- A singular appeal
- Supercharged V-6 almost matches V-8 output
- Eight-speed automatic on board, across the board
- Lighter-weight body translates into crisp handling
- Austerity be damned: spend as much as you want
- The one percent of the look that doesn't work
- Shortcomings include head room
- Glitzy-looking trim inside
- Lacks one or two of the very latest tech features
Swinging style and newfound traction and gas mileage make the 2013 Jaguar XJ a more complete offering than it's ever been.
The Jaguar XJ may have one of the most storied nameplates in automotive history, but it took a total reboot in 2011 to restore some of its faded glory. Now it's a shape that seizes attention, a drama-steeped sedan that's cut all ties with the traditional past. And this year, it's stretching its appeal, not with even longer-wheelbase versions, but with a new V-6 and newly available all-wheel drive.
Neither changes the chic XJ's design ethos. It's set to stun, intentionally, since past big Jags were set to snooze. It's what a Jaguar flagship should have looked like since about 1990--a drop-dead gorgeous roofline, a sail-away rear pillar, runway sensibility from its embossed grille to its bugle-beaded LED taillamps. A detail or two falls flat: that pillar wants to be satin-finish, to show off the car's all-aluminum core, and the elemental rear end can seem understyled. It's the opposite inside, where the endless rings of metallic trim and of control shapes could use some editing.
The XJ's retooled drivetrains do nothing to its charmed ride and handling, but they do broaden its appeal, mostly to well-heeled commuters in the Northeast. The base XJ now has a supercharged 3.0-liter V-6 with 340 horsepower, down some from the still-available 385-hp 5.0-liter V-8, but almost as quick (0-60 mph in 5.7 seconds), and significantly better on gas, with up to 27 mpg on the EPA highway cycle. Eight-speed ZF automatics across the lineup are typically quick, responsive in shifting. There's also new all-wheel drive with a rear torque bias: it's offered only on the long-wheelbase six-cylinder car, and with a low weight penalty, pits the Jaguar XJ with the long-offered AWD models from Audi, Mercedes, BMW, Infiniti, and Lexus.
The XJ's aluminum structure 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. We're entertained as hell by its demeanor, because of its lower unsprung weight and because it lacks some of the endless electronic modulations that bedevil some German sedans. The XJ has sport mode for both the electronic shocks and the engine/transmission/steering combination, but it also has more predictable reflexes, without wild handling tangents. Big ventilated disc brakes with anti-lock, brake drying and good pedal feel match the XJ's crisp new feel, and Z-rated tires of up to 20 inches stick tenaciously.
Even the XJ's seats play a role in that feel, and so does the daring roofline. Together, 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. The sunroof slims down headroom in front, and in back, the XJ really isn't comfortable for adults six feet tall or more. Trunk space is the largest in the class, but smaller than the bin in the Ford Taurus.
Neither the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) nor the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) has crash-tested the new sedan. The new car also sports six airbags, anti-lock brakes, traction and stability control, as before. There's a blind-spot alert system built into each XJ, and adaptive cruise control is option. A rearview camera is standard.
The 2013 Jaguar XJ comes in nine versions, split between drivetrains and wheelbases and relative trim levels, with prices starting at about $74,000 and rising to more than a staggering $155,000. All cars come with a panoramic sunroof; an AM/FM/CD/DVD/MP3/HD/Sirius/30GB hard drive audio system; USB connectivity and Bluetooth stereo audio; a navigation system with voice control; and automatic climate control. All cars get heated front and rear seats, while ventilated and massaging front seats and ventilated rear seats are available on most versions. Best of all the features--and standard--is Jaguar's service plan, which pays for everything except gas and tires for the first five years or 50,000 miles of use.
2013 Jaguar XJ
Second-guessing some minor details misses the dramatic point: this Jaguar XJ forever changed our idea of what a Jaguar is.
Sleek and glam, the Jaguar XJ was not such a looker just a few years ago. When it switched to an all-aluminum body in the 2004 model year, it emerged with too-conservative sheetmetal that all but hid its new lightness from sight.
With today's shape, Jaguar never can go back to that past, and to that, we say...whew. The 2013 XJ's all about showing off its body, to the point where some of the excessive details could use a Chanel moment in front of the mirror.
The shape is so avant garde, the need to remove some accessories doesn't call itself out at first pass.
Some callbacks to the Rapide aside, the XJ does everything to discard the past, and to recast its lot with the modern crop of ultra-luxury executive sedans. The fenders swell in sync with the low roofline, and the grille's embossed in sharp relief now, while the rear pillars sail almost out of sight, when seen in profile. It's intriguing, and almost without flaw--but the treatment of that back roof pillar in black cries out for a brushed-aluminum look. The bracket-shaped LED taillamps call out the spareness of the XJ's rear end: it can seem too spare, or directly inspired by some Citroen greatness. In the past, the first-generation Mercedes CLS struck us as the most French of the non-Gallic four-doors; the XJ's smartly trumped that status.
It's inside where the XJ could pare down some of its glitzy details. It's a wiki of classy, but a few of the details are slighted by finish. The massive glass sunroof drenches the cabin in sunlight, playing up its square feet of wood and chrome. The bubbled-up 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, with notable side adventures. A leather headliner, upgraded leather seats and laser-inlaid wood trim and new custom trim options bring nouveau opulence to the game.
In all it's a decadent place to sit--but the liberal use of piano-black plastic and metallic trim is one of those taste borderlines that might have been tripped over. The stuff's a fingerprint magnet, for sure. Then again, so's an Apple iPad. While we're picking nits, the XJ's dash clearly saved time by keeping the former car's 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.
You should also be a technophile if you plan on savoring the XJ's electronic platter of delights. 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 to indicate performance driving modes with a soft red glow. There's also an LCD touchscreen that interfaces driver and climate, audio and navigation functions without using buttons. It's all very Starship: Enterprise, not at all Jefferson Starship in the way the old XJ might have handled the same cues.
2013 Jaguar XJ
There's every reason to swap the base eight for the super six, even if gas mileage isn't your chief objective.
The Jaguar XJ's performance has as much to do with its lighter-weight, jetlike construction as it does with its engines, transmission, and suspension. The body hasn't changed much for 2013--only where it needs to, to accommodate the big differences in drivetrains that expand the XJ's desirability.
For those who missed the big Jaguar story of the past decade, the XJ is one of three model lines (XK and F-Type are the others) that have airplane-style aluminum bodies. The panels are riveted and bonded together with aerospace glue, which keeps the overall weight down a few hundred pounds. In the 4,200-pound range in base form, the Jaguar XJ undercuts other big luxury sedans by at least a few hundred pounds, and it feels like it.
Since the 2004 model year, the all-aluminum XJs have been V-8-only vehicles. For 2013 the XJ adds a new base engine, a supercharged 3.0-liter V-6 with direct injection and stop/start. Output from the engine is down 45 horsepower from the still-offered, 385-hp, 5.0-liter V-8--but with a new eight-speed automatic, the super six is a few tenths less brisk to 60 mph, according to Jaguar estimates (5.7 seconds) but gas mileage is far better, at 18/27 mpg versus 16/25 mpg. The ZF-built, Jaguar-tuned transmission gets a lot of the credit, with its class-standard shift quality and responsiveness. The six-cylinder's mostly subdued, with a little whine that subliminally reminds us we're driving something British--not at all a bad thing.
The six-cylinder alone brings with it Jaguar's available all-wheel drive system, new in the XJ and in the XF sedan for 2013. Set up to preserve as much of the XJ's nimble feel as possible, it puts most of the torque through a transfer case to the rear wheels, with some torque pre-loaded to the front wheels from a stop. 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.
Like most luxury AWD systems, that in the Jaguar is invisible until it's not. We experienced a rear-right tire failure on snowpack in the XJ AWD, and figured for a brief, shining moment, the combination of electronics and hardware and run-flat tire tread staying intact gave us the only front-drive XJ on the planet. For what it's worth, the weight penalty for the new system is low, in the 120-130 pound range, with just some stiffening braces required across the front end, in addition to the AWD hardware. Zero to 60 mph times drop to 6.1 seconds.
Above and beyond these new drivetrains, the XJ soldiers on with its marvelous V-8s, all derived from a 5.0-liter engine shared with the XF sedan and XK coupe. The standard version offered this year only in the long-wheelbase XJ sedan puts out 385 horsepower, and it's teamed now to (as are all XJ engines) to the ZF eight-speed automatic. With supercharging, the same engine makes either 470 hp or 510 hp, depending on the buyer's wallet size.
We've been amazed how American this engine can sound: its vintage V-8 noises aren't at all quiet or syrupy-smooth, and the classic eight-cylinder rumble injects a note of seriousness into any stoplight challenge. The 385-hp drivetrain can toss off 0-60 mph runs in 5.4 seconds; the supercharged 470-hp engine is capable of 4.9-second runs; the Supersport, Jaguar says, will hit 60 mph in 4.7 seconds. The XJ is limited to a top speed of 155 mph unless you specify one of the new Speed or Sport and Speed packs, which lift the electronic limiter to 174 mph.
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.
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.
2013 Jaguar XJ
Comfort & Quality
Rear-seat head room is slim in the Jaguar XJ, and some cabin fittings seem more glitzy than glamorous.
With its glamorous new shape, the Jaguar XJ looks like its own "after" picture. It takes a while to register that, along with its body shaping, it's lost a significant amount of interior space, mostly in the back seat.
The XJ may be the most snug fit of all the premium luxury sedans, less spacious than the short-wheelbase Lexus LS, even. 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. Even so, those in the front seats won't feel too cramped, save for a little constricted feel at the knees due to the wide center console.
Also noticeable is how Jaguar's stiffened up its seats. The XJ's new buckets are less cozy, flatter and firmer. They do offer up 20-way power adjustments in front, though, and in both front and back, can be fitted with massage and heating functions.
Sexy and low makes for a more appealing XJ sedan, but it clips rear-seat room in the process. Headroom is tight in all seating positions, but especially in back, where the roofline dips right at the scalps of taller passengers. Leg room is no problem, though, particularly on long-wheelbase models, which get 5 extra inches of rear seat space.
The XJ's tail powers open to reveal an 18.4-cubic-foot trunk, which Jaguar says is the biggest in its class. Today's Ford Taurus has 20 cubic feet, and more interior room, and it's shorter overall--but would you really want one instead?
2013 Jaguar XJ
Crash-test safety is absent, but the Jaguar XJ has a body like a Boeing and now, all-wheel drive on tap.
The current Jaguar XJ has not yet been crash-tested by either the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) or the the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS),
We've given it 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 built.
Too, it's piling on more safety this year, on an optional basis. 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, and only on the long-wheelbase model. The all-wheel-drive system has a torque bias of 10:90 in normal driving, and 30:70 in winter mode. It can apply as much as 50 percent of torque to the front wheels while it's sorting out available traction.
Along with the usual required safety gear, the 2013 Jaguar XJ has most, but not all, of the techiest in-car safety features found in its competitors. All versions 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.
2013 Jaguar XJ
Jaguar's fussy navigation system has been streamlined, and its luxury touches have been given an Ultimate spin.
With base prices starting at $74,075, the 2013 Jaguar XJ offers the features virtually required from a sedan of its price and prestige. That means not only power features, dual-zone climate control, and pushbutton start, but also navigation with voice control; an AM/FM/CD/DVD/MP3/HD/Sirius/30GB hard drive audio system; Bluetooth and a USB port; and a panoramic sunroof. All-wheel drive adds $3,500.
Minor functional differences distinguish the nine models in the XJ lineup. Heated front and rear seats are standard on the base model, and ventilated seats are offered as an option, while they're standard on all other models. Four-zone climate control is standard on all versions except the base car.
Jaguar has dropped its former 1200-watt Bowers & Wilkins audiophile system in favor of a new range of Meridian audio systems, and to our ears, they're purer, less punchy in sound--and better dynamically than in the new Range Rover. 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, and puts out as much power as the former B&O system and uses less power.
To keep the richest buyers coddled, the top versions of the XJ offer new luxury packs with massaging rear seats, power rear seatbacks, heated and ventilated rear seats, and distinctive leather trim. Meanwhile, enthusiasts will be pleased with new Speed and Sport & Speed packs that add red brake calipers, new 20-inch wheels, and adjust the speed limiter to allow a top speed of 174 mph.
The most distinctive version is the $155,875 Ultimate. Only 30 copies will be sold in the U.S., and all will come in supercharged, long-wheelbase form. Each has a full-length center console and a rear-table/beverage chiller package with two Jaguar champage flutes; a pair of Apple iPad 3 tablets and wireless keyboards, fitted in leather docking stations; and a leather and wood heated steering wheel.
The most important feature offered with the latest Jaguar XJ may be its new premium owner care. The company pays for everything you'll use except gas and tires for the first five years or 50,000 miles--and extends the same coverage to buyers of other new Jaguars, too.
2013 Jaguar XJ
The Jaguar XJ's gas mileage is better, thanks to a new V-6 and a new eight-speed automatic.
The Jaguar XJ has a lightweight aluminum body structure, but until now its gas mileage has only been middling.
The addition of a six-cylinder engine, stop/start, and an eight-speed automatic brings much better highway gas mileage potential to the Jaguar XJ--if you can control your baser urges.
Doing the math is simple. Last year's entry-level XJ V-8 was rated by the EPA at 16/23 mpg; this year's supercharged six is pegged at 18 miles per gallon city, 27 miles per gallon highway, or 23 mpg combined.
Adding all-wheel drive, whether you're in a short- or long-wheelbase car, drops those figures to 16/24 mpg or 19 mpg combined.
The normally aspirated V-8 still is available in 385-horsepower form, now teamed with the more efficient eight-speed automatic. So paired, the 2013 XJ earns EPA figures of 16/25 mpg, or 19 mpg combined.
Finally, opt into the supercharged V-8s--either the 470-hp or 510-hp, short- or long-wheelbase versions--and gas mileage is 15/23 mpg, or 18 mpg combined, up a single mile per gallon highway from last year's numbers.
The XJ's stop/start system is one of the happier ones in the automotive universe. In bitter-cold driving, we only experienced it a few times, but it cycled on and off with a barely perceptible quiver.