New & Used Jaguar XJ: In Depth
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The Jaguar XJ is a large four-door sedan that was redesigned in 2011 and provided with new powertrain options for 2013. It competes with the BMW 7-Series, Mercedes S-Class, and the Audi A8.
For more information, including pricing with specifications, see our full review of the 2014 Jaguar XJ.
For the 2013 model year the XJ also adds two features it's long lacked--features needed to broaden its appeal to buyers in cold climates and to those with slightly tighter budgets.
But first, a little history. Since the late 1960s, there have been four generations of the Jaguar XJ. Over time they have ranged from avant garde, to stuffy traditional, back to avant garde with the XJ just released in the 2011 model year.
The first generation was a long-lived model, running from 1968 to 1986. Six- and twelve-cylinder models, and a distinct Daimler version were made, as well as a two-door coupe. It was updated twice to poor effect, in 1973, and again in 1979. The design had a long shelf life, despite poorly executed additions, but those weren't the XJ's biggest problems. Despite its lovely ride and compact size, this XJ's meager interior space and electrical problems made them temperamental at best--which makes them a handful as used cars.
With the second generation, developed under the code name XJ40, Jaguar tried to correct the flaws while preserving the XJ's leaner shape, lower stance and swinging image. Square headlamps didn't help, but this XJ soldiered on through 1994, with V-12 and long-wheelbase versions emerging toward the end of its life.
In 1989 Jaguar had been acquired by the Ford Motor Company, and Ford's influence showed up in a revised version of the second-generation XJ in 1994. The XJ reverted to a circular-headlamp theme, returning a bit of heritage to its style. More important were dramatic changes to the manufacturing process at Jaguar HQ; a noticeable improvement in quality came with the new version, and quality continued to improve under Ford ownership. Jaguar also added its first supercharged car, the XJ6R, in this time frame. In a final touch-up before its dramatic reinvention in 2004, Jaguar retouched the XJ in 1997, adding its first V-8 engine and a five-speed automatic to supercharged versions, as well as a new interior.
The third-generation Jaguar XJ emerged in the 2004 model year, completely reworked with new aluminum construction techniques--bonded and riveted like airplane fuselages--that transformed the car's structural quality. Strangely, Jaguar gave the 2004-2010 XJ an even more traditional look than the prior edition, and it virtually fell off the radar with luxury-car buyers faced with avant garde new versions of the BMW 7-Series and the like. Still, the XJ's performance never was better, with V-8 and supercharged V-8 engines mated with one of the first six-speed automatics ever built. Reliability was so improved, Jaguar leaped to the top of quality ratings from J.D. Power; rear-seat room was so improved, adults found ample space in back. In all, the switch to aluminum gave the Jaguar some of the lightness it desperately needed to distinguish itself.
With the fundamentals in place, Jaguar set out on a radical path for the fourth-generation 2011 XJ. Ditching the formal look, the newest four-door looks utterly modern, from its rakish front end to the sexy kicked-up tail. The cabin wears lots of gloss piano-black trim, leather, wood and chrome--and though it sacrifices some space for the roofline, it's still a usefully roomy sedan. Handling and steering are superb, deft, light to the touch. And with a choice of a 385-horsepower V-8 or a 510-hp supercharged V-8, straight-line performance is thrilling.
Jaguar has added special editions of the current XJ, such as the Portfolio. But for the 2013 model year, it gets two important new mechanical features that Jaguar hopes will expand its sales possibilities--all-wheel drive and a supercharged 3.0-liter V-6 engine. The V-6 offers 340 horsepower and up to 28 miles per gallon highway fuel economy.
Also entering the U.S. XJ lineup for 2013 is the limited-edition, long-wheelbase XJL Ultimate, priced from $155,875. Only 30 examples will be imported into the United States, and Jaguar is calling this model a “high-performance bespoke limousine.” A high-performance model is available for the 2014 model year, the Jaguar XJR. Jaguar has yet to announce details on the rest of the 2014 XJ range.
There's also an indication that a plug-in hybrid XJ is in the pipeline, though it hasn't been confirmed for production.