Jaguar is changing, and it's about time. In June of 2008, the brand was sold by Ford Motor Company to Tata Motors of India. The sale took place amid a complete lineup overhaul that began with the XK sports car for the 2007 model year and continued with the XF sedan for 2009. Along the way, Jaguar adopted a new styling direction and engineered new engines. The latest new entry is the 2011 XJ sedan, which benefits from both developments. Due for release this spring, the new XJ is a big, powerful, attractive and sporty sedan that outclasses its predecessor by a longshot. With new products like this, Jaguarï¿½s future seems brighter than it has in many years.
Photos courtesy of Jaguar.
#10. It boasts the first new design direction in 43 years.
The Jaguar XJ made its debut in 1968 as a long, low, sleek British sedan. The car has been updated several times in the intervening years, but the design has always harkened back to the original. This time around, everything is different. The 2011 XJ uses a variation of the new Jaguar design language that debuted on the 2007 XK coupe and convertible, which was further developed on the 2009 XF sedan. Up front, the look is similar to the XF’s with the attractive new corporate grille flanked by a pair of cat’s eye-style headlights. Character lines flow from the grille, across the hood, and along the body’s high shoulders. The XJ really differs from the XF in the rear, where the coupe-like profile resolves into a high rear end that may be chunky but also gives the car a definite road presence.
#9. It’s offered in short or long wheelbase body styles with plenty of amenities.
The 2011 Jaguar XJ is offered in $72,500 base, $87,500 Supercharged and $115,000 Supersport (due this fall) models, each with short or long wheelbase body styles. Long wheelbase versions, which have five inches more rear legroom but weigh only 39 pounds more, are designated XJL and cost $3,000 more. A true luxury car, the XJ is loaded with standard features, including leather upholstery, 16-way power driver’s seat, heated/cooled front seats, heated rear seat, hard drive-based navigation system with room for music storage, xenon headlights, blindspot monitor, and a rearview camera. Long-wheelbase cars also have fold-down rear trays, four-zone automatic climate control, and rear and side sunshades. The Supercharged model adds 20-inch wheels, Active Differential Control, 1200-watt Bowers & Wilkins audio system, adaptive intelligent headlights, and 20-way power adjustable front seats. The top-line Supersport gets radar cruise control with Forward Alert and Advanced Emergency Brake Assist, and a rear DVD entertainment system.
#8. The interior is a bit too glitzy.
The redesign extends to the interior, where design director Ian Callum aimed for a high-end look with plenty of ornamentation. The dashboard has been lowered to create a greater feeling of space and to accommodate a wraparound line that was inspired by high-end Riva boats. The materials are all of high quality, including nine varieties of wood or carbon fiber trim, piano black plastic, several colors of leather upholstery with contrast piping, headliners in alcantara or leather, and plenty of chrome accents. The problem is it all seems like a little too much. The center of the dashboard is especially distracting, with a pair of chrome-trimmed air vents and a chrome and blue clock. The center console also features some chrome trim that can become a distraction when the sun is at the wrong angle. On the whole, the look is contemporary and attractive, but a bit overwhelming.
#7. The virtual gauge cluster feels out of place.
Instead of a traditional gauge cluster, the 2011 Jaguar XJ uses a 12.3-inch high-definition screen that displays computer-generated gauges. The default mode features a speedometer flanked by a tachometer on the right and fuel and temperature gauges on the left. Put the transmission in Sport mode and the gear selection is displayed in the left gauge and all gauges take on a red hue. The two outer gauges can also be replaced by warning messages and trip or vehicle information menus. The gauges employ a “flashlight effect” that makes the numerals closest to the virtual needles brighter. On the whole, the system works well, but it can wash out in direct sunlight and doesn’t feel upscale like the watch-like gauges in competitive vehicles.
#6. It has three flavors of willing power.
Every 2011 Jaguar XJ is powerful. It’s just a matter of choice how powerful. The base engine is an all-new 5.0-liter V8 that makes 385 horsepower and 380 pound-feet of torque. The Supercharged model adds a supercharger that boosts horsepower to 470 and torque to 424 pound-feet. The Supersport has a higher strung version of the supercharged engine that cranks out 510 horsepower and 461 pound-feet of torque. All of the engines work well with the six-speed automatic transmission, providing plenty of power from a stop and willing passing response. The supercharged versions make the XJ a rocket, with the Supersport charging from 0 to 60 mph in just 4.5 seconds. That’s impressive for such a large car.
#5. It’s roomy and comfortable.
The 2011 Jaguar XJ is well packaged. With generous head and leg room, 16 standard seat adjustments and a power tilt/telescoping steering wheel, it’s easy for the driver to find a comfortable seating position. You can, however, set the seat so low that the center console feels a bit too high. The rear seat in short wheelbase models is comfortable as well, with excellent head room and enough leg room for most needs. Want more? Get the long wheelbase body style, which adds five inches of rear legroom, making the backseat limo-like. Long wheelbase models also have fold-down writing tables, and all models have a fold-down rear armrest that includes storage and a pair of cupholders.
#4. It has a big trunk, but…
The XJ’s trunk is a cavernous 18.4 cubic feet, which is bigger than most cars in the class. However, it doesn’t offer a lot of cargo utility. The problem is two-fold. First, due to the coupe-like roofline, the trunk opening is rather small. Many cars have this problem nowadays, and it means that larger boxes won’t fit. The second problem is a lack of fold-down rear seats or even a ski pass-through. Jaguar figures XJ owners will have an SUV to make trips to Home Depot or the local ski resort, but a car this big really should be able to haul some cargo. For some buyers, the lack of a fold-down rear seat will be a deal breaker.
#3. It handles like a smaller car.
Thanks to an aluminum body structure that debuted with the 2004 model, the Jaguar XJ has enjoyed a weight advantage and therefore a handling advantage over much of the competition. The new XJ uses a revised version of that platform. While it has gained a couple hundred pounds, it is still 300-500 pounds lighter than its major competitors. The body structure is also 11 percent stiffer with 20 percent less body roll. The lighter weight and stiffer body allow the XJ to react better to turns and quick transitions like slaloms. Jaguar’s steering and suspension tuning also helps. The steering is especially quick and direct for a large car and the suspension keeps the car fairly flat through turns. In short, the 2011 XJ drives smaller and sportier than its considerable size.
#2. The ride is smooth but sometimes busy.
Jaguar’s choice of tires and suspension also give the XJ a smooth ride. The standard H-rated tires aren’t as stiff as some higher performance or run-flat tires available on competitors, and the stiff body allows the suspension to be softer without hurting handling. As a result, the XJ soaks up minor road imperfections with ease, and sharper ruts rarely give passengers a jolt. However, I did detect a slight lack of stability at highway speeds. It seems like the car sits about an inch too high, making it feel uneasy on its feet. This results in some unwanted head toss during minor steering adjustments at highway speeds. Otherwise, the XJ provides a very pleasant ride.
#1. It’s a worthy match for its world-class competitors.
Jaguar views the XJ’s main competitors as the Audi A8, BMW 7 Series, Lexus LS and Mercedes-Benz S-Class. That’s some heady competition, but the 2011 Jaguar XJ is up to the task. It is sportier than all but the BMW, and it challenges the others in interior room and comfort, even if it is a bit overdone. It also enjoys a price advantage over most of its rivals. The redesign makes the XJ more substantial and special than the outgoing model, and the new styling gives it a road presence that surpasses its rather staid competitors. Buyers looking for a high-end luxury sedan should definitely put the new XJ on their shopping lists.