2011 Jaguar XJ SuperchargedPosted on April 4th, 2011
Sport sedan melds classic styling with forward-thinking performance
By Nina RussinThe sinuous XJ sedan is classic Jaguar, from its bulbous front end to the aero passenger cabin. In profile, the new XJ evokes memories of landmark designs such as the Mark II, XK 120 and XK 140.
But what’s underneath the skin is as forward-thinking as any sport sedan on the road. Power comes from a 470-horsepower supercharged five liter engine, mated to a six-speed automatic transmission. The shift mechanism is similar to the XF: a rotary dial which rises out of the center console when the driver turns on the ignition.
Zero-to-sixty acceleration is under five seconds. The engine’s massive 424 foot-pounds of torque is available from 2500 rpm: a flick of the throttle. Fortunately, active differential control keeps the rear axle from sliding sideways off the line.
Active damping automatically adjusts the suspension to the road surface. Twenty-inch wheels and tires keep the XJ glued to the ground in the corners. Quick-ratio steering gives the sedan exceptional response at all speeds.
Jaguar first unveiled its flagship sedan at the Frankfort International Auto Show in September of 2009, with three available engines: a naturally aspirated five liter block rated at 385 horsepower, and two supercharged blocks. Engineers shaved weight off the body with extensive use of aluminum and magnesium. Still, the XJ is a fairly heavy car, weighing in at just over 4000 pounds.
Base price on the test car is $87,700, not including an $875 destination fee. Options include a heated windshield, upgraded 20- inch wheels, carbon fiber trim and a canvas headliner, bringing the price as tested to $92,025.
Styling which turns headsDesigner Ian Callum faced a formidable task: to create an exterior which pays tribute to Jaguar’s design heritage while befitting the car’s twenty-first century audience. Although the XJ contains cues from former passenger saloons, it also incorporates elements from landmark sports car designs: notably the long-nosed C, D and E types. The XJ’s appearance leaves the observer no doubts that it is a very fast car.
The driver-focused interior integrates high-tech features such as Bluetooth interface, formula-style paddle shifters and a 1200 watt Bowers and Wilkins sound system with classic touches such as analog-style gauges and leather upholstery. A dual panoramic sunroof floods the interior with ambient light. At night, bi-xenon headlamps provide longer beams which are closer to daylight to light the road ahead.
A central information screen includes audio, temperature and location information. It also serves as the navigation and rear-view camera display. A standard blind spot information system illuminates LED signals in the side mirrors when vehicles in adjacent lanes enter the driver’s blind spots.
Test drive in Arizona
I took the XJ on a 100-mile drive through parts of the Phoenix metro area, route 87 and the Bush Highway east of town. The sport sedan is equally at home on congested urban thoroughfares and deserted two-lane winding roads.
Because of its length and wide track, the sedan is less well suited for narrow city streets. A 40.4-foot turning radius makes U-turns impossible on anything narrower than a four-lane suburban road.
It is also an expensive car to drive, with average fuel economy a scant 17 miles-per-gallon.
Aside from those two concerns, the XJ is an absolute joy to tool around in. Acceleration off the line and in the 20-50 mile-per-hour range is brutally fast. I didn’t need to push any further than half throttle to out-accelerate every other car I came in contact with.
Steering response is exceptional at all speeds. The automatic damping system swallowed up the pitchy hills on the Bush Highway, making them as easy to fly over as gentle swells. In a similar fashion, the steering system made it easy to power through decreasing radius turns at warp speed. The sedan’s large disc brakes stop the car on a dime.
I kept the transmission in ‘drive’ for most of the test. Doing so optimizes fuel economy, and there is certainly no shortage of power. But being a driving enthusiast, I couldn’t resist using the paddle shifters to select gears manually on the Bush Highway.
It isn’t necessary to shift out of the drive setting to engage the paddles. The transmission automatically holds the manual gear selection for a set period of time. At that point it will default back to drive unless the driver shifts again.
Visibility around the car’s perimeter is good. The rearview camera and park assist functions eliminate any blind spots in the rear corners and below the back glass. While I had no problems monitoring traffic in adjacent lanes, the blind spot warning system adds a measure of comfort when weaving through dense traffic.
Engineers did an excellent job of isolating passengers from wind and road noise. Except for an occasional belch out of the sedan’s dual exhausts, the interior is dead quiet.
Spacious interiorThe XJ comfortably accommodates four adults. A large floor tunnel essentially eliminates legroom in the center second-row position.
Seats are on the hard side but not uncomfortably so, with ample lower lumbar support. Redundant audio, Bluetooth and cruise control knobs on the steering wheel minimize driver distraction.
Because there is no hood over the central information screen, it tends to disappear in bright sunlight. Fortunately, this is not the case for the gauge cluster.
Designers replicated analog gauges using digital imaging. This enabled them to add some interesting features which I found useful.
For example, the speedometer illuminates the speed range that the vehicle is travelling in. When the driver engages the cruise control, a marker at the set speed illuminates on the speedometer.
There is ample storage space around the cabin, including map pockets in the doors and a deep center console bin. The center console bin also includes USB and auxiliary ports. Cupholders are on the small side: too narrow to hold larger water bottles.
The sedan’s long, deep trunk holds plenty of luggage, golf bags and the weekly groceries. For a variety of reasons, the XJ is not a particularly good choice for buyers who need to carry their bicycles with any regularity.
The Jaguar XJ comes standard with front, side and side curtain airbags, antilock brakes, dynamic stability control, xenon headlamps, and a blind spot information system. Jaguar builds the XJ at its assembly plant in Castle Bromwich, U.K.
Likes: A beautifully-styled, fast sport sedan with a high level of standard safety features.
Dislike: Central information screen is hard to read in bright sunlight.
Model: XJ Supercharged
Base price: $87,700
As tested: $92,025
Horsepower: 470 Hp @ 6000 rpm
Torque: 424 lbs.-ft. @ 2500 rpm
Zero-to-sixty: 4.9 seconds
Antilock brakes: Standard
Side curtain airbags: Standard
First aid kit: N/A
Bicycle friendly: No
Fuel economy: 15/21 mpg city/highway
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