- A design like no other
- Efficient supercharged V-6
- Brash yet comfortable XJR performance model
- Surprisingly responsive handling
- Lots of room for upgrades and premium finishes
- A few design details miss the mark
- Rear headroom
- Brightwork overload inside
- Technologically ho-hum
The 2015 Jaguar XJR is an interesting alternative to the usual German large sedans, mixing old world charm with fantastic handling and powertrains.
The 2015 Jaguar XJ is the luxury brand's largest offering, and its flagship model. Yet an aluminum body and structure keep it from being a heavyweight.
It's built on a pretty daring design and represents a big departure from the nameplate's history; meanwhile, this model's relative lightness imparts nimble handling and a smaller, sportier feel.
Whereas the former XJ was stuck in an era of doilies and high tea, the current car drops the need for caffeine entirely. It starts with a fresh, contemporary design, including a drop-dead gorgeous roofline, a sail-away rear pillar, and runway-model sensibilities, from its embossed grille to its bugle-beaded LED taillamps. The rear-end styling can be polarizing; its tucked-in look can look either understyled or delightfully different, depending on your eye. And the endless rings of brightwork inside could have used some censoring--or an option to tone that down a bit.
At the base level, the Jaguar XJ comes equipped with a 340-horsepower supercharged 3.0-liter V-6. With 0-60 mph times of 5.7 seconds, it's within eight tenths of the supercharged V-8, yet returns much better gas mileage (27 mpg on the highway). XJs with the V-6 are available with rear- or all-wheel drive, and with either the standard or long wheelbase. The all-wheel-drive system has a rearward torque bias, although Jaguar notes that it's intended for foul weather and not performance. The addition of all-wheel drive last year finally put Jaguar in the discussion for luxury buyers in places like the northeast.
From there, you can step up to rear-drive versions with either of two strengths of supercharged 5.0-liter V-8—the 470-hp Supercharged models or the 550-hp XJRs. Again, these are both available with a short or extended wheelbase. The quickest of the bunch, the XJR, hits 60 in a thrilling 4.7 seconds. The XJR also benefits from a stiffer suspension, a front aero splitter, a subtle rear spoiler, and various interior upgrades.
Throughout the model line, the engines are mated to eight-speed ZF automatics, and shift quality is quick and smooth (save for too much downshift delay in Drive), with a more performance-oriented shift program in 'S' mode as well as a Dynamic mode that provides sharper shifts and some rev-matching (along with other important changes to the adaptive damping system and stability control).
The XJ feels almost shockingly lean and light from behind the wheel, which makes sense since compared to German luxury flagships it weighs several hundred pounds less. With an all-aluminum structure, it 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. Factor in the adaptive damping system, however, and the electronics manage to filter out minor road imperfections without spoiling any of the fun. Big ventilated disc brakes with brake drying and good pedal feel match the XJ's crisp feel, and Z-rated tires of up to 20 inches stick tenaciously.
Inside, 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. There's one significant letdown, though; that's the limited headroom in back, due to a roofline that's just a bit lower than perhaps it should be.
Standard safety equipment is respectable, with six airbags, anti-lock brakes, and traction and stability control; there's also a blind-spot alert system built into each XJ, while adaptive cruise control is an available option. But items like lane-keep systems, head-up displays, and night-vision systems--optional on the German flagship models--aren't anywhere to be seen here.
If technology is one of the primary means by which you judge a luxury car, you should probably walk away from the XJ. It's missing the sorts of world-first tech options you'll find on rivals--and its infotainment and navigation systems are upstaged by vehicles costing a small fraction as much. Menus are hard to find and decipher, there's a delay between tapping the display and getting a result, and the overall experience is clunky.
That said, the XJ lineup will wow you in traditional ways, with unparalleled comfort, plush interior appointments, and stunning trims. The supple semi-aniline leather and real wood veneers go a long way; meanwhile heated front and rear seats, ventilated and massaging front seats, and ventilated rear seats are available on most versions. And with Jaguar's service plan paying for everything except gas and tires for the first five years or 50,000 miles, erasing that worry is an added luxury.
The 2015 Jaguar XJ, like the competition from BMW, Mercedes-Benz, and Audi, spans a wide pricing range, from about $75k up to more than $120k for the top models.