Test Drive: 2011 Jaguar XJ

Reworked British luxury sedan continues to qualify for designation as one of the most "suave" motorcars on the market

by James M. Flammang

2011 Jaguar XJ sedan comes in standard or extended (XJL)
form, with or without a supercharged engine

In its latest generation, launched for 2011, Jaguar's flagship sedan exhibits the British motorcar's "new design language," along with the newest engine and chassis systems. Invariably known for automotive beauty, along with its XK and XF siblings, the XJ sedan has a long heritage of premium motorcars to live up to.

Six models are offered for 2011, including standard and long-wheelbase (XJL) versions. Those XJL editions add five extra inches of rear legroom.

All 2011 models use a variant of the AJ-V8 all-aluminum, four-cam Gen III 5.0-liter V-8, first introduced on the 2010 XF and XK models. The XJ holds a naturally aspirated 385-horsepower V-8, while the XJ Supercharged gets a 470-hp supercharged version of that engine. Jaguar's limited-production XJ Supersport is powered by a 510-hp supercharged engine, and can accelerate from zero to 60 mph in 4.7 seconds–yet, it's not subject to the Federal "gas guzzler" tax. On XJ Supercharged and Supersport models, a twin vortex system (TVS) supercharger and twin water-cooled intercoolers fit into the engine's "V" area between cylinder banks.

Every XJ model uses an electronically controlled, fully adaptive six-speed automatic transmission with JaguarDrive Selector and Sequential Shift, operated by steering-wheel paddles. In Jaguar's words, the illuminated stop/start button "pulsates like a heartbeat until pressed, when, as part of the XJ's ‘handshake' sequence, the JaguarDrive Selector rises from the center console. It lowers automatically when the engine is stopped.

Jaguar's standard XJ gets a fuel-economy estimate of 16 mpg in city driving and 23 mpg on the highway, Pick either supercharged engine, and the estimates drop to 15-mpg city;21-mpg highway.

Primarily made of aluminum, the body also uses magnesium and composite alloys, yielding a significantly lighter and stiffer structure than one built from steel. As for styling, the nose is said to follow Jaguar's new design language, with a mesh grille and slim standard xenon headlights. Jaguar says the wrap-around rear window gives the impression of an exotic "floating" roof. A panoramic glass roof is standard on all XJ models. Jaguar says the roof's dark tint and reflective coating help limit heat gain, and twin electric blinds are installed.

Alongside the low, leather-wrapped instrument panel, "architectural" wood sweeps forward from the rear doors through the front doors, meeting at the upper dashboard. An analog clock inspired by luxury wristwatches sits in the center. A 12.3-inch high-definition screen displays "virtual gauges." The center dial houses a speedometer, tachometer, and fuel and temperature gauges. When Dynamic mode is selected, the dials change to a red hue. An 8-inch touch-screen display in the center console provides access to such functions as climate control, audio, communications, and navigation.

Standard features include xenon headlamps that are available with a system that switches the high beams on and off automatically in response to oncoming traffic and prevailing lighting conditions. That's combined with adaptive lighting, which swivels the headlamps to follow the road when cornering. A radar-based blind-spot monitoring system is standard, along with front and rear parking sensors and a backup camera.

Still utterly suave after all these years, the XJ contains plenty of high-tech helpers, but they're presented mainly in an intelligible way–unlike some of today's luxury automobiles. All-electronic gauges are especially pleasing.

Step on the gas and you get a near-torrent of eager and civilized acceleration. The ride is not glassy smooth, so you never forget you're in a motorcar; but it's enjoyably comfortable nearly all the time. Steering feel is hard to beat for confidence and control. Expect lots of room, too, though head space could be better.

Jaguar XJ prices start at $73,575 for the standard model (including destination charge). Topping the line, an XJL Supersport stickers for quite a hefty $114,075.

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