In the XJ, Jaguar pairs its latest V-8 engines with a six-speed paddle-shifted automatic, a relatively lightweight body and an independent suspension -- and entertains the hell out of drivers with the resulting mechanical symphony.
The engines are all derived from the new 5.0-liter V-8 also found in the 2010 Jaguar XF and the XK. There’s a base version with 385 horsepower in the XJ and XJL; a supercharged version with 470 horsepower in either body style; and a supercharged 510-horsepower flavor for the built-to-order XJ Supersport. As the XJ is elsewhere, the engine's far more upfront about its intentions: it's not syrupy or quiet, but quite direct and mechanical in its sound and in its ass-whomping ability. The base car will execute 0-60 mph runs in 5.4 seconds; with the supercharged 470-hp engine, it'll take only 4.9 seconds; and in the Supersport it's estimated at just 4.7 seconds. All versions are limited to a top speed of 155 mph.
The best information gleaned from the official press information: there's no performance penalty whatsoever from the long-wheelbase car and its 50 additional pounds of weight. It's longer, so the very fast and very light power steering (donated by the XFR) gets some tamping-down. Otherwise, it's a win-win-win, if you count acceleration, ride and handling all in a trio.
On most all performance fronts, the 2011 XJ is blessedly innocent of the worst electronic crimes against ride and handling. You've seen other luxury sedans crippled by too many sensors, too many variables, too much engineering attention. Here's it's more simple: the XJ gets 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. To fine-tune these settings, JaguarDrive Control allows owners to choose Normal, Dynamic and Winter settings to adjust throttle, steering, transmission and ride quality. Limiting their scope is an enlightened move by a small company that can't pour on the transistors like, say, Lexus. The XJ's better for it: its reflexes are more pure, more predictable, and like Aston Martin's minimal electronic adjustments, there's no wild tangential feel to the individual modes. They're related way 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.