- A singular appeal
- Supercharged V-6 almost matches V-8 output
- Eight-speed automatic on board, across the board
- Lighter-weight body translates into crisp handling
- Austerity be damned: spend as much as you want
- The one percent of the look that doesn't work
- Shortcomings include head room
- Glitzy-looking trim inside
- Lacks one or two of the very latest tech features
Swinging style and newfound traction and gas mileage make the 2013 Jaguar XJ a more complete offering than it's ever been.
The Jaguar XJ may have one of the most storied nameplates in automotive history, but it took a total reboot in 2011 to restore some of its faded glory. Now it's a shape that seizes attention, a drama-steeped sedan that's cut all ties with the traditional past. And this year, it's stretching its appeal, not with even longer-wheelbase versions, but with a new V-6 and newly available all-wheel drive.
Neither changes the chic XJ's design ethos. It's set to stun, intentionally, since past big Jags were set to snooze. It's what a Jaguar flagship should have looked like since about 1990--a drop-dead gorgeous roofline, a sail-away rear pillar, runway sensibility from its embossed grille to its bugle-beaded LED taillamps. A detail or two falls flat: that pillar wants to be satin-finish, to show off the car's all-aluminum core, and the elemental rear end can seem understyled. It's the opposite inside, where the endless rings of metallic trim and of control shapes could use some editing.
The XJ's retooled drivetrains do nothing to its charmed ride and handling, but they do broaden its appeal, mostly to well-heeled commuters in the Northeast. The base XJ now has a supercharged 3.0-liter V-6 with 340 horsepower, down some from the still-available 385-hp 5.0-liter V-8, but almost as quick (0-60 mph in 5.7 seconds), and significantly better on gas, with up to 27 mpg on the EPA highway cycle. Eight-speed ZF automatics across the lineup are typically quick, responsive in shifting. There's also new all-wheel drive with a rear torque bias: it's offered only on the long-wheelbase six-cylinder car, and with a low weight penalty, pits the Jaguar XJ with the long-offered AWD models from Audi, Mercedes, BMW, Infiniti, and Lexus.
The XJ's aluminum structure builds in a deft handling edge, and with this generation, the long-storied ride isolation of Jaguar is history, replaced by an athletic, taut feel. We're entertained as hell by its demeanor, because of its lower unsprung weight and because it lacks some of the endless electronic modulations that bedevil some German sedans. The XJ has sport mode for both the electronic shocks and the engine/transmission/steering combination, but it also has more predictable reflexes, without wild handling tangents. 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.
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 2013 Jaguar XJ comes in nine versions, split between drivetrains and wheelbases and relative trim levels, with prices starting at about $74,000 and rising to more than a staggering $155,000. 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. All cars get heated front and rear seats, while ventilated and massaging front seats and ventilated rear seats are available on most versions. 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.