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.