Jaguar designers have revitalized the brand. Gone is the stuffy, old man image of its past. It’s replaced with a cool, contemporary image attracting increased attention and sales, especially in the luxury-car-keen Chinese market.
The man behind the stylistic changes at the Coventry-based company, which is controlled by India’s Tata Motors, is design director Ian Callum. He redesigned the XF, XK, and XJ, creating a bold, new direction for Jaguar.
The Jaguar XJ is a luxurious sports sedan, available in six variants including standard and long-wheelbase versions. My tester is a mid-level XJL Supercharged model. L stands for the long-wheelbase trim. It adds an extra five inches of legroom to the rear which you can’t help but admire when you open the rear door. The back seats are sumptuous with unbelievable space to stretch your legs, although the low roofline does cut into head room.
Trays, covered in handcrafted wood veneer, drop down from the back of the front seats. In case you have to work, it acts like a high-speed mobile office where you can check e-mail, text, or chat on the phone. For extra privacy you can raise the rear side blinds, too. But if you prefer to lay low and chill out, you can watch a flick on the dual rear-seat DVD players, which cost an extra $2,500. A huge panoramic sunroof fills the cabin with natural light and makes it feel more spacious inside, especially in the rear seats, which also recline.
The entire cabin is inviting and beautifully crafted. Even minor details like lighting play a big role in creating a soothing, calming atmosphere. Soft phosphor blue lights appear throughout the cabin on the centre console and door handles. Even the analogue clock is illuminated with a blue background. You can add an Illumination Package ($1,700) to illuminate the side sill plates, front and rear passenger air vents and the trunk latch.
The steering wheel is wood wrapped on my tester for a natural look; it’s also heated for those cold winter mornings I dread thinking about. Switches are mounted on the steering wheel to control the entertainment system, cruise and voice control.
But the voice system is fickle and often doesn’t recognize my commands. I revert to using the eight-inch touch screen in the centre console, but it too can be complicated. It controls the navigation, audio and climate. But it often takes multiple steps to complete the simplest tasks, like changing the radio station. Personally, I prefer traditional buttons – although I’m probably not the norm.
The optional 1200-watt Bowers & Wilkins sound system is amazing – it has 20 speakers, MP3, Bluetooth and iPod connectivity. The trunk is also spacious. With 520 litres of room in the L version, there’s space for several grocery bags and golf clubs. The trunk can be opened via the remote key or with a switch inside the car or on the bumper. The lid can also be set to open to a particular height.
From the side, the XJL has a sleek teardrop shape with seductive lines along its body and a low, wide stance. Chrome power vents behind the front wheels aren’t just aesthetic design touches; they’re also functional, allowing heat to escape from the engine bay.
Innovative technology – such as bi-function HID xenon headlamps, which operate automatically when it starts to get dark, adaptive cruise control, which applies the brakes and throttle as needed to maintain a safe distance between you and the vehicle ahead, and a blind spot monitoring system that warns you when a vehicle is in your blind spot – takes the stress out of your daily drive.
All XJs share the same engine – a 5.0-litre V-8, offered in naturally aspirated and two supercharged versions. The most potent supercharged version is in the top Supersport trim, which delivers 510 hp and 461 lb-ft of torque. My tester makes 470 hp/424 lb-ft, while the naturally aspirated V-8 in the base model delivers 385 hp/lb-ft.
The engine roars to life when I fire up the engine. The drive is assured, stable and supple. And despite its large size, the XJL doesn’t drive like a big car; it feels agile on the road.
It’s lightning fast, too, hitting 0 to 100 km in only 5.2 seconds – shaving 5 seconds off the base XJ’s time. The Supersport model does it in 4.9 seconds. Not bad for a vehicle that weighs 1,961 kilograms; the lightweight aluminum architecture – 50 per cent of which is made from recycled materials – helps keep the weight down and improve efficiency. But don’t expect much on the fuel economy front: it averages 14.1 litres/100 km city and 9.3 highway.
Many German competitors offer seven- and eight-speed automatic transmissions, but XJ engines are still mated to a six-speed automatic transmission that you control via a funky dial shifter or the steering wheel-mounted paddles. But that will change for 2013 when an all-new eight-speed automatic transmission is added to the XJ along with a new engine choice – a 340-hp supercharged 3-litre V6 – as well as all-wheel drive.
The Jaguar XJ starts at $88,000 and tops out at $135,500 for the XJL Supersport model. My tester, the XJL Supercharged, falls in the middle at $108,500.
Tech specs: 2012 Jaguar XJL Supercharged
Type: Four-door, five-passenger luxury sedan
Base Price: $108,500; as tested, $118,550
Engine: 5.0-litre, DOHC, supercharged V-8
Horsepower/torque: 470 hp/424 lb-ft
Transmission: Six-speed automatic
Fuel economy (litres/100 km): 14.1 city/9.3 highway; premium
Alternatives: Audi A8L, BMW 750Li, Mercedes-Benz AMG S-Class LWB