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2013 Jaguar XJ Expert Reviews

Expert Reviews

2013 Jaguar XJ

Ted West
© 2013

The Jaguar XJ arrives in style everywhere it goes. Its sleek design presents a statement of true luxury. Underway, it coddles passengers yet provides thrilling performance for the driver. We found the Jaguar XJ a harmonious balance of spirited performance, smooth operation, and poise.

New for the 2013 Jaguar XJ lineup is Jaguar's Instinctive All-Wheel Drive along with a new supercharged 3-liter V6.

A choice of 5-liter V8 engines remains available. The 2013 Jaguar XJL Portfolio comes with a powerful, velvety-smooth 5-liter V8 rated at 385 horsepower. The Jaguar XJ Supercharged and XJL Supercharged are powered by a supercharged 5-liter V8 of 470 horsepower. And for those who simply don't have time, there are the ICBMs of the line, the Jaguar XJ Supersport, XJL Supersport, and XJL Ultimate, all powered by a 5-liter supercharged V8 generating a full-speed, no-excuses 510 horsepower.

All-wheel drive makes the 2013 Jaguar XJ AWD a compelling choice for winter driving in the Snow Belt. Our test drives in both dry conditions and Canadian ice and snow found Jaguar's all-wheel-drive arrangement fully a match for its German competitors. (All-wheel drive is only available with the new V6.)

The V6 is a thoroughly qualified full-time, all-season engine that delivers splendid performance, while cruising at a salutary EPA-estimated 25 mpg Highway. We found throttle response linear and enthusiastic.

The normally aspirated 5-liter V8 in the XJL Portfolio is smooth and powerful, a superb powerplant, capable of thrusting the XJL to 60 mph in a very quick 5.4 seconds. It also delivers an EPA-rated 25 mpg Highway. All-wheel drive is not available with the V8-powered XJs, which remain the classic Jaguar rear-wheel-drive muscle-car sedan.

The Supercharged models launch from 0 to 60 mph in just 4.9 seconds and deliver an EPA-estimated 23 mpg Highway. The top-of-the-line Supersport models catapult to 60 in a scant 4.7 seconds, still rating 23 mpg Highway.

Arriving in style, perhaps with a hint of majesty, is the XJ's greatest strength, but the big Jaguar is nowhere more in its element than on the highway at speed. This is a grand touring sedan carefully tailored to make no-nonsense rapid travel effortless, comfortable and pleasing to both driver and passengers. There is an almost old-fashioned finesse to the XJ, yet nothing is old-fashioned about the technological means by which it is achieved. Jaguars have always been road cars, with a distinctly sporting character, intensely focused ride quality and willing agility. While many large cars make long drives dull, drowsy, and fatiguing, an XJ's alert and alive character, with its live-wire feedback, act as a strong safety element, keeping the driver fully engaged in the act of driving.

Steering effort and live feel is finely calibrated to deliver an excellent combination of road information and firm controllability. The car's chassis dynamics are similarly alive, whether driving on snow with all-wheel drive or pressing hard in high summer. And despite considerable weight, the XJ's brakes are forceful, easily modulated for good control, and even under very hard use show no hint of brake fade.

The current-generation Jaguar XJ was launched as a 2011 model.

Model Lineup

Jaguar XJ ($73,200), XJ AWD ($76,700); XJL Portfolio ($81,200), XJL Portfolio AWD ($83,700); XJ Supercharged ($89,600), XJL Supercharged ($92,600); XJ Supersport ($112,600), XJL Supersport ($119,100), XJL Ultimate ($155,000)

Walk Around

Even at their lowest ebb a couple of decades back, when they were assembled with complete incompetence and scandalously unreliable, Jaguar sedans have always been like a Hollywood diva who can't say no to strong drink and pills. However deplorable the facts, Jaguars always been heartbreakingly, irresistibly beautiful.

The present line of XJ is every bit as irresistible, but it would be wildly irresponsible to imply that Jaguar's dark past any longer applies. Their beauty, no longer a snare, is today a joyous, trustworthy asset, accurately representing the reliable integrity lying beneath. This modern XJ diva has all her seams straight, knows her lines, and is so gorgeous that you'd give her an Oscar just for letting you look at her.

Riding on two lengthy wheelbases of 119.4 inches for the XJ and 124.3 inches for the XJL, with overall lengths of 201.9 inches and the deluxe 206.8 inches, this is a large touring sedan, out-spanning its luxury-sedan competitors, while out-styling them in the same swift gesture. It has a sleek shape, with muscular faux-coupe modeling that cunningly understates its size. You don't realize just how large the XJ, or especially, the long-wheelbase XJL, is until you're standing immediately next to it. Climbing into the cavernous XJL rear seat, it's hard to remember that such a huge car actually looked fast from outside. Beautifully done. The British are often thought of as stiff, but putting this feline Jaguar next to a BMW 7 Series, a dowdy Lexus LS, a big Mercedes, or even the much-admired Audi A8 makes them look like blocks of cheese.

From its bold grille back to its steeply raked windshield, the XJ forms a long, graceful curve slicing irresistibly through the air. The roof tapers gently rearward to a long fastback, enclosing the greenhouse and large luggage compartment. Blacked-out B-, C-, and D-pillars give the entire greenhouse a low, compact look. Visually, these elements reduce the overall size of the car. Combined with the XJ's nose-down, haunches-up lunging stance, at a distance it appears to be a much smaller sport coupe. On closer examination, it's a shock that this is a fully found grand-touring vessel of style, power and great speed.


Stepping into the Jaguar XJ is every bit as satisfying as its elegant exterior suggests. Jaguar sedans are richly supplied, as always, with fragrant leather and handsome inlaid wood trim. They have a distinctly boardroom feel: mature, handsome, businesslike, with none of their furnishings erring in the direction of excessive or showy complexity. The audio, navigation and climate-control instrumentation performs the same functions as in Jaguar's German counterparts, yet Jaguar systems are blessedly intuitive; operating them, the Owner's Manual stays in the glove box. They are prime examples of good ergonomics, a phrase German interior-systems wonks have all but forgotten.

Even the dashboard layout itself, while delivering the conventional information, does so in an efficient, pleasing way. A 12.3-inch high-definition screen projects a virtual analog speedometer, tachometer and related data in three dial faces, but these electronic instruments serve double duty. When fuel is low or the car needs to communicate other important information, a bulletin is communicated in the space occupied by the temporarily dimmed tachometer. (And honestly, in these days of electronic engine management, monitoring a tachometer is far less vital than it once was.) The font for these central dials, while small, is businesslike and properly legible.

Traditional Jaguar aero-like blower ducts above the center stack flank a handsome analog clock. Beneath these, an 8-inch touchscreen display provides access to such operational matters as climate control, outside connectivity and the fine standard Meridian high-end audio, comprising a 380-watt system of 14 speakers, including two subwoofers. The XJ Media Hub also delivers connectivity through two USB ports, Bluetooth audio streaming and an auxiliary input jack. Also available is the still more powerful Meridian 825-watt surround sound system with 15 channels and 20 speakers.

The XJ navigation package, elegantly simple and graphically pleasing, adds some convenience features drivers will appreciate. Approaching an intersection, Dynamic Zoom automatically magnifies the upcoming intersection to define lane choices. Similarly, the Road Sign Board displays overhead road sign information and lane preferences as you approach. A minimum of steps is necessary to set a destination, and entering Points Of Interest data has been made easier than in previous iterations. This is a highly successful navigation system that virtually anyone will find useful.

As has long been the case with Jaguar sedans, the seating and visibility of the XJ are excellent. The front seats have vast adjustability, and their firmness and side-bolster fit are a model of one-size-fits-nearly-all common sense. Long drives in an XJ are an experience to be anticipated with pleasure. Rear-seat dwellers also have nothing to fear, especially in an XJL; the vast acreage back there encourages sprawling out full length and eating grapes Roman-style.

Though the beltline of the XJ is relatively high around its occupants, thanks, in part, to generously sized side-view mirrors, outward visibility from the driving position never feels restricted.

The XJ trunk will welcome masses of luggage; no need to skimp traveling in this car.

Driving Impressions

In recent years, big luxury sedans have gotten better and better to drive. They have performance, athleticism and confidence-inspiring composure. Among these grandes dames, Jaguars have usually been at or near the head of the class. That is, until four-season buyers began to demand luxury sedans which, like SUVs, behave well in all four seasons. Audi, BMW and Mercedes-Benz, Jaguar's primary luxury-sedan adversaries, already had models with all-wheel drive, but Jaguar has not had all-wheel drive since the midsize 2001-2009 X-Type.

We first drove the Jaguar XJ all-wheel models in mid-winter Quebec, flogging them up and down maple-syrup trails in the Laurentian mountains. We drove them on frozen lakes and ice-racing ovals. Then we drove them in dreadful winter freeway ice and snow. They proved flawless, every bit a match for the competition. Providing you have a proper appreciation for the skills of winter driving, the XJ AWD models we drove were as sure-footed and stable as any nearly two-ton ice-buster you'd want to drive. If winter is your problem, add an AWD Jaguar to your road-test list and pray for bad weather. Of course, most thoughts about Jaguars won't involve snow.

The XJs we drove in warm weather were everything their reputation promises. These are big cars, and you can't fool Mother Nature; big cars feel big when you corner fast or brake hard. And when you pounce on the throttle, even with the quick supercharged 340-hp 3-liter V6 in our XJL Portfolio AWD, you feel the commotion as the car is pushed from zero to 60 in an impressive 6.1 seconds. The same car, minus the added weight and mechanical loss of all-wheel drive, achieves 60 in a sterling 5.7 seconds.

In any large car like this, major forces are in play, and after years of development, the XJ is a harmonious balance of spirited performance, smooth operation, and an indefinable element of poise. XJ throttle response is linear and enthusiastic. Steering effort and live feel is finely calibrated to deliver an excellent combination of road information and firm controllability. The car's chassis dynamics are similarly alive, whether driving on snow with all-wheel drive or pressing hard in high summer. And despite considerable weight, the XJ's brakes are forceful, easily modulated for good control, and even under very hard use show no hint of brake fade.

With a keyless press of the Start button, the XJ engine fires, and the unique, signature Jaguar Drive Control silver medallion pops up on the center console. Making your selection from Park, Reverse, Neutral, Drive, or Low, you are free to drive in fully automatic mode, letting the car make the dynamic decisions. Or you may choose to manually control the superb 8-speed ZF transmission with the paddle shifters. You may also select specialized driving modes that make dramatic difference in performance. By pushing the button for Winter Mode, you dramatically tailor power and traction, optimizing performance for snow and ice. Alternatively, selecting Dynamic Mode, you disengage degrees of automatic stability sontrol, allowing more wheel slip for high-performance driving. Jaguar even permits switching off stability control altogether, but be warned, don't try this at home.

The powerful and smooth normally-aspirated 5-liter V8, formerly powering the entire XJ line but now found only in the XJL Portfolio, continues to be a superb powerplant, thrusting the XJL to 60 mph in a very quick 5.4 seconds. It also delivers 25 mpg Highway, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. Its only disadvantage is that it is not offered with an AWD package.

We also drove an XJL Supercharged with the 470-hp supercharged 5-liter. This large, elegantly appointed sedan was utterly exotic. Its mass and opulence were impressive, but when we opened the throttle, it was like feeling a great ocean liner suddenly rise up on plane. The Supercharged boiled forward to 60 in just 4.9 seconds. And in keeping with Jaguar's well-balanced philosophy, despite its mass, the car felt surprisingly athletic and controlled while doing so. More startling still, the Supercharged delivers 23 mpg Highway on the EPA scale.

The top-of-the-line Supersport models' 510 horsepower express them to 60 in a scant 4.7 seconds, furthermore, still delivering 23 EPA mpg Highway. Wretched excess never looked so good. But bring your best checkbook. The peak XJL Ultimate costs $155,000.

In short, the XJs achieve the improbable, being all things to all drivers. They are happy to do most of the work of driving, letting you relax and enjoy the ride. Or they will let you take over completely, performing all the most acute driving operations entirely on yours own. Either way, the XJ defines the contemporary large luxury sedan. It is very likely to find increasing numbers of delighted owners.

Jaguar XJs have always been elegant, dashing drivers' cars, but until recently, they've lacked all-wheel-drive and a thrifty small-displacement engine. Now they have highly effective all-wheel-drive individually tailored to Jaguar's driving preferences and a V6 with EPA Highway fuel mileage ratings up to 25 mpg. The XJ's automotive and broader social appeal has never been greater, and its sales stand poised to grow vigorously.

Ted West filed this report from Quebec.

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