Auto journalists have a habit of being cornered at parties by interested outsiders – usually, the boyfriend of the cute girl you were just flirting with – and pounced upon with the standard question. After “what’s your favorite car?” and “what’s the fastest you’ve ever gone”, you are likely to get some kind of consumer advice question. “I have $X to spend on a car. What would you recommend?”
When you’re on the free car gravy train, the concerns of the commoners, like reliability, practicality, fuel economy and running costs disappear. That’s why I’ve witnessed some members of my guild encourage people, with an unflinching earnestness, that the best car for someone looking for reliable family transportation, would be a used Saab 9-5 Aero. Or a brown Citroen SM. Or that legendary stalwart, the TDI Jetta Sportwagen.
I confess that my own choices will always lean towards the quirky, the thrilling or the intolerably obscure, but for us scribes, it’s easy. We always have reliable transportation in our driveways on a weekly basis, so when the work-in-progress Lamborghini Espada won’t fire up, you can take the 38 MPG 2013 Nissan Altima to the store for the milk run. If you’re a regular sap, that option doesn’t always exist, and reliability gains more importance. That’s why, despite it being my favorite car I’ve driven all year, I would never recommend a Jaguar XJ to anybody, even if it’s within the warranty period.
Before I skin the cat, sans anesthesia, let me gush over this car in the metaphor-saturated hyperbolic tone that passes for great automotive writing these days. This car is all things to all people; comfortable enough to get driven in, but exciting enough that you’ll want to take the wheel. I think it looks stunning, though 75 percent of commenters will disagree with me. Even over local roads that looked like they’d be repaired by the Syrian Air Force, the XJ glided over the dips and bumps with a softness that toilet paper marketers yearn to verbalize. The 470-horsepower supercharge engine is near silent from inside, but delivers muscle-car like thrust. On the highway cycle, I got 22 mpg cruising at 80 mph with the A/C blowing cold.
The interior somehow managed to top the 2011 Jaguar XJL Supersport I drove last year; I thought the purple velvet-lined cigar box inside the rear armrest was as good as it got. The Portfolio package, with its rear-seat entertainment system, wireless headphones (so you can listen to your own music while front seat occupants play their own music) and the wireless controllers for all of that (which look like little Gameboys) take it to the next level. Also present are the mirrored tray tables (which I assume are for the consumption of liquid, rather than powdered intoxicants) and my favorite detail, that long, curved piece of wood that wraps from A-pillar to A-pillar. My mind contorts at the thought of how difficult and expensive that piece was to make.
Now that I’m done angling for a Pulitzer Prize, let me tell you why I’d never tell anyone to go out and buy this. The atrocious reliability. When you vouch for someone or something, you put your own credibility on the line, and for most people, a car is the second biggest purchase of their lives. The stakes aren’t quite as high for your typical XJ buyer as they would be for, say, a single mother that needs a good car to get to work and pick her kids up from school. Nevertheless, reliability data from Consumer Reports and True Delta confirms that Jaguar cars still struggle with reliability. Some local journalists even reported quality problems with the press fleet units, including infotainment systems that would randomly decide to stop working.
Until there is some kind of real evidence that Jaguar is making real strides in the quality of their cars, I’ll have to recommend something else to anyone looking for a $100,000 luxury sedan. Then again, if you’re the type that owns or admires the Citroen SM, this would make a great daily driver. Think of it as a much quicker, more opulent Citroen C6. With similar reliability.