Thumbs Up: A luxury ride with sporting intentions.
Thumbs Down: Digital dash seems out of place.
Buy This Car If: You want a modern interpretation of traditional luxury.
Somewhere during my first stint behind the wheel of the Jaguar XJ Supercharged, I ran out of superlatives. Somehow, calling the 2011 Jaguar XJ the nicest mid-level Jaguar ever produced seems inadequate. It’s certainly the best looking, and it breaks from Jaguar’s stately saloon car heritage to borrow a few styling elements from Aston Martin (remember, both were owned by Ford when design work on the 2011 XJ began). It’s certainly among the quickest, and the car’s 470 horsepower supercharged V8 brings the car to speed with a surprising amount of haste, hitting 60 miles per hour in under 5 seconds. It also seems better screwed together than Jags in recent memory, and the interior is the nicest I’ve ever seen in a Jaguar XJ. As equipped, the Jaguar XJ Supercharged tester I drove had a sticker price just south of $90,000; it’s not often that I can say this, but the new XJ Supercharged is worth every penny.
Jaguar redesigned the XJ for the 2011 model year, and placed significant emphasis on both interior content and exterior style. The outside is a radical departure from XJs past, but I say that’s a good thing. Regardless of how iconic the previous XJ’s styling may have been, it didn’t stack up well against other contemporary full size luxury sedans. Styling on the new car, however, is stunning. It doesn’t have a bad angle, and it looks like nothing else on the road. Sure, there are the previously mentioned styling influences from Aston Martin (particularly from the front), but the car manages to have its own identity. Purists may decry it as too dramatic a change from Jaguar’s traditional styling, but I’d say it was necessary to bring life back into a dying product line. On exterior styling alone, the 2011 Jaguar XJ is perhaps the best car I’ve driven to date.
As good as the exterior is, it pales in comparison to the XJ’s new interior. It’s perfectly executed and built to a standard not generally associated with Jaguars of old. Fit and finish was as good as anything I’ve ever seen on four wheels, and the materials used were beyond reproach. I’m not a wood-trim-in-my-sport-sedan kind of guy, but the satin elm veneer used in the XJ’s interior was exquisite; in fact, I found myself looking for excuses to drive the car just to appreciate the interior’s colors, textures and shapes. Even the rise-from-the-center-console gear selector knob, which takes getting used to, had an unusually solid feel to it, like it was machined down from steel bar stock before being thickly chrome platied. If I could fault the interior, it would be for two things: the digital dash, which seems out of place in a car with the XJ’s heritage; and the heated windshield, which made driving at night an exercise in blurred vision. The windshield (which contains embedded heating elements that refract light from oncoming cars) is easy enough to eliminate, since it’s sold as a $375 option.
The digital dash, on the other hand, just takes getting used to. It’s a high resolution LCD screen that projects the image of gauges, and it’s completely functional; in fact, the gauges are clear in a wide range of lighting conditions, and switch from blue backlighting to red when Dynamic mode is selected (more on that later). As good as they are, I can’t help think that a set of chrome-ringed traditional gauges, blended with an LCD information screen, would have been a better aesthetic fit for this car.
Here I go throwing out superlatives again, but the front seats in the Jaguar XJ are that best I’ve ever experienced on four wheels. They’re adjustable for every conceivable manner of comfort, made of buttery soft leather (with contrasting piping), heated and cooled. Just in case that’s not good enough for you, they also have a “Shiatsu massage” feature for both the driver and the passenger. Getting stuck in rush hour traffic in the Jag is something to look forward to, since it gives you an excuse to punch up the seat massage and to crank the 1200W Bowers and Wilkins surround sound audio. Whatever furniture and audio components you have waiting for you at home, they’re probably not as good as the ones in the XJ.
Rear seat passengers also get first class accommodations, including heated seats, cooled seats, massaging seatbacks and their own climate control. The standard wheelbase XJ gives ample room for rear seat passengers, but Jaguar also offers the car in a long wheelbase model if you’re the type who leaves the driving to someone else.
Trunk space is on par with other luxury sedans, but the height of the Jag’s trunk seems reduced compared to the competition. Loading luggage or golf bags won’t be an issue, but trying to stuff a medium-large shipping box into the trunk probably won’t end well. If you’re driving a Jaguar XJ, this probably isn’t a limiting factor; you either have another vehicle for hauling oversized or odd-shaped objects, or you have people who do that for you. If you’re shopping the XJ, be sure to check the trunk space to see if it will work for your needs.
Under the hood, the XJ Supercharged gets a 5.0 liter supercharged V8 good for 470 horsepower and 424 ft lb of torque. This is mated to a six speed automatic that can also be shifted via steering wheel mounted paddle shifters, which execute surprisingly quick shifts in Dynamic mode. Despite driving the XJ in a “brisk and spirited manner”, I still managed to see fuel economy of 20.3 MPG in mostly highway driving. This is slightly better than the EPA rating of 15 MPG city, 21 MPG highway and 17 MPG combined, and I probably could have returned an even higher fuel economy if I’d kept the car in Standard mode instead of Dynamic mode for the majority of my driving. There’s even a “snow mode” which starts you out in second gear and promotes quick upshifts to maximize traction on slippery surfaces; this would also work to maximize fuel efficiency.
But resisting the siren’s song of Dynamic mode proved difficult for me. In Standard mode, the XJ is a comfortable but sporty luxury sedan. In Dynamic mode, the car seems to come alive, transforming into a full bore luxury sport sedan. The suspension tightens up, but the ride never gets harsh; this is a Jag, after all. The throttle response, which is good to begin with, gets even better. Shift changes quicken, and the car builds speed as effortlessly as, well, a jaguar (the four legged kind). I expected the XJ to excel as a luxury car; I didn’t expect the XJ to excel as a sport sedan.
Even in Dynamic mode, the suspension can’t hide the fact that the XJ is a big car, Despite the extensive use of aluminum, the XJ tips the scales at nearly 4,300 pounds; that’s lighter than a BMW 750i (which weighs 4,564 pounds), a Mecrcedes S550 (4,455 pounds) or even an Audi A8 (4,409 pounds), but it’s still heavy for a sport sedan. Body roll is minimal, but don’t expect a car weighing north of two tons to change direction as quickly as a sports car. That said, I was still impressed at both the XJ’s handling and the amount of feedback that it provides the driver. Unless you’re coming from a Porsche Panamera Turbo, I seriously doubt the handling of the XJ will disappoint.
My 2011 Jaguar XJ Supercharged had a sticker price of $88,575, including a destination charge of $875. The sole option on my tester was the aforementioned Heated Windshield, a $375 option I’d advise against. Total sticker on my tester came to $88,950, which makes the XJ Supercharged a relative bargain among top-tier luxury sedans. A comparably equipped BMW 750i would sticker at $92,725, a similarly optioned Audi A8 would sell for $94,925 and a comparable Mercedes-Benz S550 would top out at $109,365. If you can live with less power, a Base XJ (with the 385 horsepower V8) starts at $73,575, but still includes all of the XJ’s safety features, its superb chassis and its stunning good looks.