to three contrast-stitch and piping colors.
Jaguar XJ Supercharged ($86,650) and XJL Supercharged ($89,650) get larger brakes and an active rear differential in addition to the more power powerful engine, more upholstery color combinations, driver assist package with adaptive front lighting, cornering lamps, headlamp washers, intelligent high beam, active front seatbelts, and a Bowers & Wilkins audio system.
Jaguar XJ Supersport ($109,150) and XJL Supersport ($112,150), available by special order only, receive a 510-hp engine and the mechanical updates of the Supercharged model. They also include some unique cabin colors for the semi aniline leather upholstery and leather headliner, five unique wood trims including two with inlays and a piano black choice, and illuminated stainless steel door sills.
Options vary by model but all the features available on XJL Supersport may be added to the base XJ. Most models offer a trunk badge delete, ashtray/cigar lighter, and wood-and-leather steering wheel at no cost.
Safety features on all models include six airbags, electronic stability control, traction control, bind-spot monitors, tire-pressure monitors, and perimeter alarm. Active front seatbelts and active cruise control are optional.
The Jaguar XJ expands the work done with the mid-sized XF by bringing a more sporting, sleeker look to Jaguar's flagship that just oozes style. Central to this are lots of glass and no building-size pillars for a roofline that seamlessly blends into the trunk.
At more than 200 inches long the XJ is not a small car but it disguises its size well, much like the smallest Learjet more than three times the length of an XJL, and the XJ doesn't look nearly as imposing as a BMW 7 Series or Audi A8. The Lexus LS looks rather plain next to the Jaguar.
Surprisingly, the XJ design works as well on the standard wheelbase as it does on the long-wheelbase XJL. A larger rear door and side glass are the only way to differentiate them.
Pulling the lower door sheetmetal inward toward the rear wheel enhances the hips covering the rear tires. The only design element that incites any controversy is the black polycarbonate panel between the rear doors and rear window, a pillar normally body-colored on other cars. From dead astern it looks merely a wider rear window, but from any other angle it tends to look better on cars with dark paint or deeply tinted rear windows.
Exterior ornamentation is kept to a minimum with the requisite mesh chrome grilles and chrome spats in the outer lower nostrils, a badge behind the front wheel which includes supercharged if it applies, bright window trim, the trunk badge, Jag's leaper in the middle, chrome strip across the rear bumper and dual quadrangle tailpipes. Apart from larger standard wheels and the front fender badge there is no trim distinction between XJ and XJL or standard or supercharged cars.
With 152 light emitting diodes outside, the lighting elements take up where chrome leaves off. Front light housings carry two large and two small circular lights, with a strip of LED running lights below. The tail lamps are arranged as three vertical columns to mimic a cat's claws, and cleverly concealed in plain sight at the top of the rear light housing is a clear bump, like an animal's eye, that hides five red LEDs for side marker light duty to meet regulations without spoiling the flowing body lines.
Flagship is an easy term to use in the 2011 XJ, a car filled with fine leather and wood but in an environment more Scandinavian chic than English club traditional. It is stylish, luxurious and sporty all together, as you might say of the cockpit of a Sunseeker or Riva sports cruiser. Generous vents rise from dash center like torpedo tubes or recent Ferrari taillights, and a horizontal, low-cowl dashboard adds to the feeling of spaciousness.
Only the least expensive XJ is limited to regular leather, mere heated and cooled front seats, and dual-zone climate control. Long-wheelbase and supercharged models add piped leather upholstery and comparably trimmed floor mats, massage front seats with 20-way adjustment and four-zone climate control. The five upholstery choices include contrasting cabin trim, stitching and piping; the Ivory alone can be paired with four colors.
A hand-wide vertical band of wood trim or carbon fiber runs near the top of the doors to the base of the windshield like a gunwale on the sports cruiser, framed by chrome on the doors so it looks part of the structure and joined at the center of the dash by a trim plate. The center console has considerable chrome to various covers which don't cause reflection glare but do show fingerprints. Most XJ have suede headliners. Supersport models get a unique leather color, four unique woods or piano black trim and a leather headliner. Perhaps not quite a Bentley Mulsanne or Rolls Royce Ghost, but at one-third the price no one is likely to find the XJ interior less than impressive.
With all the adjustments virtually anyone can get comfortable in front though you'll need hours to verify you have the right spot and don't need massage just yet. Seat contouring seems appropriate to the car's luxury-at-speed mission, and the driver's seat adjustable bolstering comes in handy exploring less-straight roads.
Rear seats are equally comfortable and heated. XJL models add more than five inches to rear accommodation for more than 44 inches of rear legroom total, and they are downright spacious. Given the $3000 premium and less than 100 pounds added we can't see buying a short one. XJL models add business trays to the front seatbacks which work best with a slight recline to the front, while reading lights, glass overhead, and venting maximize comfort. We might be even more comfortable with a wee more recline angle and a wedge-type footrest given the expansive nature of the rear seat.
A heated power tilt/telescope steering wheel linked to driver memory is standard across the board; a wood-and-leather wheel is a no-charge option with some cabin wood choices. The three-spoke wheel has redundant controls at 9 and 3 o'clock, less-commonly used thumb controls below, and shift buttons (right upshift, left downshift) behind but the real news is what you see through the wheel.
The instrument panel is a 12.3-inch screen with renditions of analog gauges on it. The numerals near the gauge needles illuminate brighter than the remainder, drawing your eye for quick recognition and since it's a screen any number of messages, maps, gear selected and other information can appear on it. We noted the tachometer indication doesn't move as quickly as the engine revs.
Above the pop-up, rotary dial shifter are most-oft used audio and climate controls, the remainder of those, and navigation operation are run through the 8-inch touch-screen. The options are near limitless and the basics we managed, though we did have to consult the manual on a few items and could do just as well with cool air, no screen and more buttons. Naturally iPod and similar-device inputs are included, and the hard drive has enough space to rip 10 CDs uncompressed, a good thing as the available Bowers & Wilkins 20-speaker, 1.2-kilowatt sound system will clearly reproduce any fault in your source material.
Outward visibility is very good given the narrow pillars, expanses of glass and bi-Xenon headlamps, but should you miss something standard blind-spot warning will alert you. Close-in aids include parking sensors and a predictive rear camera so you can put this big cat into a spot only inches bigger.
Trunk space is about average for the class and impeccably finished down to the aluminum runners in the floor. Unlike some competitors with run-flat tires the Jaguar carries a spare under the floor (deleting the spare adds 3 cubic feet). The power trunk lid can be programmed for opening height lest you or your garage overhead is petite.
The Jaguar XJ is designed to be a performance luxury sedan; the words are nearly synonymous in European markets. It aims to simultaneously appease and coddle the luxury buyer and provide excellent performance for the more enthusiastic driver.
The 385-hp V8 offers output similar to the competitors, but the XJ weighs 300-400 pounds less than its competitors, a benefit of its aluminum structure and rear-wheel drive layout. Less weight benefits acceleration, fuel economy, and cost because a seven- or eight-speed transmission isn't needed. After spending time with it, we deem the standard 385-hp V8 more than adequate for any occasion on any North American road.
But you can go faster. The Supercharged model adds 85 horsepower and 40 foot-pounds of torque and shaves one second off the 0-60 mph benchmark (to less than 5 seconds). Unlike many supercharged cars it doesn't add a lot of low-end torque so you seldom feel much difference unless you've booted the gas pedal. The special-order Supersport adds another 40 horsepower and 40 foot-pounds of torque.
We found all three V8s smooth as a bottler's private label, quiet at cruise or loping around town, and bring a welcome throated purr under heavier throttle. The supercharger is absent any of the characteristic whine and can't be heard even with the stereo off and any of the dual-pane windows down.
The XJ uses fully independent suspension adapted but not copied from the XF with steel springs in front for precision and air springs in back for the best and level ride among varying loads. Ride quality and bump absorption is very good as even on 20-inch wheels pock-marked roads and expansion joints didn't come jarring through. Full air-suspended cars like the S-Class have a slight edge in ultimate ride cushiness but haven't the steering precision of the Jag, while others have multiple electronic chassis controls to help deal with the weight but impart a sense of artificiality to the drive.
The XJ doesn't have such artificiality. Steering is light but firms up, as does the suspension damping, with the touch of a button. It may not post the ultimate handling numbers of an Aston Rapide or Maserati Quattroporte or Porsche Panamera, but the handling is balanced, the ride quality competitive, the look clearly better in one case, and the cost at least $20,000 less. Decades ago Jaguar developed a reputation for building low-slung sedans that made a marriage of handling and comfort few could match, and the XJ suggests they've re-acquainted themselves.
Big brakes, bigger on supercharged cars, are up to any North American roadway and backed up by the full suite of electronic controls. Although you can switch off the stability control we never found the need while testing the limits because the system is not intrusive at all.
A standard-wheelbase XJ Supersport will be the quickest model and, depending on tires fitted, should be the best-handling as well. The most pampering ride comes from a long-wheelbase non-supercharged XJL with 19-inch wheels. Cars this long aren't meant to be canyon carvers or autocross warriors, where the XJ managed just fine thank you, so think of the Supersport as the XJ to have if you think you want to drive a racetrack. If you think you want to get to a racetrack comfortably in minimum time, any XJ will do the job.
The 2011 Jaguar XJ does everything you expect in a luxury sedan, with room, amenities, quiet and thrust, with a sporty side always in the background that offers more driver interaction but one that never changes the car's personality. Eye-catching lines and serene cabins that marry contemporary design with both traditional and modern materials convey a sense of style that more antiseptic modern conveyances can only wish for…and that the XJ has the performance to back up.
NewCarTestDrive.com correspondent G.R. Whale filed this report after his test drive of the Jaguar XJ models near Malibu, California.
Jaguar XJ ($71,650), XJL ($78,650); XJ Supercharged ($86,650), XJL Supercharged ($89,650); XJ Supersport ($109,150), XJL Supersport ($112,150).
Castle Bromwich, England.
Options As Tested
Driver Assist Package ($1000); Bowers & Wilkins audio ($2200); 20-inch Kasuga wheels ($3000).
Jaguar XJL ($78,650).
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