- Glam new look
- Muscular drivetrains
- More LCDs than Best Buy
- Relatively light, and feels like it
- Standout roofline has sore-thumb D-pillar
- Rear headroom not so regal
- Some trim is glitzy, not luxurious
Cutting its ties with its illustrious and not so charmed past, the 2012 Jaguar XJ now rocks a swinging style that really suits its dynamic handling.
Jaguar's come a long way from its baroque recent past. Starting with the 2007 XJ and proceeding with the 2009 XF, its cars transformed from museum pieces into striking works of art. The big XJ sedan underwent the change in life in 2011, and this year it's back in all its glory.
The formerly frumpy XJ is now all about chic, and it's clear the do-or-die ethos inside Jaguar was the only thing that could have brought us the stunning, sexy XJ. Part Aston and part XF, the biggest Jaguar is now its boldest offering, with a prominent mesh grille, and a roofline that looks as strong and delicate as an arched bridge. Some of the details win, and some elude us: the blacked-out rear roof pillar should be brushed aluminum, which is what the XJ is made of. And the rear end is so elemental, it's almost understyled, with long, thin taillamps draped down the decklid in a fussy, arty way. Inside, the XJ's Hollywood all the way, with bubbly air vents, a pop-up transmission controller and wide panels of wood trim on concave door panels. It distills lots of current Jaguar themes, but sometimes the materials don't hold up as well to the touch as they do to the eyes.
With a six-speed automatic delivering power from a V-8 engine, with or without supercharging, the rear-drive XJ has a lightness and a dynamic edge compared to its rivals, mostly stemming from the actual light weight of its aluminum architecture. We're entertained as hell by its demeanor, even if it's the base 385-horsepower V-8 in the XJ and XJL. Throw on the supercharger, and let the good times whine to 470 hp or even 510 hp in the Supersport, and we're all in. The base car cuts down 0-60 mph runs in 5.4 seconds; with the supercharged 470-hp engine, it's down to 4.9 seconds. The Supersport nails them flat at 4.7 seconds. All versions are limited to a top speed of 155 mph, but new Sport and Speed packs with new aero tweaks are allowed to venture up to 174 mph, where you'll find unlimited Audis and BMWs and Benzes, not coincidentally.
That aluminum structure builds in a deft handling edge that's purer than in some other luxury cars. The XJ lacks some of the endless electronic modulations that bedevil some German sedans, though there are sport buttons for both the electronic shocks and the engine/transmission/steering combination. The Brit's better for it, as the XJ has more predictable reflexes, without the wild handling tangents of its competition.Big ventilated disc brakes with anti-lock, brake drying and good pedal feel match the XJ's crisp new feel, and Z-rated tires of up to 20 inches stick tenaciously. The long-storied ride isolation of Jaguar is history, replaced by an athletic, taut feel.
Even the XJ's seats play a role in that feel, and so does the daring roofline. Together, the physical closeness of the XJ's interior makes it feel more sporting. The seats are firmer and flatter, with more adjustments and heating and ventilation, but there's less head and leg room in front and, especially, in back. It's tight at the knees on either side of the front console, but leg room is lavish, especially on long-wheelbase cars. The sunroof slims down headroom in front, and in back, the XJ really isn't comfortable for adults six feet tall or more. Trunk space is the largest in the class, but smaller than the bin in the Ford Taurus.Neither the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) nor the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) has crash-tested the new sedan. The new car also sports six airbags, anti-lock brakes, traction and stability control, as before. There's a blind-spot alert system built into each XJ, and adaptive cruise control is option. A rearview camera is standard.
The 2012 Jaguar XJ comes in four versions: base 385-hp trim, in either short- or long-wheelbase bodies; with a supercharger, 470 hp, and a long wheelbase; and as an XJ Supersport, with 510 horsepower and a $3000 surcharge if you want to supersize into the long-wheelbase version. All cars come with a panoramic sunroof; an AM/FM/CD/DVD/MP3/HD/Sirius/30GB hard drive audio system; USB connectivity and Bluetooth stereo audio; a navigation system with voice control; and automatic climate control. The XJL versions add a four-zone climate control; all cars get ventilated front and heated rear seats, while massaging front seats and ventilated rear seats are standard or available on all versions. We'd demand the thrillingly clear 1200-watt Bowers & Wilkins audiophile system, but wonder if its bass is enough for today's listeners. Best of all the features--and standard--is Jaguar's service plan, which pays for everything except gas and tires for the first five years or 50,000 miles of use.
2012 Jaguar XJ
Minus a wrong turn or two, the Jaguar XJ's styling moves smartly in the right direction.
If you're truly a fan of dowdy lines and frumpy cabins, the new Jaguar XJ must seem like an affront, compared to the last-generation car. The previous XJ had some of the most advanced technology in the world under its skin, but the skin itself seemed dated the day it launched.
With the 2011 redesign, the Jaguar XJ completely breaks with the recent past, and reclaims its heritage as an avant-garde piece of style. Part Jaguar XF, part Aston Rapide, it sculpts and tapers its way into an intriguing look that's about 99 percent flawless. The roofline is low, and sleek. Fenders swell around the wheels, turning them into visual punctuation. An embossed Jaguar grille pushes the brand in your face a little more emphatically, and LEDs on the rear end make the unaware enlightened that this is something new, and very distinctive.
Three details keep us coming back to dissect the XJ's styling. The massive glass sunroof drenches the cabin in sunlight, playing up its square feet of wood and chrome. The taillamps look jarring on the under-detailed rear end at first, but after time they lend the XJ a sort of French sensibility that pitches cachet above cliche. Lastly, there's the blacked-out roof pillar in back. If it were up to us, we'd call out the XJ's aluminum body and polish off the paint to expose the bare aluminum, but Jaguar prefers a smoky eye to a glamorous one, we guess.The XJ's new interior looks modern and informed of the latest design trends, but here, more of the details leave us unimpressed. The bubbled-up air vents, the pop-up transmission controller and wide bands of wood on the doors and dash neatly distill the themes of the other Jaguar cars, with notable side adventures. A leather headliner, upgraded leather seats and laser-inlaid wood trim and new custom trim options bring nouveau opulence to the game. In all it's a decadent place to sit--but the liberal use of piano-black plastic and metallic trim is one of those taste borderlines that might have been tripped over. The stuff's a fingerprint magnet, for sure. Then again, so's an Apple iPad.
While we're picking nits, the XJ's dash clearly saved time by keeping the former car's structure. We'll admire the efficiency and maybe even swallow the styling line about the big band of wood on the dash echoing the lines of a luxury speedboat, but we're just as inclined to see a lot of Nissan Maxima in the way it's carved out a lot of the old dash's visual heft.
You should also be a technophile if you plan on savoring the XJ's electronic platter of delights. The gauges and secondary controls all but abandon real dials for a large high-definition LCD screen that displays all the usual functions, while also changing colors subtly to indicate performance driving modes with a soft red glow. There's also an LCD touchscreen that interfaces driver and climate, audio and navigation functions without using buttons. It's all very Starship: Enterprise, not at all Jefferson Starship in the way the old XJ might have handled the same cues. (Still you have to know, as they say on Delta Air Lines, that it's a touchscreen, not a punch-screen.)
2012 Jaguar XJ
The Jaguar XJ's quick responses and swift acceleration stand out in its class.
Jaguar uses aluminum to great advantage in the 2012 XJ. Mechanically it's not quite as advanced as some of its competition, but its relatively light, stiff body keeps curb weight down, which does dramatic things for acceleration and handling.
The XJ's aluminum body is glued and riveted together in pieces, the way airplanes are made. In all, an XJ weighs about 4,300 pounds, while other competitors can weigh hundreds of pounds more. But the body isn't the only place where aluminum makes itself known--it's also a big part of the XJ's drivetrain.
The XJ's aluminum-alloy engines are all derived from a single 5.0-liter V-8 configuration, one shared with the XF sedan and XK coupe. The standard version offered in the XJ and XJL sedan puts out 385 horsepower, and it's teamed to a six-speed automatic. With supercharging, the same engine makes either 470 hp or 510 hp, depending on the buyer's wallet size. We've been amazed how American this engine can sound: its vintage V-8 noises aren't at all quiet or syrupy-smooth, and the classic eight-cylinder rumble injects a note of seriousness into any stoplight challenge. The 385-hp drivetrain can toss off 0-60 mph runs in 5.4 seconds; the supercharged 470-hp engine is capable of a 4.9-second run; the Supersport, Jaguar says, will hit 60 mph in 4.7 seconds. The XJ is limited to a top speed of 155 mph unless you specify one of the new Speed or Sport and Speed packs, which lift the electronic limiter to 174 mph.
In most every way, the 2012 XJ is a brisk, engaging performer, and its relative lack of electronic add-ons keeps ride and handling more pure than in some of the perpetually-adjustable competition. The XJ goes about its work more directly, with an independent suspension with coils up front and links in back, electronically adjustable air springs in back, and an electronically controlled rear differential on supercharged cars. "JaguarDrive Control," activated by a console-mounted switch, lets owners choose Normal, Dynamic and Winter settings for the throttle, steering, transmission and ride quality.
The XJ may have a narrower range of user-selectable performance modes than German or Japanese luxury sedans, but we think it's better for it. Its reflexes are more pure, more predictable, and the overall driving feel is more unified. The driving modes are related more closely than, say, the settings programmed into Audi's chuck-it-now Drive Select system.
Big ventilated disc brakes with anti-lock, brake drying and good pedal feel match the XJ's crisp new feel. And Z-rated tires on 19- or 20-inch wheels stick admirably--though you'll certainly notice the long, storied reputation of Jaguar ride has also been ditched for a taut, athletic feel. The air mattress is gone; long live the Tempur-Pedic precision.
2012 Jaguar XJ
Comfort & Quality
The Jaguar XJ is plush and glitzy, but rear-seat space is tight, and some of its interior trim looks more shiny than substantial.
Jaguar is betting the brand on distinctive styling. The XJ's dramatic new roofline makes an elegant statement, but it clips rear-seat room in the process, and the XJ's reskinned interior suffers a bit from some shiny trim pieces.
Clamber into the XJ, and you'll find a little less room even in front than in the Lexus LS or Audi A8. It's roughly as large as the former, formally styled XJ, but the space is arranged differently, with more tapering at the ends that leaves valuable cubic feet under the windshield and rear glass. The front seats don't lose much space, except maybe at the knees, where the console's spread out some. Headroom is the clear loss-leader for the XJ's glam new styling: it's tight in all seating positions, but especially in back, where the roofline dips right at the scalps of taller passengers. Leg room is no problem, though, particularly on long-wheelbase models, which get 5 extra inches of rear seat space.
Also noticeable is how Jaguar's stiffened up its seats. The XJ's new buckets are less cozy, flatter and firmer. They do offer up 20-way power adjustments in front, though, and in both front and back, can be fitted with massage and heating functions.
Jaguar says the 18.4-cubic-foot trunk is the biggest in its class, and has a power-closing decklid. Ford's newest Taurus has more interior room and shorter overall length, but its trunk is bigger. That skimpy Jag tail exacts a bit of a penalty.
The XJ's interior is smothered in chrome, wood and leather, some of it achingly gorgeous, but in places the shinier trim goes over the top to cater to Hollywood tastes. We're not sure the piano-black trim and rings of metallic trim speak volumes to true high-end luxury shoppers, and some of those pieces give and flex to the touch, something that doesn't happen in a similarly priced S-Class or 7-Series.
2012 Jaguar XJ
It makes do without some of the very latest technology and crash-test scores are lacking, but the Jaguar XJ has all the essentials for good safety.
There's no crash-test data for this year's Jaguar XJ, but along with the usual required safety gear, it has some--but not all--of the latest in-car safety technology to make the next drive a safer one.
The basics include the mandated front, side and curtain airbags; anti-lock brakes, traction and stability control; active headrests and tire-pressure monitors. The XJ's stability control has a sport mode, which lets drivers enjoy a little more wheelspin for sporty driving.
Despite all that, neither the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) nor the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has yet tested the latest XJ. We've given it high safety marks because of its construction techniques--the panels are glued and riveted together for a very strong passenger cell, much in the same way airplanes are built.
For advanced features, the XJ gets a standard rearview camera, which augments a view that's a little compromised by the XJ's big roof pillars. There's also a blind-spot alert system that blinks an alert in the sideview mirrors when cars approach in side lanes. Adaptive cruise control is option. However, Jaguar doesn't offer lane-keeping systems or night vision, or features now found on rivals from Mercedes and BMW.
2012 Jaguar XJ
Very few features are unavailable on the 2012 Jaguar XJ--you can get a massage in the back seat and listen to some of the best in-car audio on the planet, if you like.
The 2012 Jaguar XJ may come in three power levels and two lengths, but all versions are saturated with luxury and entertainment features, with special attention paid to the ultra-exclusive Supersport edition.
With base prices just above $70,000, you'd expect the XJ to come with some seriously upscale hardware, and it does. Standard equipment includes navigation with voice control; Bluetooth and a USB port; a panoramic sunroof; an AM/FM/CD/DVD/MP3/HD/Sirius/30GB hard drive audio system; and automatic climate control. There's also heated and ventilated front seats, and on the long-wheelbase XJL, quad-zone climate control.
To keep the richest buyers coddled, the top versions of the XJ offer new luxury packs with massaging rear seats, power rear seatbacks, heated and ventilated rear seats, and distinctive leather trim. Meanwhile, enthusiasts will be pleased with new Speed and Sport & Speed packs that add red brake calipers, new 20-inch wheels, and adjust the speed limiter to allow a top speed of 174 mph.The most impressive option, our favorite, is the 1200-watt Bowers & Wilkins audiophile system. It's an orgy for technophiles--and superior in its class, up with the Bang & Olufsen system in the Aston Martin Rapide for its sonic and visual impact.
But perhaps the most important feature is Jaguar's new premium owner care. The company pays for everything you'll use except gas and tires for the first five years or 50,000 miles--and extends the same coverage to buyers of other new Jaguars, too.
2012 Jaguar XJ
The Jaguar XJ's gas mileage isn't exceptional, even when compared with heftier competitors.
Fuel economy's mostly an afterthought for anyone shopping the 2012 Jaguar XJ. Still it's worth pointing out that the XJ doesn't get exceptional fuel economy even though it has a lightweight aluminum body structure.
Without any options for diesel or hybrid models, the XJ lineup is at its best in the base short-wheelbase version. The EPA rates it at 16/23 mpg. Adding supercharging to the 5.0-liter V-8 drops fuel economy to 15/21 mpg. Meanwhile, the long-wheelbase edition is rated by the EPA at 15/22 mpg.Jaguar's six-speed automatic transmission was state of the art just a couple of years ago, but now other luxury brands are adopting seven- and eight-speed automatics. We expect that kind of efficient upgrade will be coming in the XJ within a year or so.
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