2009 Jaguar XJ Review

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The Car Connection
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The Car Connection

The Car Connection Expert Review

Trevor Wild Trevor Wild Author
May 3, 2009

The 2009 Jaguar XJ returns for its fourth year on the market, with an aluminum chassis, V-8 engines, and a broad range of models priced from about $63,000 to nearly $94,000.

TheCarConnection.com's editors drove the new Jaguar XJ in order to give you an expert opinion here in this Bottom Line. TheCarConnection.com also researched available road tests on the new Jaguar XJ to bring you the most useful highlights and to help you find the truth where other reviews might differ.

Looks are deceiving for the 2009 Jaguar XJ. It appears to be a very conservative, old-style luxury sedan, but major changes to its underbody have made the XJ a revelation for Jaguar. Though the shape remained largely the same as that of previous XJs, the new car's aluminum construction dropped its weight while strengthening its chassis—which helps it ride and handle better than most other big sedans and get slightly better fuel economy.

The 2009 XJ8 is propelled by a 300-horsepower, 4.2-liter V-8 engine working through a smooth-shifting ZF six-speed automatic. Performance for this version is just quick enough for a luxury car, but with fuel economy of 16/25 mpg—good figures in this class. The XKR's 4.2-liter V-8 makes 400 horsepower, and like the standard car, it's coupled to a smooth-shifting six-speed automatic. Fuel economy on the supercharged cars dips to 15/22 mpg.

The Jaguar XJ is still among the softer luxury sedans, but it doesn't wallow or roll very much—and its steering is wonderfully light compared to the hefty feel of the big BMWs. A self-leveling suspension is standard on the XJ, as are 18-inch wheels; 19-inchers are also available. The XJ’s cockpit is comfortably lined with wood, leather, and metallic trim. And unlike in past Jaguars, the features are state of the art; there's a great sound system, a navigation system, and Bluetooth connectivity.

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The 2009 Jaguar XJ has a rich interior, but its exterior design is a major letdown. The XJ looks dowdy from some angles, and the new nose introduced in 2008 doesn't help matters at all. The single detail that does improve the XJ's looks is the fender vent in metallic trim.

For 2009 Jaguar is bringing 140 examples of a Super V8 Portfolio model to the United States. The Super V8 Portfolio features 20-inch Selena-style alloy wheels, hand-milled solid aluminum power vents, and unique badging. 2009 Super V8 Portfolios painted in Celestial Black come with a Navy leather interior with contrasting Barley piping, while the interior of Astral Gold cars feature Ivory leather with Navy piping.

Nineteen-inch wheels are standard (and 20-inch wheels available optionally), as are Adaptive Cruise Control and R-specific interior and exterior trim. Atop the range is the Super V8, which marries the Vanden Plas trim with the supercharged V-8. It adds a standard rear DVD entertainment system for a price of about $94,000. Upgrades to the 2009 XJ8 and XJ8 L models include the standardization of the DD-based navigation system, a 320-watt Alpine Premium Surround Sound system, and Front Park Control. The long-wheelbase L edition gets more legroom for the backseat without a big penalty in weight and none in fuel economy. The Vanden Plas takes the long-wheelbase edition and adds as standard folding rear picnic trays, lambswool rugs, a single in-dash CD player, and a six-disc trunk-mounted CD changer.

For safety, the 2009 Jaguar XJ sports front, side, and curtain airbags; stability and traction control; and anti-lock brakes. The cabin offers plenty of room, particularly in the long-wheelbase models. No federal crash testing has been done on the new XJ.

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2009 Jaguar XJ

Styling

The 2009 Jaguar XJ has very conservative styling, combined with some controversial details.

A restyling in 2008 for the Jaguar XJ has marred its conservative elegance, without going the whole way to a fuller, more radical redesign. The front-end treatment seems to be the most controversial bit, with some comments suggesting that the bodywork below the front bumper appears to have been swiped from a BMW M5. "The 2008 Jaguar XJ received a major makeover with new front and rear fascia treatments and front fender-mounted 'power vents,'" while the back features "a chrome strip [that] spans the width of the trunk," reports Kelley Blue Book.

Automobile says the Jaguar XJ’s “interior and exterior designs are stuck in the past.” AutoWeek thinks “the facelift creates more road presence,” but “Jag appears to be compromising the car’s elegance in a bid to boost weak sales.” Cars.com more kindly comments, "a narrower front air dam draws visual continuity with the rounded grille."

The single detail that improves the XJ's looks is the fender vent in metallic trim. Other styling details on the Jaguar XJ include a "new grille, new mirrors (with signal indicators), new wheel designs and new bumpers, along with a subtle rear spoiler," as noted by Edmunds. The various wheel options are handsome, if a bit bling in some cases.

According to Kelley Blue Book, the 2009 Jaguar XJ retains such "signature styling cues as the curvaceous hood, four round headlamps, and tapered rear end," The familiar chrome cat pouncing from the front of the hood of the Jaguar XJ goes away for 2009, replaced by a grille-mounted emblem. However, the “leaper,” as it’s called, is available as an option.

When it comes to the XJ’s interior, Kelley Blue Book notes, "The handsome dash incorporates three circular gauges," which are surrounded by a generous amount of the aforementioned burl wood in the 2009 Jaguar. And Cars.com points to the "newly sculpted front seatbacks," which increase legroom for rear seat passengers. "Burl walnut wood trim, chrome and supple leather are liberally strewn about" inside the Jaguar XJ, Edmunds says, but adds, "It would be nice if the XJ's cabin joined the 21st century."

Edmunds declares, "This car is, quite defiantly, not an Audi, BMW, Infiniti, Lexus or Mercedes." And maybe that's the whole point.

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2009 Jaguar XJ

Performance

The 2009 Jaguar XJ performs with a verve that belies its conservative looks.

Reviewers used words like "serene" and "stately" to describe the Jaguar XJ—which aren't necessarily a positive for performance.

The naturally aspirated 4.2-liter, 32-valve V-8 engine in the 2009 Jaguar XJ8 makes 300 horsepower; the engine also propels the swankier Vanden Plas model. Adding the forced induction of a supercharger bumps the horsepower up to 400, and that's exactly what Jaguar did for the upper-range XJR and Super V8 models. The supercharged version sprints to 60 mph in just five seconds. ConsumerGuide finds, "Off the line, non-supercharged models feel as quick as the Super V8. Super V8s are noticeably stronger over 40 mph, despite an occasional delay in throttle response. All are fast enough for most any need." Even the bottom-tier XJ8 needs just 6.5 seconds to travel from 0-60. Car and Driver admires the Jaguar’s "powerful and sonorous V-8 engines.”

All 2009 XJ models feature a six-speed automatic transmission, but TheCarConnection.com reads some minor complaints about Jaguar’s unique J-gate shifter. However, Car and Driver says, "It would be nice if the car would step off in first gear more often," rather than starting from a stop in second gear. Cars.com calls the six-speed automatic "excellent."

At the gas pump, the EPA-estimated city/highway fuel economy for the 2009 Jaguar XJ at 16/25 mpg. According to Kelley Blue Book, the supercharged models come in at 15/22 mpg. ConsumerGuide notes that all XJ models require premium fuel.

In the handling department, the 2009 Jaguar XJ receives almost unanimous praise. ConsumerGuide reports "good grip in turns with little cornering lean," and "Steering is somewhat light but linear." Car and Driver comments that the big Jaguar "wafts serenely down the road" and "dances over the road instead of clobbering it like the German competition." Edmunds praises the Jaguar XJ for its "confident handling, a plush ride and cat-quick performance," adding that the XJR includes "quicker steering" and "more aggressively tuned air suspension." Kelley Blue Book chimes in, stating that the 2009 Jaguar "is solid, secure and serene, with great higher-speed control and an appropriately smooth ride that's completely in character with this car's image." However, they observe that the 20-inch wheels and aggressive performance tires found on the XJR and Super V8 models (XJ8 models get 18-inch wheels) "upgrade ultimate handling but also somewhat diminish the luxurious, soft ride of the base XJ." ConsumerGuide finds the four-wheel ventilated disc brakes "strong and sure." XJR and Super V8 models get bigger brakes with more stopping power to rein in their additional supercharged horses.

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2009 Jaguar XJ

Comfort & Quality

The 2009 Jaguar XJ upholds Jaguar’s reputation as a manufacturer of posh automobiles.

The 2009 Jaguar XJ exhibits its share of foibles, but it also has stellar materials and assembly quality.

The 2009 Jaguar XJ is the marque's flagship sedan and contains all the burl wood trim, luxurious leather, and gleaming chrome accents one would expect, along with the usual quirks that make it quintessentially British to some and endear it to traditional British luxury fans. However, to those less familiar with Jaguar, some of these quirks can be merely annoying. For example, Kelley Blue Book, in its mostly positive review, notes that "the dash-mounted ignition slot is placed fairly low, allowing dangling keys to brush annoyingly atop the driver's right leg."

In the cabin, Edmunds admires the abundant wood, leather, and chrome, as well as "acoustic laminated glass,” but bestows higher praise to form than function, adding, “In contrast to all the plush surroundings, some of the Jag's controls are confusing and have a cheap feel to their operation." ConsumerGuide notes, "Rear-entertainment-system controls are not intuitive, and DVDs load via an inconvenient trunk-mounted changer and only with the ignition engaged." Kelley Blue Book states that, inside the 2009 Jaguar’s cabin, “wide front seats provide excellent lower thigh and back support and include a four-way power lumbar support. In the rear, you'll find a vastly larger passenger space than in previous XJs, with ample head and legroom for six-footers." Cars.com goes a step further, saying that in long-wheelbase XJs, there's "legroom in the rear seat for NBA players," and Edmunds proclaims that, with its ”multiadjustable, climate-controlled front seats" and other accoutrements, the interior of a 2009 Jaguar XJ would "make the Fifth Duke of Wellington feel at home."  However, Edmunds remarks of the front seats, "Some larger folks may find that those fancy seats just don't fit them.”

Edmunds notes that “trunk space could be deeper,” which might be a consequence of the full-size spare tire located beneath it. According to ConsumerGuide, however, with 16.4 cubic feet of storage capacity, the 2009 Jaguar has “plenty of usable trunk space,” and the lid “opens wide on non-intruding hinges and has assisted soft-touch close”

"Operating in virtual silence...the Jaguar XJ-Series sedans have a personality unique among high-end luxury sedans,” remarks Edmunds.  ConsumerGuide adds, "the cabin is impressively free of mechanical noise, but our testers did notice some wind rush and road rumble at highway speeds."

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2009 Jaguar XJ

Safety

The 2009 Jaguar XJ boasts some impressive safety features, but it has not been crash-tested.

Because the 2009 Jaguar XJ hasn’t been crash-tested by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) or the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), it is an unknown quantity when it comes to crash-test ratings, but it has a complete set of safety gear.

Cars.com catalogs the very sophisticated equipment contained in every XJ: "Side impact bars, four door curb lights, illuminated entry, traction control, anti-skid system, four-wheel anti-lock brakes (ABS), driver and passenger airbags, driver side impact airbags, passenger side impact airbags, curtain 1st and 2nd row overhead airbags, occupancy sensor, front and rear seatbelt pre-tensioners, ignition disable, panic alarm, security system, and low tire pressure warning."

As Edmunds observes, the 2009 Jaguar's airbag system "monitors the positions and weight of the front seat passengers to determine how and when to deploy the various airbags."

Many of today’s luxury cars include front and rear obstacle sensors as standard equipment, and the Jaguar XJ is no exception. However, ConsumerGuide reports, “The front and rear obstacle detection system was overly sensitive” on one Jaguar XJ test car. As with many other cars, though, the 2009 Jaguar allows its driver to disable the system if an annoying false alarm persists. “Visibility to the rear is compromised by a tall trunklid," points out ConsumerGuide about the drawbacks of the sleek shape of the 2009 Jaguar XJ.

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2009 Jaguar XJ

Features

The 2009 Jaguar XJ models have a thoroughly modern lineup of features that contrast with its old-luxury comfort and style.

The 2009 Jaguar XJ mates old-style elegance with cutting-edge technology. According to ConsumerGuide, the 2009 Jaguar XJ bristles with electronics and other niceties. And Edmunds points out that the Bluetooth system in the 2009 Jaguar "can recognize five different phones."

Upgrades to the 2009 XJ8 and XJ8 L models include the standardization of the DD-based navigation system, a 320-watt Alpine Premium Surround Sound system, and Front Park Control. Cars.com lists optional equipment available on the 2009 Jaguar as including three-stage, actively heated and cooled front seats with perforated seating surfaces; a heated wood and leather steering wheel; and a Sirius Satellite Radio package.

Kelley Blue Book reports that of the 2009 Jaguar XJ trims, the "Vanden Plas, XJR and Super V8 offer twin rear-seat DVD monitors built into the backs of the front-seat headrests." In addition, they say, "The Super V8's power rear seat adjusts for the ultimate in chauffeured luxury." And Cars.com points to an earlier, fully loaded Jaguar XJ Super V8 sedan, citing said adjustable rear seat, as well as a "navigation system, power-folding side mirrors and folding tables for the backseat" and advises readers to "expect similar equipment for 2009."

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8.6
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Styling 6
Performance 9
Comfort & Quality 9
Safety 9
Features 10
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