2015 Jaguar XJ Review

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Bengt Halvorson Bengt Halvorson Deputy Editor
May 29, 2015

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.

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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. 

9

2015 Jaguar XJ

Styling

The Jaguar XJ ditched its doddering look back in 2011 and isn't looking back.

Until its most recent redesign, the Jaguar XJ has had a familiar shape: fronted by round headlights, with a tapered rear end and not a lot to separate the older ones from the newer models. That all changed, and tradition was traded for a modern look with some surprisingly forward-looking design elements. 

The XJ does everything to discard the past and recast its lot within today's crop of ultra-luxury executive sedans. The rear pillars are hidden by gloss-black panels, which is supposed to have them flow visually into the rear glass. The grille is in a pronounced inset, framed by cat-eye headlights that integrate large circular elements. The fenders swell in sync with the low roofline. The look is almost without flaw--but we do think that the rear roof pillar is begging for a brushed-aluminum surface. It's a beautiful shape overall, recalling older French design as much as anything else..

In stark contrast to the spare exterior design, the XJ's interior comes across as almost too glitzy and over-the-top. The massive glass sunroof drenches the cabin in sunlight, playing up its square feet of wood and chrome. The round 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. And there's a soft opulence to the leather headliner, upgraded leather seats, and laser-inlaid wood trim. The only judgment call that we question is the use of piano black trim throughout the dash--something that's as common on Kias as it is Jaguars today. At least in the Jaguar's defense, it's a richer finish and less likely to show scratches

While we're picking nits, the XJ's interior designers clearly saved time by keeping the former car's dash 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.

The latest XJ takes a step toward more advanced interfaces, and provides what some might see as a little more visual dazzle than is necessary. 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, indicating performance driving modes with a soft red glow. There's also an LCD touchscreen that controls climate, audio, and navigation functions, with some redundancy from real buttons. We welcome the buttons, since the screen can take some time to react to selections.

9

2015 Jaguar XJ

Performance

Leaner and lighter than some other hulking luxosedans, the Jaguar XJ has a nimble feel--and the XJR is a scorcher.

Jaguar's XJ offers a range of powertrains, all of them capable, that span from fuel-conscious to power-hungry. And to appeal to those in the Northeast, Jag has added all-wheel-drive availability to the base engine.

Those engines and powertrains are great, but it's weight management that plays most into the big Jag's light and nimble feel. That's because it is light, using riveted-and-bonded aluminum body panels, as well as an all-aluminum structure. Altogether, the XJ hits the scales at about 4,200 pounds in base form--several hundred pounds less than other flagship sedans.

It also 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.

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. Here, when the selectable Winter driving mode is chosen, a minimum of 30 percent of torque is sent to the front wheels, and up to 50 percent is possible--while the traction control still can modulate power to the rear wheels as grip fades. The addition of all-wheel drive last year finally put Jaguar in the discussion for luxury buyers in snowy locales.

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).

In most every way, the XJ is a brisk, engaging performer, and its manageable set 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 slightly 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 modes are related more closely than, say, the settings programmed into Audi's improved Drive Select system.

8

2015 Jaguar XJ

Comfort & Quality

Some of the cockpit trim is over the top, and rear-seat headroom isn't great--otherwise, the XJ dazzles.

While taking in the 2015 Jaguar XJ's grand exterior styling and rich interior detailing, it can take a moment to realize that the interior isn't all that spacious.

In the back seat, especially, the style-forward roofline factors into what's likely the most snug fit of any of the premium luxury sedans. It's roughly the same size as the last-generation XJ, at least in overall length and wheelbase, but the body's so radically different and so tapered, there's lots of cubic feet of interior space left under the glass, where passengers don't sit. Long-wheelbase models add five inches at the floor, but the space across and above changes very little.

Those in front won't feel too cramped, though--save for a little constricted feel at the knees due to the wide center console. The seats are firmer and far better contoured and bolstered than they were in Jaguars past. Massage and heating functions are on offer, and they have 20-way power adjustments in front.

As for materials and trims inside, there might just be a few too many shiny pieces. Smothered in chrome, wood and leather, the cabin can read achingly gorgeous and slapdash all at once. At the same time, when it's trimmed in striped wood, nothing else in the class comes near its Hollywood Regency-like ambiance.

One other point worth noting is that the back seat in the XJ feels as well-trimmed and finely detailed as the dash and instrument panel--as opposed to some of the top German flagships, where back-seat appointments can feel rather stark and sanitized.

Trunk space is vast, and the trunklid powers open to 18.4 cubic feet, with a flat floor.

8

2015 Jaguar XJ

Safety

No crash-test scores exist, but the Jaguar XJ's aluminum body and safety tech give it a head start on safety data.

The current Jaguar XJ has not been crash-tested by either the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) or the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). This isn't an indicator that the car is necessarily unsafe, but instead a likely side effect of its expensive, low-volume nature. We've given the XJ 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 constructed--as well as an extensive complement of safety gear.

The 2015 Jaguar XJ has most, but not all, of the techiest in-car safety features found in competitors. All models have the mandatory airbags and stability control--and in the XJ's case, the stability system has a sport mode that forgives some wheelspin, just in case the driver wants to play around with available grip.

For advanced features, the XJ gets a standard rearview camera, which augments a view that's a little compromised by those big roof pillars and short backlight. There's also a blind-spot alert system that blinks a light in the sideview mirrors when cars approach in adjacent lanes. Adaptive cruise control is an option, as are automatic and adaptive headlights. What you won't find in the XJ are things like night vision or lane-keeping systems, features now available on most of the luxury competition.

Available all-wheel drive gives the slushy states a realistic alternative to the all-weather versions of the luxest Mercedes, BMW, and Audi sedans. It's offered only on the six-cylinder XJ, though, in both the short- or long-wheelbase models. The system has a front:rear torque bias of 10:90 in normal driving, and 30:70 in its winter mode. It can apply as much as 50 percent of torque to the front wheels while it's sorting out available traction. Jaguar points out that this is a system for winter traction, not for additional high-performance in dry conditions; the company believes in keeping it rear-wheel-drive for that, as evidenced by the high-po XJR.

9

2015 Jaguar XJ

Features

The touchscreen interface is a generation behind, but otherwise the XJ is fitted to a regal standard.

The XJ lineup has been simplified somewhat but includes a total of eight different models for 2015 when you consider different engines, trim levels, body lengths, and the available all-wheel-drive system.

Just as with the competition from BMW, Mercedes-Benz, and Audi, the XJ spans a wide pricing range, from about $75k and past $120k for the top models.

Even on the "base" model, which is equipped with the 340-hp supercharged V-6, you get power features, dual-zone climate control, and pushbutton start, as well as navigation with voice control; an AM/FM/CD/DVD/MP3/HD/Sirius/30GB hard drive audio system; Bluetooth and a USB port; heated front seats; and a panoramic sunroof. All-wheel drive adds $3,500 to the price of a V-6 model.

The long-wheelbase XJL Portfolio adds some more equipment but keeps the same engine and optional all-wheel drive as the base XJ. Above that are the Supercharged and XJR models, both available in long-wheelbase form.

Jaguar offers a range of Meridian audio systems, and to our ears, they're purer and less punchy than the Bowers & Wilkins systems they replace, while saving power versus the old systems. The basic setup is a 380-watt package, with what Jaguar says is output that rivals its old 600-watt base system; an 825-watt system is standard on supercharged cars, while a 1,300-watt system with a total of 26 speakers is optional.

To keep the richest buyers coddled, the top versions of the XJ offer luxury packs with massaging rear seats, power rear seatbacks, heated and ventilated rear seats, and distinctive leather trim. Meanwhile, enthusiasts will be pleased with Speed and Sport & Speed packs that add red brake calipers and new 20-inch wheels, and adjust the speed limiter to allow a top speed of 174 mph.

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.

6

2015 Jaguar XJ

Fuel Economy

The addition of an eight-speed automatic and a supercharged V-6 have boosted the XJ's economy figures.

All XJs are equipped with eight-speed automatic transmissions and automatic engine start/stop to help lower fuel consumption, and the lightweight aluminum body also plays a role in providing reasonably good fuel economy for such a large sedan.

The base supercharged six is pegged at 18 miles per gallon city, 27 miles per gallon highway or 17/27 mpg for the long-wheelbase version. If you add all-wheel drive, whether you're in a short- or long-wheelbase car, you'll drop those figures to 16/24 mpg.

Opt for the XJ Supercharged or its XJL counterpart, and the 470-hp V-8 returns mileage of 15/23 mpg, whether in short- or long-wheelbase form.

Fuel economy ratings for the top-performance XJR come in at the same place the 470-hp XJ Supercharged versions do.

The XJ's start/stop system one of the happier takes on this technology in the automotive universe, cycling on and off with a barely perceptible quiver--although you'll definitely notice the sudden absence of the baritone exhaust note in V-8 versions. 

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2015 Jaguar XJ 4-Door Sedan XJL Portfolio AWD

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