The Jaguar XJ is the brand’s flagship four-door luxury sedan. With an aluminum body and chassis parts, the XJ is light and nimble for its size, and it gets good fuel mileage, with an EPA-estimated 27 mpg Highway. There are standard and long wheelbase models, in rear-wheel drive or all-wheel drive.
The standard engine is a supercharged 3.0-liter V6 making 340 horsepower, able to accelerate from zero to 60 mph in 5.7 seconds. We have found that engine to be plenty fast.
Also available: a pair of supercharged 5.0-liter V8s. One makes 470 horsepower, while the one in the XJR makes 550 horsepower; they can accelerate from 0-60 in 4.9 and 4.7 seconds, respectively. The XJR gets more performance features, including a firmer suspension, aerodynamic splitter in the front and spoiler in rear, and sporty interior touches.
There is one transmission, a crisp 8-speed automatic that mates well with the supercharged V6 and V8 engines. But it’s the car’s relatively low curb weight that most affects its curb manners. The aluminum body panels are riveted and bonded, bringing the number on the scales down to 4200 pounds, which is several hundred pounds less than the Jaguar’s German competitors.
The Jaguar XJ offers good comfort and a plush interior with supple leather and real wood veneer trim, although the cabin is tight and too shiny for our tastes. It features heated front and rear seats, ventilated and massaging front seats, and ventilated rear seats. Jaguar’s service plan pays for everything but tires for the first five years or 50,000 miles.
The 2016 XJ gets subtle design tweaks. The 2016 Jaguar XJ grille is bolder, larger, straighter and has a new mesh pattern. Adaptive LED headlamps are standard, as is electric power steering on rear-wheel-drive models, and the taillights are restyled. Also new for 2016 is Jaguar’s infotainment system called InControl Touch Pro, with its eight-inch touch screen and navigation that can hook up with a smartphone. The XJL Portfolio and Supercharged models get quilted leather to make the interior even more fabulous.
Supplementing six airbags, safety options include adaptive cruise control that alerts to speed limit changes ahead, blind-spot monitoring that also alerts to cars approaching quickly from behind, and back-up alerts. But there are no lane-drifting alerts, head-up displays, or night vision. The Jaguar’s competition from BMW, Mercedes-Benz, and Audi offer these things.
The XJ’s rounded edges give it a tucked-in look that’s delightfully under styled. It’s a modern look that’s appropriate to the aluminum skin. Rhomboid headlights complement the big mesh grille. The roofline is drop-dead gorgeous like a fashion model, and the fenders swell to meet the low roofline. The rear pillars are gloss black and seem to sail away, so the rear glass seems to stretch from fender to fender, a classy effect.
The interior is slathered in chrome. It’s over the top. Light shines in through the expansive sunroof and glares on the glitzy instrument panel. The chrome is contrasted by piano-black trim that’s high quality but common. The trim seems inconsistent with the wide bands of wood on the doors, and the opulent leather headliner.
There’s not a lot of elbow room, headroom or legroom in the cabin, especially in back under that sloping rear window that’s so beautiful to look at from outside the car. The front seats are firm and flat, ventilated and heated, but the front passengers’ inside knees are squeezed against the center console. At least there’s good front legroom so the legs can straighten.
The XJ makes great strides in interfacing, but might overdo it with dazzle. Dials are all but gone, breaking almost entirely away from the tradition of Jaguar sport. What used to be a driver’s car in the cabin, is now a video game player’s car.
There are a few buttons, but most functions are performed using an eight-inch, high-definition LCD that changes colors; soft red for performance, apparently to remind you or make you feel racy. The screen does climate, audio, and navigation functions. Where there’s a button that does the same thing, the button is faster.
The aluminum Jaguar XJ feels exceptionally lean and light, athletic and taut. The handling is deft, and the adaptive damping erases the bumps but not the fun. The ventilated disc brakes are big and the feel of the pedal is confident. The Z-rated tires stick like hot rubber.
We have found the 340-horsepower 3.0-liter supercharged V6 the best fit for this car. It’s tractable, responsive and predictable. If you drive on the Autobahn or maybe in Montana or Nevada, then maybe you’d want the V8, either with 470 hp or 550 hp in the XJR, but you would also lose some of the great balance in the handling.
You lose some quickness in the handling with the XJL, but it handles amazingly well for a long-wheelbase sedan.
The ride is kept smooth and pure, on an independent suspension with coil springs in front, and multi links with the electronically adjustable air springs in rear. On supercharged cars, the rear differential is also electronically controlled.
The eight-speed automatic transmission, made by ZF, is tuned to each engine and it shifts quick and smooth, although kickdowns are a bit slow in the Normal mode. There is a Dynamic mode that sharpens the upshifts and matches revs on the downshifts, and a Sport mode that does the same only even more aggressively. These modes also step up the throttle, steering, damping and stability control.
The all-wheel-drive is rear-biased. In Winter mode, from 30 to 50 percent of the torque goes to the front wheels. Jaguar says the system is intended for traction in slippery weather, not cornering with more grip.
The Jaguar XJ is clearly not a German car. It has lovely lines and understated styling. Its base powertrain with a supercharged V6 and eight-speed automatic is unbeatable, but its cabin is less than roomy, and its instrumentation and trim too glitzy.
Driving impressions by The Car Connection, with Sam Moses reporting from the Pacific Northwest.