The Truth About Cars » Jaguar The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Sun, 27 Jul 2014 11:00:20 +0000 en-US hourly 1 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars no The Truth About Cars (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars » Jaguar Tata To Enter Global Passenger Market With Help Of Jaguar Land Rover Wed, 23 Jul 2014 10:00:44 +0000 Tata-Xenon-11

Having done well with Jaguar Land Rover in its portfolio, Tata Motors is now turning to its premium subsidiary for its own foray into passenger cars and SUVs. reports the parent company is using the technical and design know-how JLR to begin growing its passenger vehicle line in Australia and beyond, though Darren Bowler, managing director of importer Fusion Automotive, assures that no badge engineering would occur between the two brands.

What would be shared, according to Bowler, would be platforms and engines, such as the global platform underpinning the upcoming Nexon SUV that could “be used as an Evoque… a Tata, [or] a Jaguar,” as well as the Ingenium family of four-cylinder engines that will soon turn up under the bonnet of many a JLR product.

In the meantime, Tata Australia plans to tackle the medium- and heavy-duty markets with the Ultra and Prima, both joining the light-duty Xenon.

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Jaguar Land Rover Experiment With Augmented-Reality HUDs Fri, 11 Jul 2014 10:00:58 +0000 Jaguar HUD

Jaguar Land Rover is bringing a duo of augmented-reality HUDs to its respective brands, each with a different take on the technology.

Autoblog reports the Land Rover’s setup will have what they dub a Smart Assistant handling nearly every function and task so as to allow the driver to focus on driving to their destinations. The assistant connects with a driver’s smartphone to do everything from reminding you to drop off the children at school, to playing those morning jams Jalopnik likes to recommend. Meanwhile, the technology is also at work on-board, noting how many passengers are with the driver, knowing how the driver drives, even adjusting the air suspension to make exiting the vehicle easier.

Jaguar, on the other hand, is taking the video game approach with the Jaguar Virtual Windscreen, turning a day at the track into a scene from Forza or Gran Turismo. The race-oriented HUD offers lap times, virtual racing lines and ghost competitors among other data selections. There will also be gesture controls and configuration options, as well.

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Capsule Review: Jaguar F-Type – Base Is Best Mon, 02 Jun 2014 15:30:10 +0000 2014-F-TYPE-tunnel-main_rdax_646x396

How much power is enough? 300 horsepower? 400? 500? Let’s put it another way? How much is enough to impress people you don’t even like?

The vehicle above is identical to the Jaguar F-Type V8S I drove: Sandfire Metallic, Dynamic Mode, cheesy gold-painted plastic paddles (ugh) and an exhaust note that sounds like a 1200cc Harley with the mufflers cut off – with some added popping-and-farting noises programmed in for good measure.

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This is a car that impresses other people. It looks like a sports car, or even a junior exotic. It certainly sounds like one. As I recounted in my last review of the F-Type V6S, it is one automobile that really does make you more attractive to the opposite sex. It’s also the worst F-Type variant on the market.

Ok, the soundtrack is intoxicating – to a point. The only way you can enjoy that mechanical orchestra is to accelerate really quickly and then let off the gas, to decelerate to the point where you might get a hefty speeding ticket, but not a roadside impound. Forget flying under the radar (literally) –  it’s so bloody loud that every highway patrolman or concerned citizen within a 25 mile radius can hear what you’re doing. The Group B rally-car noises plumbed in to the V8 exhaust note is like spiking Chateauneuf-du-Pape with Grape Kool-Aid.


While you’re doing busy making a scene, you are probably negotiating some bends, and the V8S, with its extra two-cylinders, supercharger and associated plumbing and massive wheels, feels substantially heavier than the other models. The difference coming out of the two cars is drastic, like you’ve just removed a rucksack full of dumbbells from its back…err, front.

The best comparison that can be made is between the various last-gen Mustangs. As you go from a Shelby GT500 to a V8 to a V6, you feel the nose get lighter and lighter progressively. Which shouldn’t matter on a less track-focused car that’s all about excitement and getting attention to make up for a lack of parental love. But it does, especially when you’re getting an indicated 11 mpg, while trying to use the F-Type’s quad pipes to recreate the sounds of the Battle of Britain.


When it was time to return the V8S, I felt satisfied that I had been sufficiently validated by anonymous motorists and pedestrians. It was time for the V6S – or so I thought. Horror of horrors, it turned out that I was incorrect. It was a V6. The base V6. Oh, the indignity of having to drive a base model F-Type, with just 340 horsepower (rather than the 380 ponies of the V6S), a (slightly) quieter exhaust, and smaller wheels without faux-Brembo red calipers.

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Well, it turned out to be a thoroughly enjoyable experience. As good as the V6S I raved about last fall? No. But there would be no shame in driving one of these every day, because if nothing else, it’s more exciting than a base Boxster. For starters, the aforementioned front-end liposuction works wonders in everyday situations. The base F-Type actually feels nimble and easy to toss around, to say nothing of maneuvering through traffic. There’s still Dynamic Mode, the active exhaust and a Sport Mode for the transmission, which makes things a fair bit louder and a bit more raw, without sacrificing everyday comfort or drawing the ire of your neighbors when coming home late at night.

Despite being down 40 horsepower compared to the V6S, the base car is still reasonably quick, but adds another level of engagement to the experience. You have to work the car a bit harder to access the still-plentiful power reserves, and in the real word, that’s often more rewarding – meanwhile, fuel economy was an observed 23 mpg, or about double what I recorded during the V8S’ totally unscientific acceleration/efficiency testing. At a base price of $69,000, it’s also about $23,000 less than the V8S.

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Ask yourself, can you live with an extra $23,000, while also having to tell people that yes, the V6 models are actually the superior choice? I tried, and my explanations about less weight over the nose, a more exotic soundtrack (the V8 sounds like a cross between a Spitfire aircraft and a Pontiac GTO – the V6 sounds like a cross between a Lancia Stratos and Hendrix’s version of Voodoo Chile ) and, worst of all, less horsepower

Personally, I gave up, exasperated, but I didn’t care. A lot of people do. They have to be able to tell people that they bought the best, the most powerful, the most expensive, even if its capabilities are so beyond them, it would be like giving a .500 S&W Magnum to somebody who doesn’t know how to fire a .38. It’s all that most F-Type buyers really need, but when does logic ever pop into the sports car purchase decision?

I know this because I’m the kind of person that felt exactly the same way about the V6 Mustang – it’s more nimble and agile, it’s got plenty of power and it’s the better choice for most daily driving situations. But I’m vain, and I’d never buy a V6 Mustang because then, you won’t be impressing strangers and people you don’t actually like. But I’m human, and prone to inconsistencies bordering on the hypocritical. And with the F-Type, I’m making a deviation from my usual logic.

I wish I could close out the article by saying that my girlfriend agrees that the V6 is her choice too, but she just dumped me.  All I can think about is how even though the Porsche Boxster is a sharper machine, I’d really like to go for a drive in the F-Type right now. Given the chance, I would take the V6, not the V8, to help me clear my head and get over the fact that my passenger seat is going to be empty for the next little while.

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Jaguar Will Finish Lightweight E-Type Project 50 Years After It Began Fri, 16 May 2014 11:00:17 +0000 1963-silverstone-lightweight-e-type-003-1

Those with enough money their pockets and desire a new Jaguar E-Type could opt for the restomod offerings from Eagle, and would likely be happy with what they receive. However, an exclusive few may manage to snag a new E-Type directly from Jaguar as soon as this summer, when the automaker finishes the final six of 18 Lightweight E-Types after a five-decade pause in production.

Autoblog reports the program — begun in 1963 — will pick up where it left off in 1964, when the last of the first 12 of the all-aluminium cars rolled out of the factory. At the time, the remaining sextet of E-Types had chassis numbers ready to go, only for life to take Jaguar elsewhere.

With the numbers found, however, the automaker will at last build the missing cars. The work will occur in-house, with its craftsman hand-building each one to the exact specs as the original 12, all of them powered by an aluminium 3.8-liter I6. The cars will weigh 250 pounds less than the standard E-Type.

As for when and where the first Lightweight will roll off the line, Jaguar says the car could arrive sometime this summer, though “established Jaguar collectors, expecially those with historic race car interests,” will have first dibs on the six vehicles. No price has been stated thus far.

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Drive Slow, Homie Wed, 09 Apr 2014 11:00:19 +0000 IMG_8619


A good friend of mine has a bit of wisdom that I try to follow whenever possible: “Say yes to everything.” It’s easy to misconstrue this as encouragement to engage in promiscuous behavior, ingestion of narcotics and other activities that are indicative of poor future-time orientation. Instead, it’s an exhortation to open oneself up to experiences and opportunities, without regard for the kind of details that the more neurotic among us might obsess over.

I kept this in mind when I got a call from a local fleet manager not long ago. His offer was simple: drive a brand new Jaguar XKR for a week. As always, there were conditions attached.

1) This was, literally, a brand new car. When I picked up the keys, it had roughly 50 miles on it.

2) I had to help with the “break-in”, which meant driving it fairly long distances, and with extra care in mind. Gentle acceleration was fine. Mashing the throttle and lighting up the rears in an effort to recreate the audible signature of a Spitfire (aircraft, not roadster) was not.

3) The last of the winter weather had yet to recede. Temperatures were still in the mid to high thirties, sporadic flurries had not yet given way to spring showers, and the car was wearing a set of fat Pirelli P Zeros.

Did I mention the 510 horsepower supercharged 5.0L V8?

Challenge accepted.

The XK has been out since the 2006 model year, and it’s only just starting to look dated right now – especially inside. As Alex Dykes noted in prior reviews, the steering wheel looks like something you would have found in a Hertz Prestige Collection car a decade ago. The most bit of evidence in our exercise in dendrochronology is the in-dash touch screen. Even though it dates back to 2006, it looks and feels more like Windows 95, though it works well enough.

To jaded enthusiasts already charmed by the Sloan Ranger flash of the F-Type, the XK might look a little stale. To everyone else, you’re driving the only supercar that doesn’t cause a reflexive feeling of hostility. Pedestrians stop and stare, little children point and, crucially, other motorists will let you in when attempting to change lanes or make left turns. You will frequently get this car confused for an Aston Martin, at which point, you have to inform them of one major difference: this thing is actually good to drive.

My lone experience with Aston Martin proved to be a real letdown. The V8 Vantage was a victim of an immense, Clarkson-driven jingoistic hype machine. Well, that’s not entirely true. The V8 Vantage was fairly well-reviewed, mostly by journalists who were angling to get back on another Aston Martin junket. Since I drove a privately owned car and my self-worth isn’t based on what junkets I get invited to, I can let you in on a secret.

The V8 Vantage was barely quicker than a 4.6L Mustang from the same era, and arguably less satisfying to drive. Not a whole lot has changed in the interim. Save yourself the $20,000 (likely more, once options are added) and buy this. It’s a bit quieter, a bit less impressive to the bystanders that you imagine are staring at you admiringly, but it’s better in the real world.

At typical speeds, this is an extremely comfortable car. Even with the comically large 20″ wheels and 20-Series tires, the ride over Toronto’s pothole-and-frost-ridden roads is superb. Somehow, the ride remains composed without ever feeling soft. Impacts are absorbed, but don’t seem to unsettle the car or make their way through the cowl like some oversprung sporty cars do. At all speeds, the car is quiet – too quiet even. With the windows up, the muted burble of the blown eight is no louder than say, the Hyundai Genesis V8 I recently tested. That’s not a good thing, even for a car that is rightfully considered a Grand Tourer.

Pick up the pace a little, and the XKR responds in a far more athletic manner than any GT has a right to do. With it’s all-aluminum structure, the car feels far lighter on its feet than a BMW M6, though in reality, it’s still just a hair under 4000 lbs, and 250 lbs lighter than the Bimmer. The steering is still hydraulic, but doesn’t have an abundance of feel or feedback. Any confidence inspired by the car is thanks to its composed chassis, which is largely absent of body roll or unwanted motions and the enormous, sticky Pirellis. It might not be the most communicative car on the road, but the XKR is very capable at making its way through turns at far higher velocities than what’s considered socially or legally acceptable.

Where the Jaguar really excels is as a high-speed, long-distance cruiser. By nature of its design, the rearward visibility makes rapidly changing lanes a bit of a challenger, with a rather small aperture that can be viewed by the rear-view mirror. On the plus side, the cushy seats, utter absence of NVH and the superb stereo make the XKR as comfortable as sitting in your favorite armchair, with a subdued NASCAR soundtrack looping in the background – not that you’d ever do something so declasse.

Being forced to drive this car at an artificially gentle pace made me appreciate that the exalted sports cars in our hobby – the Elises, Miatas the E30 M3s and Toyobarus – are fantastic cars when the conditions are perfect and the roads are properly paved and there’s not much else going on in your life to prevent you from unplugging your life and driving for a couple hundred miles to your favorite road.

That scenario is like a first date that stretches into the next morning: often discussed, rarely realized and necessitating unplanned food and bathroom visits, the latter of which can be rather awkward. For every other situation, cars like this are underappreciated. They let you crawl in traffic, take calls via Bluetooth and get you where you need to go without turning you into a sweaty, oily mess with rumpled clothes and a well-worn AAA card. There’s a reason why our EIC is so enthusiastic about his Honda Accord V6 6MT. The drive wheels might be swapped and the cylinder count might be down, but both cars fulfill the same purpose.

By the end of my time with the XKR, I had racked up nearly 1000 miles, and felt confident that I had treated the car with sufficient care that something that pushed the limits of my instructions could be done without causing excess mechanical harm. I knew from driving XKRs in the past that engaging Dynamic Mode and stepping on the accelerator from a dead stop would produce a launch like a pre-facelift Shelby GT500, with a bucking back end, a flickering traction control light and a demonic wail from the supercharged V8.

I found myself on an abandoned road in an industrial park. I was glad I said “yes”.
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Geneva 2014: Jaguar XFR-S Sportbrake Wed, 05 Mar 2014 16:22:09 +0000 Jaguar-XFR-S-Sportbrake (1)


550 horsepower supercharged V8 in a British wrapper coated in French Blue paint. A bit confusing? Not really – it’s a CTS-V Wagon for those under the jurisdiction of the EU Parliament.

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New Jaguar Land Rover Factory in Brazil to Open in 2016 Wed, 11 Dec 2013 11:30:32 +0000 2013 Land Rover Range Rover Evoque, Exterior, Rear 3/4, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

If you live in Brazil and are pining away for a Jaguar or Land Rover, Tata Motors will open a factory for the luxury marques in time for the 2016 Summer Olympics.

The new factory, slated to produce 24,000 units annually at the beginning, is set to begin construction in Itatiaia sometime next year. The two luxury brands already hold 53 percent of the luxury SUV market in Brazil, with a goal to sell 10,000 units in 2014; 9,549 Evoques, Freelanders, Discoverys et al have left the showroom through October 2013.

Tata will use the new factory to meet local demand before considering export markets nearby, and is considered to be a major step in their overall global manufacturing strategy.

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UR-Turn: Tesla Model S vs. Jaguar XF Tue, 12 Nov 2013 11:00:12 +0000 tesla-vs-jaguar-front

A colleague and friend of mine just bought himself a Tesla Model S (the fast P85 edition). I’d been wanting to find a suitable car to compare it against, so I approached a major European car vendor’s media relations people, asking for a loaner so I could do a head-to-head comparison.

The response: “Unfortunately, Mr. Large And In Charge [not his actual name] isn’t interested in a comparison against the Tesla, Dan.” Knowing I’d never have the pull of Top Gear to get the gear I wanted in hand, I resolved that I’d do it some other way.

Recently, I received a card in the mail, inviting me to a Jaguar ALIVE Driving Experience. I’ve been to things like this before. They feed you mini-muffins, they let you tear around a mini-autocross track, you leave with a baseball cap, a mini-grin on your face, and mini-spam in your email box for months to come. I decided to invite my Tesla buddy along and see if I could get an expensive Jag in one side of my brain and compare it to the expensive Tesla in the other side of my brain. Here’s what happened.

First, let’s just look at them side by side, shall we? From the front, the Jaguar XF and the Tesla Model S have distinct personalities. The Tesla’s oval mouth probably has more in common with a Maserati Quattroporte, but the headlights have comparable anger to them. Both of these cars are snarling at you to get out of the way. Here’s a rear view.


The resemblance is clear. The Tesla’s hatchback and the Jaguar’s trunk are cut from the same cloth. You can see how much wider the Tesla’s hatch is, though, making it much easier to get big stuff in and out. What about the mirrors? Our own Sajeev loves to obsess over the little triangle where the mirror joins up with the front window. Here we go.


Tesla’s mirror is a bit more svelte, but there’s more than a passing resemblance. Now wait a minute, you might be complaining, how can you possible compare these two cars? The Jaguar XF starts around $50k with a two liter turbo four-cylinder and runs well north of $100k by the time you’ve got a firebreathing supercharged V8 installed. The cars are comparably sized, at least on the outside, although the Jag’s back seat is cramped, versus the entirely adult-compatible Tesla. Both vendors are clearly going after the same buyers.

Jaguar notably didn’t bring along the two liter. I sadly only got to drive the insane supercharged V8 for exactly one lap. (Summary: it’s got huge gobs of power and lots of electronic nannies to keep you alive. Since they required us to drive with the nannies on, all I can say is that it was holding back my flooring-it throttle inputs until it felt it safe, and it was readily applying its massive brakes even when I thought it didn’t need to.) Since that’s the car they’re using to show off the line, and it’s priced roughly the same as the P85 Tesla Model S (yadda yadda government subsidies vs. gas guzzler taxes, yadda yadda), the comparison seems fair game to me.

The Jaguar’s interior is pretty much what you’d expect at this price point from a conventional car. It’s got nice fitted leather seats with contrasting stitching and that fantastic new car smell. It’s got a touch screen (deep, sometimes confusing menus), voice recognition (not terribly useful), and a bunch of buttons. The Tesla has their unlike-anything-else spartan interior. I’m including a photo here of the nav screen with direct sunlight on it. It’s bright enough that it’s still entirely usable. Anybody who knows their way around a modern smartphone will have no trouble operating the Tesla. This is the future.


What about a performance comparison? Handling! Acceleration! Growling exhaust! I didn’t have anything even vaguely resembling the opportunity to do an apples-to-apples comparison. Suffice to say that the P85 Tesla’s acceleration is instantaneous and violent. And silent. On paper it’s faster than the über Jaguar and my butt dyno and I totally believe it.

Instead of that, I’ll offer a more direct comparison of the sort that automotive journalists usually ignore: sound-system quality. My buddy’s Tesla has their uprated stereo system. I asked the Jaguar folks if I could get some quality time with their sound system and they happily left me alone in an optioned-up XJR. I paired my phone, via Bluetooth, and cranked my favorite test tunes through the Jaguar’s Meridian sound system and later ran the same exact tunes through the Tesla.


If you’re the sort of person who reads audiophile reviews, you’ll know they come in two varieties: “meaningless adjectives alongside descriptions of the reviewer’s favorite tunes” or “soulless test measurements”. Since I didn’t exactly have serious test gear in hand, nor do I wish to bombard you with meaningless adjectives (“a light, airy sound with a tight thunderous bass”), I’ll say that I used one classical orchestral piece, one late 1950′s jazz studio recording with Ella on vocals, and two bits of carefully chosen 90′s techno that will drive any subwoofer to submission.

In a nutshell, the Jaguar’s sound system was perfectly fine on the orchestral piece (lots of dynamic range, etc.), was a bit muddy with the famous female jazz singer, and the techno revealed the dreaded one-note-bass-thud-thud-thud, of the sort that you’d expect from somebody’s riced out Honda Civic. The Tesla was similarly fine on the classical piece, was slightly better on the jazz (something a bit off in the upper treble of Ella’s voice), and was 95% there on the techno, with different bass notes sounding notably different. (In my previous Tesla Model S encounter, that car didn’t have the uprated stereo. I played the same tunes there, and they were noticeably worse. If you want to listen to anything more demanding than talk radio in your Tesla, pony up for the good sound system. And somebody please invite Tony Stark Elon Musk to listen to a good pair of ribbon speakers so he knows what to shoot for.)

Before I go, I’ll offer a couple quick words on the other Jaguars. The XK is still the best looking Jaguar out there. Below is a tricked out XKR-S, with matching contrasting stitching. Oh, and the driver’s seat is set perfectly for me (5’10″). Those ain’t back seats. They’re parcel shelves.


They also let us drive the new F-Type, in supercharged V6 and supercharged V8 form. This car is every bit the hoontastic screamer as the XK, and for a slightly less outrageous price. The only thing you’re giving up is the rear parcel shelf seat. However, I’ll draw your attention to the gear selector (photo below). This is guaranteed to be misunderstood by the first valet you give the keys to, who will promptly back your car up into traffic and destroy the poor thing. You see, to put it in “park”, you press the “P” button on the top of the stick. If you just move the stick up, like every other automatic ever made, that’s just “reverse”. (Pro-tip: buy a manual transmission. Oh wait, you can’t.)


And, last but not least, when I first saw the XFR-S in its “French Racing Blue” (vraiment?), the comparison that sprang to mind was the dearly departed Pontiac G8. Is it just me?


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2015 Jaguar F-Type Coupe to Debut at LA Auto Show Wed, 06 Nov 2013 14:11:08 +0000 F Type Coupe

For those of us who love the Jaguar’s F-Type’s zazz but would prefer to keep the wind out of our hair (along with the rain, sleet and snow) on a more permanent basis, Jaguar now has an option for you.

The hardtop iteration of the British-Indian automaker’s halo car will make its global debut in Los Angeles November 19 at an exclusive party for VIP customers and media types prior to taking the floor at the LA Auto Show a day later.

Though little is known about what’s under the bonnet or the glass roof panels, the all-aluminium cat most likely won’t have the C-X16′s KERS-inspired hybrid drivetrain. Rumors are abundant that a manual gearbox will debut along with the coupe. The coupe will debut in showrooms across the United States in the spring of 2014.

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The Jaguar F-Type vs. Some Tunnels Mon, 04 Nov 2013 14:00:51 +0000 IMG_5261
Six days a week, Monday through Saturday, I get up at 4:45 am – five o’clock and I’m plonked in front of the keyboard, staring at the blinking cursor of my computer screen, fuelled by caffeine and ready to start shovelling words into its gaping maw. Six days a week, but on the seventh day I sleep in.

Sunday, a day for rest. But this day, I rise at my usual time to drive a hundred and fifty miles through the blackness and the pouring rain.

As I move east, the traffic thins. The gaps between spray-flinging semi-trailers increase. Where the highway splits, in the little town of Hope, I take the route that heads North, and find myself alone on the road in the purring Jaguar. The FM radio begins losing reception and I turn it off. The concentrated showers fade, replaced by heavy, clinging mist.

Buttoned-up, the F-type pads its way through the still-sleeping town of Yale, a light or two on here and there, but no-one stirring. The road snakes up out of town, the speed limit climbs back up – and there it is, first of seven. I pull the car over, stop, put the top down.


Hell of a car, this thing, all sharp angles and compact muscle. This is the light version too, the supercharged-six rather than the blown-eight, but its 380hp is plenty of punch for the street, and with everything softened-up and battened-down for the bad weather, it’s been a great highway cruiser. I’m not here to cruise though: toggle flicked to dynamic, shifter snapped to the left, a pull on the rubbery paddle shifter to lock the eight-speed in manual mode.



I’ve always loved tunnels, even as a kid. Driving through them at night, you’d suddenly be transported into a world of flickering sodium-lamp orange, the car dropping into warp-space as you peered out the back seat window. In the daytime, the radio would spit, sputter, and fade to static as you passed from here to there, wherever there might be, ahead, a brightness in the shape of a D lying on its back.



Baffles fully opened, the little Jag skitters forward with a nasty cough of aggression that rises to a yowl of fury. The tiled sides of the tunnel bounce the waves right back in a crescendoing shock-wave – second-to-third with a snap and a snarl and the briefest shift of the F-Type’s hips on the rain-slicked surface.

The strip-lighting blurs, the cacophonous bellowing playing castanets with my inner ear, the plates of my skull starting to approach valve float – and then we’re through, through into the purple-black early morning and the stillness of the surrounding mountains. I come off the throttle immediately into a Sten-gun chorus of backfires – with this engine, the Jag isn’t insanely fast or anything, but abandoned though it may be at this early hour, this is still a public road.

And anyway, what’s the hurry? That was just the first of seven.


This is the Fraser Canyon’s gem, not quite a secret, but an oddity I’d forgotten about. The road itself is a joy, not the knotted crest-and-dip roller-coaster of a California canyon road, but winding and undulating and – best of all – almost completely deserted. That’s not what got me out of bed though.

There are seven tunnels here, in the short space of just twenty-five miles. The longest, the China Bar Tunnel, is up at the North end of the run, a 2000-foot flourish for my impromptu symphony of fire. This first borehole was a straight-shot, a musket-barrel to fling the car out like a projectile chased by an eruption of violence, but the others are a variety of shapes and sizes like over-boiled macaroni noodles stuck in the bottom of the pot.


In between them, the Jaguar’s cockpit is wind-whipped and damp, more so than a Boxster’s would be. The copper-coloured shifters feel a bit cheap, and this 8-speed automatic is no eye-blink dual-clutch. Plus it’s a maybe a little bit too expensive, and the wisdom of buying a first-year British car is highly suspect. I had at least one serious issue with it in my week (gearshift locked in park – self-resolved after sitting for an hour or so), and you just know the ownership cycle’s going to be full of major/minor irritations.

But oh, how she howls. Luxury and polish is all very fine, but occasionally I can’t help but fall entirely for a car that utters a barbaric yawp every time you prod the loud pedal. Juvenile, I know, but it’s what makes me love the Boss 302, the 500 Abarth, the GLI, even my own crappy Subaru.

The 8-speed lets you hold a gear right up to and past the red-line – want to charge stupidly into the rev-limiter? Go ahead. The rasp and crackle of lift-off backfire fills the China Bar’s hollow tube, and then it’s stab at the throttle again and cranking it up to 11, innit? What a moron I am. What a happy moron.


We’ll miss this sort of thing in the electric future. The Model S has its own ffffwwweeeee of happy electrons fizzing away under hard acceleration, but its not quite the same thing sometimes. Sometimes the automobile is a source of pride of ownership. Sometimes it’s sensible and clean transportation. Sometimes it’s even a musical instrument, of sorts.

But sometimes it’s just a place to crank the distortion and hamfist your way through a tunnel playing three raucous chords. Three chords and the truth.

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Capsule Review: Jaguar F-Type V6S Mon, 07 Oct 2013 13:00:48 +0000


As a teenager reading “Death in Venice,” I understood the world to be divided between the Aschenbachs and the Tadzios. There are those who gaze, and those who are gazed upon. – David Rakoff

I, as Rakoff would put it, am not a handsome man, though my mother would disagree. If I were to be cast in a James Bond movie, I would probably play the villain. Past lovers have often commented on my intelligence, my charm and my high earning potential as an automotive journalist, but rarely if ever on my physical appearance. I’m at peace with this, for I have discovered that the one automobile that can “increase sexual arousal, particularly in women” is not the Mercedes-Benz 380SL convertible, as P.J. O’Rourke would contend, but a Jaguar convertible.


My first realization of the aphrodisiac qualities of the Jaguar convertible was not in the F-Type, but with its older sibling, the XKR.  An affable but outdated grand tourer, the XKR was borrowed for competitive analysis against the F-Type, which consisted of numerous acceleration tests to confirm the potency of its 510 horsepower supercharged V8 (potent, indeed) as well as the efficacy of the large monobloc brake calipers to help reduce speed in the presence of local law enforcement (also excellent). The XKR’s major failing would be the uselessness of its backseat. Even the rather diminutive Jackie, who scarcely protested while sitting in the rear seat of a hardtop Shelby GT500, was forced to sit with her legs across the back seat, akin to how an XKR owner who lay his golf clubs across the rear bucket seats.

Shortly after Jackie departed, my friend Kyle and I entered ourselves in the Yorkville Grand Prix, named in honor of the tony downtown district that functions as an informal home to Toronto’s supercars. There are no winners, but entrants are required to drive in either first or second gear under significant load, while spectators jeer the participants sotto voce. As I completed lap number 3, I was taken aback by a rare phenomeon. A gorgeous young girl, barely older than 20, crossing the street as I sat waiting at a red light. As she strutted past me, her skintight white pants and skimpy halter top were only secondary considerations. She was making eye contact with me!

“There’s a nice Jewish girl for you,” remarked Kyle.

The best I could do was to flash a meek smile, more forced than the ones I pulled on antecedent elementary school picture days. To my surprise, she smiled back and blushed a little. I reflexively  drove off when the light turned green, not even thinking about trying to engage her in any way. I decided to turn back and try and find her, but it was in vain. “I don’t know if I’ll ever get to enjoy that feeling again,” I lamented, as the XKR roared down University Avenue. It turns out I was wrong.


If you want to be the center of attention, especially among nubile women, do not pass go, do not collect $200, do not remember the XKR even exists. You want an F-Type, perhaps in Polaris White as shown above. Italian Racing Red is certainly striking but will invite too many snide quips about inadequate genitals to be beneficial. You will get so many stares from attractive women of all ages that you will begin to feel the kind of contempt for them generally known to deeply damaged people who spurn romantic advances because they feel unlovable. Oh, and you absolutely must get the car with the “Configurable Dynamic Mode”, which adds another $3,000 to the base price, but effectively gives you two cars for the price of one.


With Dynamic Mode off, the F-Type is all show but feels like it has a lot less go. The 380 horsepower V6 is still there, but throttle response is muted, the exhaust produces a rather banal hum akin to a Hyundai Genesis Coupe 3.8 and the steering feels a bit like the current Mazda MX-5, with lots of response but not as much feel. But it’s also not a supple grand tourer like the XKR. One would be forgiven for thinking of it as a halfway sports car for the chest-hair-and-Hublot-watch crowd.


But with Dynamic Mode toggled to the on position, the F-Type stops being a fashion accessory. It’s difficult to think of a car that can change its character so completely with one simple action, but the transformation is remarkable. Suddenly, the V6 has found its lungs, emitting a demonic snarl that sounds more exotic than Ferrari’s most recent V8s, with all the popping and backfiring that any attention-seeker could want. The numbed throttle and steering are suddenly crisp and responsive, while the chassis becomes even more taut.If you listen closely, you can hear the faintest bit of supercharger whine, something that, in my opinion, should be more present on a car like this. Slot the 8-speed transmission into “S” and the shifts are executed with an alarming brutality, akin to the very first Lexus IS-F. You feel each gear change through your spine as the car hurtles you forward. Industry scuttlebutt claims that a manual may show up alongside a coupe version. They can keep it. Even without a clutch pedal and a gearshift, it will make your facial muscles hurt from grinning so much.


Back on planet earth, the car is affable in everyday situations. On longer highway drives, the revs are kept below 2000 rpm thanks to the 8-speed transmission. There is a slight hint of wind noise right where the convertible top meets the A-pillar, but generally, road noise is dependent on whether the active exhaust is open or not. There are flaws too. The stop-start is a little ridiculous on a car like this. When the top is up, blind spots are massive, as one would expect with a convertible. The trunk is unable to hold even one golf bag, which will apparently put off some potential buyers.


And so will the fact that, according to reputable sources, this car is not quite the dynamic proposition that a Porsche Boxster or 911 is on the Race tack. Frankly, I couldn’t care less, and I’m sure plenty of customers don’t either, though they won’t have the bragging rights of a Nuburgring time or some other meaningless performance benchmark. Today’s Porsche sports cars, dynamically competent as they are, don’t make you feel this special. Then again, I’m not sure any car feels this special. If you want to win an HPDE event, then a P-Car is your only choice. If you want to feel like an equine-endowed billionaire Formula 1 champion petroleum tycoon international playboy film star every single day of your life until the warranty runs out, this is your only option. At $84,000, it will make you better looking too, without you ever having to go under the knife.


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Capsule Review: Jaguar XJ 3.0 AWD Fri, 24 May 2013 13:22:15 +0000 xjlawd

It doesn’t take a genius to figure out which of the Jaguar Land Rover partnership is the breadwinner. People cannot get enough Evoques, LR4s and Range Rovers, even though the competition can do pretty much everything else in a more competent fashion, for less money. But at least Land Rover stands for something.

Never mind the snide remarks about the Kardashians and McMasions in my prior piece. Land Rovers have fought in wars, kept the peace, carted around countless dignitaries and monarchs and been to the kind of places that require vaccinations before you depart. And people remember that.

What about Jaguar? How many people still remember them for the E-Type versus their history of questionable reliability? I’d place my money on the latter being the brand’s defining characteristic that doesn’t have to do with their country of origin. Watching the XJ make an appearance in the latest James Bond movie, I was struck by how appropriate it was for M to be chauffeured in a dark colored XJ (note to Jaguar: get Bond in an F-Type next time around), but I doubt many people shared my sentiments. That’s a shame because there is a fair amount of history linked with the XJ and the various institutions of the United Kingdom as there is with Land Rover. Think of Margaret Thatcher leaving number 10 Downing Street after being ousted by her own party or Tony Blair arriving at Princess Diana’s funeral if you need examples.

The current shape XJ (now employed by David Cameron) was an enormously polarizing design when it debuted in 2009, and a good part of that sentiment had to do with the fact that the XJs had undergone mild, 911-style evolution in the preceding decades, during which they were the ride of choice for all manner of British VIPs. The 2005 redesign that introduced an all-new aluminum construction was barely distinguishable from the generation before that. Meanwhile, BMW had introduced the Bangle-look 7-Series and Audi’s A8 was starting to get some traction among luxury buyers. Sales were unsurprisingly dismal, and the radical change in design was deemed necessary.

Personally, I love the look, even if its more French than British. To me, it recalls the profile of the Citroen C6, with the quirky French styling cues replaced by a masculine, squared-off stance. Unlike the supercharged V8 versions, this one doesn’t have absurdly sized shiny rims, but the design doesn’t suffer for it the way that some cars, like Bangle BMWs and current Audis, look a bit wonky when devoid of big dubs.

The big news for the XJ this year is the addition of all-wheel drive and a new supercharged 3.0 V6 engine. The two drivetrain options come bundled together, as a response to the twin desires of more modest fuel consumption and improved winter-weather traction. Since it was 25 degrees and sunny for most of the week, I didn’t get a chance to try out the all-wheel drive system.

Alex Dykes last clocked a blown V8 Supersport at 4.3 seconds to 60 mph, and based on my own impressions of that car, I’d concur. It is a seriously fast set of wheels. Not having the capability to do instrumented testing, I will have to take Jaguar’s estimate of 6.1 seconds for the V6 car at face value – but I’d never complain that the V6 felt slow. The reluctance of the 8-speed automatic to downshift upon applying the throttle was noticeable, but once the transmission complied, there was no shortage of power available. Fuel economy in mixed driving was roughly 23 miles per gallon – not much better than the 21.5 mpg Alex managed with his Supersport, but I suppose some of the blame – and the appeal of the 3.0 – could be pinned on the AWD system.

Thanks to its aluminum construction, the XJ feels light on its feet. The chassis is a credit to JLR’s engineers, which managed to strike a balance between providing engaging handling while isolating the car’s occupants from the road surfaces, especially poor ones. The lack of big rims and low profile tires also play a part in delivering such good ride quality.

The one blight on this car is the Start-Stop feature, which was far from unobtrusive. I don’t have any philosophical opposition to these systems, but myself and several other passengers noted that the system was rather abrupt in cutting power and re-starting the engine; certainly, it operated in a manner that was inconsistent with the overall supple, isolating nature of the car’s ride and NVH characteristics. Some of TTAC’s Europe-based commenters have been skeptical of the efficacy of these systems with respect to fuel economy, but North Americans have had little exposure to them. I expect many will elect to disable this system.

Although the somewhat clumsy infotainment system is shared with the Range Rover, the rest of the interior is all Jaguar. Gone is the black plastic and the aluminum looking trim, replaced by acres of wood and dead bovine hyde. Your eyes will forget about the rather lackluster digital gauge cluster and instead gravitate to the long, arcing section of wood that spans from A-pillar to A-pillar just above the dashboard. When these cars end up as one of Murilee’s Junkyard Finds, I will be going into the carcass of an XJ and extracting this piece to hang in my future garage.

While I criticized the Range Rover for not offering much above and beyond its rival aside from a great badge, there are plenty of compelling reasons to pick an XJ over its rivals. There is an argument to be made for the Audi A8 being a more precise drive, but I prefer the increased isolation and the wood-and-leather cabin of the XJ compared to the more austere Audi – or any of its rivals. Since I’m not overly concerned with tech features, the Jag’s superior road manners give it the edge over the 7-Series, S-Class or LS460 in my books. At an as-tested price of $86,000, it’s neither the cheapest or the priciest car in its class.

Jaguar hasn’t been associated with the “Grace, Pace and Space” mantra in some time, this car would be the perfect manifestation should they ever decide to use that as the brand’s messaging. There is no shortage of power, comfort or elegance, and as far as I’m concerned, it’s the most beautiful 4-door car on sale today. But judging by recent sales figures, more people are choosing the A8 –  at least the addition of all-wheel drive gives them one less excuse for ruling out the XJ.


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2013 Jaguar F-Type Review Wed, 22 May 2013 14:46:11 +0000 Jaguar-F-Type-V6S-08

More than 50 years after the E-Type was launched, Jaguar has brought its successor, the F-Type to the market. You might wonder why such a long gap between both the cars. Well, the British automaker was developing the F-Type way back in the 1980s but the project was delayed time and again, finally being cancelled after Ford bought the company. In 2000, Jaguar showcased the F-Type concept but that too did not make it to production. Now the F-Type is finally on sale and is offered with an option of 3 engines, the base V6, mid level V6 S and top end V8 S. The F-Type is priced right between the Porsche Boxster and Porsche 911 Carrera, thereby sitting in no man’s land.


The styling of the F-Type is gorgeous. While it may not be a design breakthrough like the E-Type, the exteriors are very attractive and draw a lot of eye candy. The highlight at the front is the large grille with chrome lining and big air vents on either side of the bumper. There are some E-Type cues too but not very excessive. The door handles pop out of the doors when you need them, this helps the vehicle to remain aerodynamic.


The rear of the F-Type is by far the most attractive part of the car. The rear is simple, minimalistic yet so visually pleasing. The small tail lights give an E-Type deja vu, while the rear stance is extremely sporty with twin centre tail pipes on the V6 models and quad pipes (two on either side) on the V8 model sitting on the rear bumper. The rear spoiler electronically retracts at speeds over 95 km/hr and generates 120 kgs of downforce. It stays closed otherwise to keep the lines at the rear clean.


The interiors of the F-Type are a mix of sporty and luxury. The cabin is very well laid out and features excellent quality all around. You sit low but the seats are extremely supportive offering tremendous comfort. The centre console borrows some cues from the E-Type like the AC switches which take inspiration from aircraft switches. There is a grab handle for the co-driver on the centre console, it does look a bit out of place. The steering wheel feels nice to hold and the dashboard has been designed keeping the driver in mind, as every control falls into the hands of the driver easily. Being a Jaguar, there has to be some gimmick, like the centre AC vents which rise up when you turn on the air-conditioner.


The F-Type is powered by three engines. The 3.0-litre V6 produces 340 PS of power and 450 Nm of torque. This engine offers good performance even though it is the base variant. Zero to  60 mph  takes  5.1 seconds, top speed and top speed is limited to 161 mph. The V6 motor is quite driveable and power delivery is linear. The V6 S engine gets an additional 40 horses and 10 Nm of torque, reducing the 0-60 sprint to 4.8 seconds. Top speed  gained 10 mph.


The V6 S engine has the best balance of performance and dynamics. It has 50:50 weight distribution and both V6 S and V8 S models get active exhaust note, which amplifies the sound with a touch of a button. The V6 S feels much faster than the additional 40 horses would suggest. It pulls quickly to high speeds and even manages to offer good in-gear acceleration times. A drive around the Navarra Circuit in Spain clearly showed the good balance of the F-Type, it turns in eagerly and the steering wheel is a delight, offering tremendous feedback. There is slight bit of understeer, but very negligible.


The top end variant is the V8 S which gets the fire breathing 5.0-litre Supercharged V8 engine, producing 495 PS of power and 625 Nm of torque. This engine takes just 4.2 seconds to nudge past 60 mph from zero and has a top speed limited to 186 mph. In terms of performance, the V8 S F-Type is the quickest and feels terrifically fast with an exhaust note to match. The quad pipes emit pure melody and there are cracks, burbles and the likes every time you down shift. Step on the accelerator pedal and the F-Type responds immediately, pulling quickly to high triple digit speeds with furore. It simply feels quicker than it actually is.


However the heavier engine means the V8 S equipped F-Type is not as nimble. This model has 51:49 weight distribution and doesn’t glide through corners like the V6 S. The handling is good and so is the steering but the F-Type is not an all out track car. The Porsche 911 Carrera is more track focused. The F-Type weighs a good 150 kgs more than the Porsche and those motors handling the door and AC vent pop out mechanism add to the unnecessary weight of the car. Jaguar says the F-Type is 6% bigger than the Porsche while weighing 3-4% more. It is however unfair to compare the Jag with the Porsche, as the F-Type is an all new car, while Porsche has been tweaking and bettering the same car for 50 years now.


Mated to all engines is a 8-speed automatic gearbox which is quick with shifts and is very refined too. One can manually change gears through the SportShift gear lever (no rotary knob here) or steering mounted paddle shifts. In Sports mode, the gearbox won’t upshift and will hold the gear till you manually change-up. In Dynamic mode, the F-Type becomes more eager with better acceleration, more weight on the steering and faster shifts. The suspension too becomes stiffer and all that contributes to the vehicle offering more driver oriented performance. There is even a launch control mode, which reduces traction control to facilitate maximum acceleration. All this works very well and transforms the F-Type in a very fun to drive car. There is even a Configurable Dynamics option which lets you tweak throttle response and steering weight. You can also time your lap and measure G-forces, quite Nissan GT-R like.


The brakes on the F-Type are fabulous, they shed speeds at an instant. Pedal feel is splendid too and in spite of heavy braking on the circuit, there was very little signs of brake fade (almost negligible). Ride quality is surprising good and despite those low profile rubber, the F-Type absorbs bumps with authority, transferring very little to the occupants. The car remains glued to the road at high speeds and even with the roof down, it never feels affected by the wind.


The roof comes down in 12 seconds and the use of a soft top helps in reducing weight and bettering packaging. A wind deflector should be offered as an option. The boot is small at 200.5-litres but can swallow a golf bag. It is also bigger than most of its rivals.


The Jaguar F-Type has quite a lot to offer the sports car buyer. It looks really smashing in flesh and has interiors which are comfortable and feature rich. The ride quality is excellent and so are the brakes. All engines offer very good performance and offer a smashing exhaust note, which is reason enough to buy the F-Type. The vehicle handles well, it jinks into corners with good precision. Although the F-Type is not as track focused as its chief rival, the vehicle does offer a fun experience behind the wheel which makes it so desirable.

Faisal Ali Khan is the editor of, a website covering the automobile industry of India.

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Review: 2012 Jaguar XF Supercharged Mon, 14 Jan 2013 13:00:49 +0000

I’d say that writing car reviews can be difficult at times but then it’s not really seemly to complain when nice folks drop off free cars to drive. Still, the gig does have its challenges. The last time that I reviewed the Jaguar XF Supercharged, a day after the fleet management company picked it up, their competitor, which works for Kia, dropped off a nicely equipped Sportage. At the time I joked with Ed Niedermeyer about reviewing both cars simultaneously. After all, with the democratization of luxury the cars were similarly equipped, sort of. Ed and I decided that silly or not a comparo wouldn’t be fair to either manufacturer. Still, it’s hard not to ruminate about comparisons when you’re working on a review.

The Sportage comparo was a joke but not long before I was loaned a 2012 Jaguar XF Supercharged, I reviewed the 2012 Chrysler 300 Luxury Series and in this case it was very hard not to compare the XF to the 300. Both cars are fairly large rear wheel drive four door sedans with just about every convenience and luxury option checked off down to the power sunscreen for the back window. As a matter of fact, the Chrysler had a couple of toys that aren’t available on the XF. Of course the Jaguar is significantly more expensive. As equipped with the 470 HP supercharged version of Jaguar’s corporate V8, the XF is $69,845, just about $25,000 more than the Chrysler. I gave the Chrysler a positive review and I was very impressed with it, so I couldn’t help but keep asking myself if the Jaguar was worth $25,000 more than the Chrysler. I recently reviewed a Jaguar XJ, which stickered out at about $80K so I was also mentally comparing the XF Supercharged to the larger, but less powerful, Jaguar.

My conclusion after a week with the XF Supercharged was that I really couldn’t say if the Chrysler was a better bargain or if the XJ was worth spending an extra ten (without the supercharger) or twenty thousand dollars (with the blown motor). I can say that if you’re looking for a fast, comfortable and luxurious 5 passenger car, you could do worse than the XF Supercharged. The ultimate difference that I perceived between the XF Supercharged on one hand and both the Chrysler 300 Luxury Series and the Jaguar XJ Portfolio on the other is summed up in that word “Supercharged”. The Chrysler had the 292 HP Pentastar V6 and the XJ Portfolio had the normally aspirated 385 HP version of the Jaguar V8, and it’s that 470 HP compressed charge engine that’s the XF Supercharged’s raison d’etre.

The Chrysler wasn’t slow. I said that it had adequate power for all situations you’d find on a public road. The XJ Portfolio was also quick. Though less powerful than the blown version in the XF Supercharged, the NA V8 in the XJ was hauling around a bit less weight than the XF since the larger Jaguar is made of aluminum and actually is a bit lighter than the steel XF. Pardon the pun but as quick as the Chrysler and bigger Jag are, the supercharged XF blows them away. With almost 100 more HP than the XJ and almost 200 HP more than the Chrysler, the XF Supercharged effortlessly surpasses “adequate”. Simply put, if you need power to do something in traffic, you’ll have it with this car. Anything requiring more power would probably be something imprudent and unsafe to do with other drivers on the road. You decide to do it, you put the right pedal down, and the car goes.

Getting back to the hypothetical comparison reviews, I had praised how quiet the Chrysler was and how smooth the ride was. In fact the Jaguar was noisier. Some of that noise was deliberate – any time you step on the gas you can hear the exhaust burbling in the way that only a V8 can do. As with the XJ, some underhood engine noise is also ported to the cabin. Though not as hardcore as the 510 HP XF-R, the XF Supercharged has most of the XF-R’s chassis upgrades, and it was undoubtedly tuned for a “sportier” ride than the Chrysler. That doesn’t explain, however, the amount of wind noise around the XF’s front side windows. A couple of times there was so much wind noise I had to check to make sure that the windows and moonroof were fully closed. With the windows down it also seemed to me that there was an unusual amount of wind buffeting the interior. The ride was sports sedan firm, stiffer than the Chrysler but also a bit more controlled, and a bit less harsh over irregular pavement.

That wind noise was a bit out of place considering how luxurious the XF’s interior is. Though a good chunk of the 25K difference in price between the Chrysler and the Jaguar is that exquisitely smooth and powerful supercharged engine, and though the Chrysler indeed is well featured and nicely appointed, if I had to pick a word to describe the difference besides the engines, I’d say refinement. That extra money definitely buys you refinement. The refinement extends to things like the trick articulated trunk hinges and struts that take up no cargo space at all, compared to the Chrysler’s goose necks that lose a lot of trunk space. Yes the Chrysler’s interior is slathered with leather, but the leather in the Jaguar is softer, even that appliqued to the dashboard and other panels. I regularly work with leather in my day job, machine embroidery, and all split grain leather is not created equal. Jaguar uses superior skins. Concerning embroidery, as is au courant with automotive interiors these days, there is contrasting detail stitching on the dashboard leather, which is made up of about a half dozen separate pieces. I’d like to believe it’s old world craftsmanship but it’s more likely a computer controlled sewing machine, but however they do it, the number of stitches and their locations are so precise and uniform that wherever two pieces of leather are seamed together the detail stitching precisely bridges the seam with a single stitch.

Speaking of “split grain” leather – in a recent review, Alex Dykes alluded to Honda’s hyping of their use of split grain leather in a steering wheel cover. That’s a case of hyping something that isn’t particularly special. Any real grained leather you see in a car is split grain. Full grain leather is the entire skin (minus the fur and epidermis), it’s thick and stiff and used for things like boots and saddles. One or more layers of suede are shaved off the back of the full grain skin to make it thinner and soft enough to use for upholstery and apparel, leaving what is called split grain leather. If it has suede on one side and real grain on the other (some “leather” is really suede splits with artificial grain glued on), it’s “split grain leather”. The next time a car salesman or PR flack tells you that their product comes with split grain leather, ask them, “as opposed to what other kind of leather?”

So the Jag’s leather was softer. It also had a much stronger smell. Maybe it was just psychological but I thought that the dark brown leather even had a few flavor notes from cigar tobacco. The nannies won’t let us have cigarette lighters and ashtrays in our cars anymore, but a small humidor would not seem out of place in the XF.  It’s a modern luxury car, but it’s still a proper British sedan with plenty of real wood to go with the cowhide.

To make the comparison unavoidable the Jaguar’s interior, like the Chrysler’s, was a mix of dark brown and beige. Though the dashboard, upper door surfaces and carpeting were a chocolate brown, the upholstery and Alcantera headliner and pillars were in a light beige, giving the cabin an airy feel. I thought that the light upholstery with dark accent inserts looked great. If you can’t adjust the gazillion-way power front seats with memory, you’re in the 99th percentile. With heated, cooled and ventilated seats your bum will be comfortable year round. My friend Al, who is close to 6 feet tall and weighs a bit more than the 280 lbs it says on his drivers license offered the unsolicited opinion that the back seat was even more comfortable than the front seats, but then there aren’t side bolsters in back.

I’m happy to report that for the first time I don’t have to complain about Jaguar’s clunky infotainment touchscreen. The screen was responsive and easy to use. Voice controls worked but I found them a bit infuriating in how the menus were nested and how slow it was. I also am not fond of navigation systems that don’t let you enter an intersection. I do like how Jaguar has the auxiliary controls configured on the leather wrapped steering wheel. For some functions they use thumbwheels, which strike me as easier to use than up/down buttons. The 600W sound system sounded fine regardless of the source. I did notice a glitch with the car’s Bluetooth. While most of the time the car would automatically recognize and pair with my Android based phone, there were times when they wouldn’t hookup, even if I tried to connect from both devices. In those cases, power cycling my phone would effect a pairing. Once paired, the audio system easily accessed music on my phone. Interestingly, connecting the phone to the car’s USB port, as the owner’s manual suggests for iPods and other portable music players, didn’t work with my phone. When scrolling through music sources from the steering wheel you’re still going to have to use the touch screen to select between user supplied media under the My Music control, which is a bit inconvenient if you have both your phone/iPod and a CD connected.

Geez, I’m reviewing a 470 horsepower sports sedan and talking about music and leather??? You want to know how it drives. In short, the way you’d hope a Jaguar would drive. Yes, the steering could have a bit more feel at lower speeds and the turn in could be sharper around town (though out on the highway it was razor sharp), but the way the car goes from the apex to the exit of a turn induces joy. Set up the car and power through the turn. The XF Supercharged has a trick rear end that uses an electric motor to control torque distribution and even with stability control on and Dynamic mode off, it will let you break the rear wheels loose just a tad before stepping in and keeping you from hitting a tree ass end first. I did notice that the rear end sometimes made a small noise when the car was in gear with the brake on while sitting on a slope but for the most part it does its job without any fuss. If I compared it to a discreet English butler, would that be cliched in a Jaguar review? Sticking with the Brit domestic servant theme, the safety nannies are about as unobtrusive as I’ve experienced.

Once you get an idea of how the car handles, its purpose becomes obvious. This is not a boy-racer car, it’s a car for grownups who want to get someplace in a hurry. It’s meant to move four or five adults in comfort and speed. It’s also not an economy car. Over about 350 miles of what I’d characterize as spirited urban and suburban driving (cf. 470 HP) my avg fuel economy ranged between 14 and 16 mpg, though that lower figure involved some idling. Of course you aren’t reading this review because you’re interested in how miserly the XF Supercharged uses petrol.

I noticed that Jaguar did something clever with the brakes in terms of aesthetics. Front and back rotors appear to be close to the same outside diameter, so the 20″ rims look to be about equally filled. Significantly smaller rotors in the back sometimes look a little bit funny with all that empty space. The front wheel hubs on this car, though, have a narrower diameter, allowing a greater swept area for the front’s six piston calipers to the rear’s four pot grippers. The result is superb braking, easily modulated at all speeds, perhaps the best brakes I’ve experienced. That comes at the cost of budgeting for a weekly car wash – as with other Jaguars that I’ve tested the brakes shed copious amounts of pad dust.

The XF’s styling was updated for 2012, in part to harmonize it with the newer XJ. The Supercharged edition shares most body panels with the normally aspirated XF, though there are non-functional hood vents that read Supercharged. I said that this is a car for adults. If you want more boy-racer styling, you’ll have to upgrade to the XFR, or the almost cartoonish XFR-S, on sale later this year, that fastest production Jaguar ever made. In general I’m a fan of Jaguar stylist Ian Collum but I don’t particularly like what his team has done with the highest performance Jaguars. The R and R-S models seem fussy compared to their cleaner forebears.

I do have a styling complain about the engine compartment. While shooting the photos to accompany this review, I noticed that the molded plastic engine cover could be removed rather easily to expose the housing of the supercharger, which like in the GM LS9, is nestled in the V between the cylinder banks. Though the aluminum supercharger housing bears the marks of some rough grinding, it’s basic shape is rather pleasing to the eye. It’s possible that there were some cost savings involved, but the supercharged engine is so much a part of the XF Supercharged’s character that it wouldn’t be a bad idea to show it off. I suppose that cosmetic finish machining can be expensive, but then the cost of machining a multiple cavity injection mold for a piece as large as the polymer engine cover is not insignificant either. I’m not saying they should go to a hood with a window, like on the Corvette ZR1, but I think most Jaguar owners would like to see what their money was buying instead of a piece of plastic.

In general, though, I think the XF looks great. People admire it, and while the previous XF looked a bit generic, the new one is readily recognized (and approvingly so) as a Jaguar.

So, ultimately do I think that the XF Supercharged is worth $25,000 more than the Chrysler I recently reviewed? For the cost of a nicely equipped compact car or even an average D segment midsizer, you get a bit more refinement, a better handling car (though the 300 was perfectly competent in that regard, it was tuned for comfort, not maximum grip), and that wonderful, mailed fist in a velvet glove of an engine. I was impressed with the Chrysler’s 292 HP Pentastar, but the XF Supercharged’s 470 HP really separates the two cars. It should be noted that the XF Supercharged is the cheapest XF with a V8. With new CAFE standards on the horizon, Jaguar has been introducing downsized engines. The engine in the $46,975 base XF is a 240 HP I4 though I don’t see them selling very many, because for just $3K more, you can get the 340 HP V6 which still gets 28 mpg on the highway, compared to four cylinder’s 30. One thing is for sure, you have an abundance of powerplant options and if almost twice as much power as the base model isn’t enough, you can upgrade to 510 HP in the XFR and even 550 with the XFR-S.

Four cylinder Jaguars. God it sounds wrong to even hear that said. Speaking of comparos, it would indeed be interesting to drive the XF Supercharged back to back with the four cylinder model since the blown model is just 10 HP shy of having twice the power.

So I think that yes, the XF Supercharged is worth the difference in price over the Chrysler (though I’d be perfectly happy with the big Mopar as a daily driver). Going in the other direction, comparing the XF-Supercharged to the more expensive normally aspirated XJ I recently reviewed, though I liked the XJ and think that in general it’s a bit better balanced (the XJ is all aluminum, the XF is ferrous so the larger car is actually lighter), the XJ Portfolio that I tested was about $13,000 more than the XF Supercharged, and while you get a larger and nicer car for that 13K, you also have to give up that marvelous supercharger. Then the question becomes, is the $89,600 XJ Supercharged worth 20K more than the XF Supercharged?

That’s not a real world question that I will ever likely have to answer since I can’t afford either one. However, Jaguar is returning to the Detroit auto show this year, after an absence, so there’s a good chance that at the NAIAS media preview I’ll run into the nice lady who manages Jaguar’s press fleet. If there’s a XJ Supercharged available for review, I’ll let you know.

Disclaimer: Jaguar of North America provided the car for a week, insurance and a tank of 91 octane. Thanks to the Inn at St. John’s for the photography location.

Ronnie Schreiber edits Cars In Depth, a realistic perspective on cars & car culture and the original 3D car site. If you found this post worthwhile, you can dig deeper at Cars In Depth. If the 3D thing freaks you out, don’t worry, all the photo and video players in use at the site have mono options. Thanks – RJS

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Capsule Review: Jaguar XJL Portfolio Mon, 05 Nov 2012 14:37:17 +0000

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.

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Review: 2012 Jaguar XKR-S Thu, 15 Mar 2012 16:02:41 +0000

At 7 years old, the XK isn’t a kitten anymore – but with a rumored 3 years until the next redesign, what’s a luxury marque to do? Make special editions, of course. On the surface, the XKR-S looks like a baby-boomer dressed like a teenager, or as the Brits put it: mutton dressed as lamb.

Click here to view the embedded video.

The XKR (reviewed last year) looks like sex, in a discrete, black-tie/coquettish sort of way. The XKR-S ditches subtle for brash; hood scoops, large hood vents, enlarged grille, carbon fiber splitter, carbon fiber spoiler, blacked-out trim (chrome is a $4,000 option), and bespoke 20-inch alloy wheels with 255-width Pirelli rubber up front and 295s out back are all part of this exclusive package (only 100 will be sent to America). There’s also a straked diffuser with dual exhausts, special badging and some crazy-looking vents at the leading edge of the front wheel well to improve brake cooling. Oh, and the front bumper seems to have been designed to look like a frown. Moderation is a Jaguar virtue and thankfully the R-S’s chassis is lowered by a scant 0.38 inches meaning we had no problems with steep driveways and speed bumps. So is it all-show-and-no-go? Far from it. All the aero tweaks put together reduce lift by 26%  and make the lift more even fore/aft than in the XKR.

Under the hood growls a lightly modified 5.0L supercharged V8 from the XKR. The quad-cam engine features direct injection, continuously variable valve timing, and a thoroughly modern twin-vortex Roots-type supercharger with twin air-to-water intercoolers tucked under the plastic vanity cover. Should you wish to accessorize your engine bay, Jaguar will swap that cover for one in carbon fiber for a cool $2,000. While the XKR, XFR and XJ Supersport have to make do with only 510HP/461lb-ft from this engine, the “-S” (and $34,000) buys an extra 40 ponies and 41lb-ft. You also get a revised exhaust, a tweaked 6-speed ZF automatic, sportier programming for the active suspension and electronic differential and a host of suspension changes, including fully machined steering knuckles (that increase caster and camber stiffness), increased steering effort, improved steering feedback, and 28% stiffer spring rates.

Back to those 550 horses. The only Porsche in this rarefied club is the Panamera Turbo S, while the only Aston is the One-77. BMW’s M5 and M6 put out 560, and from the bow-tie brand, only the Corvette ZR1 and Camaro ZL1 are more powerful.

The exterior and engine may have been reworked, but on the inside the “-S” boils down to some trim, some modified seats and a 190MPH speedo. In a strange twist, our tester was fitted with the “London Tan” interior, a standard color combo available on the lesser XKR. The XKR-S exclusive interiors are the better choice and feature “carbon fiber effect” leather trim, and bold-colored stitching and piping. The sport seats (optional on XKR) are designed to accommodate a 5-point harness, but aside from the fact they are standard and the “R-S” logos on the tiller and dash, you’d be hard pressed to tell the XKR-S and XKR apart inside. Speaking of not being able to tell the difference, the sport-grip-free steering wheel from the base XK and XF makes an encore in the XKR-S. While it’s not a bad tiller, it doesn’t feel as nice as new XJ’s wheel and the lack of ergonomic thumb grips keeps the XKR-S from feeling as sporty as the BMW and Mercedes competition.

While I’m complaining about the interior, let’s talk infotainment. 2012 has brought essentially no changes to the system shared with the Jaguar XF. The system is simple to use and well laid out but the lag between pressing a “button” and the system responding is long and screen changes are glacial. I appreciate minimalist design in theory, but in practice, putting controls like heated seats and a heated steering wheel in a sluggish system make them more aggravating than trying to stab the right button in a cluttered button bank. While some voice command systems have received harsh commentary from me in the past, I think even a lackluster system is better than none at all as we had to park the XKR-S to enter a navigation destination.

Like the XF, iPod and iPhone integration is well done, easy to use and allows essentially full access to your iDevices. While Mercedes’ COMAND is similarly ancient, Merc does allow voice entry of addresses. I’d like to compare the Jag system to BMW’s newest iDrive, but that’d be like comparing a Palm Pilot to an iPhone. Also on my complaint list is a sound system tuned so bright that even with the treble turned all the way down the Bowers & Wilkins system sounded unbalanced. I didn’t recall this problem in the XKR we drove last year with the same system, so it could be a problem unique to our tester.

Tech quibbles aside; the XKR-S’ raison d’être is not to Tweet or Facebook while commuting. The XKR-S was built for three things: going fast, screaming like a banshee and making passengers wet themselves. If I were a betting man, I’d say it was also designed with the recently announced 560HP M6 in its crosshairs. While the choice of an automatic may seem strange in a sports car, real-world drivability is greatly improved by having a torque converter. If you don’t believe me, just try to drive a Mercedes AMG with a “Speedshift” transmission in stop-and-go traffic up a steep hill. The XKR-S is a willing partner in the mountains, delivering rev-matched downshifts at the flick of a paddle accompanied by exhaust pops and a loud roar sure to spook any cyclists that may be in the middle of your lane. Should that startled tandem tumble, massive steel-and-aluminum monobloc calipers in your choice of red or black paired with upgraded pads and massive 15-inch vented front and 14.8 vented rear rotors stop the XKR-S in record time. Every time.

Jaguar tells us the XKR-S was tuned on the Nürburgring and runs a 7:50 lap in convertible form. Let’s put that in perspective. Over a 17.8 mile long course, an XKR-S will only run a few seconds behind a Ford GT, Lamborghini Gallardo, Lamborghini Murcielago, Ferrari 599 or a Porsche 911 GT3 RS. This shapely lump of hand-stitched leather posted a time faster than the previous generation M5, Ferrari F430, Panamera Turbo, Corvette Z06 and a wide variety of Aston Martins. With numbers like that it should come as no surprise that grip is excellent and limits are high. Aiding in your fun is a re-tuned stability nanny that has a track mode with higher limits than the XKR and a full-off mode should you dare. Yet, it’s not the grip that amused while flinging the XKR-S around the coastal mountains of Northern California, it was the acceleration which can only be described as savage. OK, maybe eye-popping. Possibly brutal. Definitely insane. Putting numbers to these adjectives, we clocked a 3.8 second run to 60 with massive wheel spin, smoke and severe intervention by the electronic differential and traction control software, but most importantly: no roll-out. Because that’s how we roll. Compared to the XKR we tested last year, this is a significant 0.7-0.8 second improvement.

While the XKR-S doesn’t claim to have launch control, we discovered the traction control systems and e-diff work best when you just nail the go-pedal from a stop rather than try to control wheel-spin on your own. Not worrying about lifting to maximize acceleration also allows you to enjoy the raucous noise bellowing out of the tailpipes. By the time the thrill of an automatic with DSG-like gear changes wore off and we did decide to lift, we were at 140 having blown well past the 12-second flat quarter-mile at 122MPH. Numbers like these are pointless without comparison. While the Panamera Turbo S may clock 3.6 second runs to 60 according to the auto-rags, those tests are often conducted with a roll-out. Besides, the XKR-S’s 122MPH 1/4 mile bests the 118 we clocked with a privately owned Panamera we were lent for a few hours.

While I hate to be speculative in any review, the XKR-S’s introduction just months before the new M6 begs at least an arm-chair comparison. A full M6 review will be posted when we can con one out of the Germans. For the rest of you, let’s start with the numbers. The new M6 may deliver 10 more horsepower than the XKR-S, but it is down 2lb-ft of torque compared with the Jag at peak. The curves indicate that BMW is putting some serious boost into their 4.4L V8 with peak power coming on a 6,000RPM and staying strong to 7,000 while peak torque happens at a very low 1,500RPM all the way to 5,750. Jag’s 5.0L engine created its maximum power from 6,000-6,500 RPM and peak torque from 2,500-5,500RPM. The XKR-S fights BMW’s broader bands with zero lag from its supercharger and a 260lb lower curb weight. Of course both Jaguar and BMW are known to quote conservative power figures, so this battle will continue on the track. The M6 will sport BMW’s 7-speed double clutch gearbox known for its fast changes, but I don’t expect it to be any smoother than the model used in the previous generation M5 making the XKR-s the better daily driver. Both the XKR-S and the M6 are similarly balanced in terms of weight, but the Jag wears skinnier rubber up front (255 vs the M6′s standard 265 width tires) and is slightly heavier in the nose, despite the lower curb weight. As a result I expect 0-60 runs will be very close with much of the variation down to the road surface and the final tire choice on the BMW.


Without a doubt, the XKR-S is a significant evolution of the standard car. Folksy Briticisms about mutton and lamb don’t apply here; the XKR-S is a predator, much like its feline namesake, and while the “space” part of William Lyons’ famous maxim may be missing, it makes up for it with “grace” and “pace” – lots and lots of it.

Jaguar provided the vehicle, insurance and one tank of gas for this review

Specifications as tested

0-10: 0.65 Seconds

0-20: 1.14 Seconds

0-30: 1.18 Seconds

0-40: 2.61 Seconds

0-50: 3.24 Seconds

0-60: 3.83 Seconds

0-70: 4.98 Seconds

0-80: 6.06 Seconds

0-90: 7.12 Seconds

0-100: 8.42 Seconds

0-110: 10.17 Seconds

0-120: 11.84 Seconds

1/4 mile: 12.0 @ 122 MPH

xkrsthumb Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail 2012 Jaguar XKR-S, Exterior, cargo area, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Jaguar XKR-S, Interior, driver's side, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Jaguar XKR-S, Exterior, rear tire, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Jaguar XKR-S, Exterior, rear tire, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Jaguar XKR-S, Exterior, rear wheel, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Jaguar XKR-S, Exterior, front, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Jaguar XKR-S, Interior, steering wheel, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Jaguar XKR-S, Interior, steering wheel, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Jaguar XKR-S, Interior, speedometer, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Jaguar XKR-S, Interior, gauges, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Jaguar XKR-S, Interior, gauges, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Jaguar XKR-S, Interior, start button, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Jaguar XKR-S, Interior, shifter, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Jaguar XKR-S, Interior, shifter, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Jaguar XKR-S, Interior, HVAC Controls, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Jaguar XKR-S, Interior, driver's side, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Jaguar XKR-S, Engine, no cover, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Jaguar XKR-S, Engine, 5.0L supercharged V8, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Jaguar XKR-S, Engine, 5.0L supercharged V8, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Jaguar XKR-S, Engine, 5.0L supercharged V8, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Jaguar XKR-S, Engine, 5.0L supercharged V8, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Jaguar XKR-S, Interior, seat controls, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Jaguar XKR-S, Interior, passenger's side, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Jaguar XKR-S, Interior, R-S logo, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Jaguar XKR-S, Interior, steering wheel, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Jaguar XKR-S, Exterior, XKR & XKR-S side-by-side, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Jaguar XKR-S, Exterior, XKR & XKR-S side-by-side, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Jaguar XKR-S, Exterior, XKR & XKR-S side-by-side, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Jaguar XKR-S, Exterior, leaper logo, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Jaguar XKR-S, Exterior, exhaust, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Jaguar XKR-S, Exterior, rear 3/4, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Jaguar XKR-S, Exterior, brake cooling, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Jaguar XKR-S, Exterior, hood vent, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Jaguar XKR-S, Exterior, grille, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Jaguar XKR-S, Exterior, headlamp, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Jaguar XKR-S, Exterior, rear, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Jaguar XKR-S, Exterior, side, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Jaguar XKR-S, Exterior, front 3/4, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Jaguar XKR-S, Exterior, side 3/4, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Jaguar XKR-S, Exterior, spoiler, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Jaguar XKR-S, Exterior, spoiler, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Jaguar XKR-S, Exterior, spoiler, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Jaguar XKR-S, Exterior, front wheel, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Jaguar XKR-S, Exterior, side vent, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Jaguar XKR-S, Exterior, headlamp, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Jaguar XKR-S, Exterior, grille, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Jaguar XKR-S, Exterior, front, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Jaguar XKR-S, Exterior, rear, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Jaguar XKR-S, Exterior, front side, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Jaguar XKR-S, Exterior, side, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Jaguar XKR-S, Exterior, rear 3/4, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Jaguar XKR-S, Exterior, front 3/4, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes ]]> 26
Review: 2012 Jaguar XJL Portfolio Fri, 18 Nov 2011 20:24:52 +0000

Location: John Dodge mansion, Detroit

Editor’s note: The car pictured is not a long-wheelbase model, which is the only “Portfolio” model sold in the US. We are looking into the discrepancy.

When Jaguar of North America informed me that I’d be getting a 2012 XJL Portfolio for review, my first reaction was to engage in some mental bench racing. How would the new XJ compare to the smaller but more powerful XF Supercharged that I tested just about a year ago, and how would it compare to my dearly departed Series III XJ, considered by many Jaguar enthusiasts to be the finest of the traditional XJs. On both counts the 2012 XJ comes out favorably in the comparison.

The XJ Portfolio is the fully equipped long version of the XJ. While other luxury car makers have introduced “L” versions of their sedans, in part to serve the Chinese market where the person who owns the luxury car is likely to be riding in back, Jaguar has been offering long wheelbase XJs for decades. Other than a small handful of options like back seat entertainment and the two available supercharged engines, the test model had just about every luxury, convenience and safety feature that Jaguar offers. With transportation charges, as tested it comes in at just a tick over $82K.

Location: Charles Fisher (Fisher Body) mansion, Detroit

The Portfolio package, a $4,000 option, gives you an additional 5” of wheelbase, heated and cooled 20-way power front seats with massage, heated and cooled rear seats, navy blue leather trim with detail stitching and contrasting gray piping, suedecloth headliner and trim, plus four zone climate control with individual controls for the back seat passengers. The front seats store up to three position memories. You also get front fender vents with “Portfolio” badges. Twenty inch “Orona” style wheels, @ $875 ea. complete the optional equipment. A no charge option is your choice of wood trim, which sweeps from one back door around the front of the cabin to the other back door. The test car was trimmed in a satin finished burled elm veneer, book matched left to right. The console is finished in “piano black”, and tasteful thin shiny chrome trim surrounds many of the interior elements.

Location: Walter Briggs (Briggs Body Co.) mansion, Detroit. Briggs competed fiercely with the Fisher brothers but they were neighbors in life and are also buried near each other. I’m not sure that body maker Charles Fisher would have appreciated the Pontiac Aztek parked behind his house.

Standard equipment includes Jaguar’s base V8, with 5.0 liters displacement, making 385 HP, driving through a six-speed automatic by ZF, with paddle shifters that are activated when you turn the round Jaguar shifter to the Sport position. Stability control is standard as is a winter mode control. Every XJ comes with what Jaguar calls a “panoramic” glass roof.

That’s Henry and Clara’s place in the background. Note the green historical marker.

While the entire roof panel may be glass, the view from inside is not really panoramic. In addition to a normal sized venting sunroof over the front seats, rear passengers have a smaller fixed glass panel that can be exposed.

Blind spot monitors (which seem to be not as hypersensitive or distracting as the system on the 2011 XF), multiple air bags and active head restraints are among the standard safety features. Infotainment is handled by an audiophile quality Bowers & Wilkins audio system with Bluetooth, iPod and USB connectivity, a 30 gig hard drive, and a navigation system, controlled through a 8 inch touch screen that is as frustrating as every reviewer says it is. The XJ comes standard with a smart key and a power trunk lid. Customers and reviewers love the XF’s “handshaking” ritual, wherein the shift knob rises from the console and the HVAC vents rotate to an open position. The XJ has a more traditional looking dashboard design, so to give us a little theater, in addition to the rising shifter when you power up, when you unlock the doors, the side mirrors rotate from their retracted parking position.

I’ve been around computers for more than two decades and I’m usually pretty good at intuiting how to use digital devices but I found the nav system to be not particularly intuitive. It took me a few aborted efforts to figure out how to get it to accept a destination once the address was entered. Well, once I managed to enter the address. The touch screen reacts slowly and you’re never entirely sure each time you press a “button” that it’s going to work. Sometimes a small light touch will work, other times you have to practically jab your thumb at it. Also, it’s much easier changing modes from the steering wheel controls than using the mode buttons on the touch screen. They are so close to the bottom of the screen that the frame gets in your way. Fortunately for most of the basic audio and HVAC functions there are actual buttons and knobs. I’m a smartphone newbie so I can’t tell you much about phone connectivity beyond the fact that once connected the XJ’s infotainment system easily accessed music on my Samsung Android and the fact that it was much easier to get my phone to connect to the car than the other way around. Bottom line is that I was able to get all the infotainment functions to work and in the case of the audio system, work very well indeed, but the touch screen is a chore. Perhaps because the rest of the car is so good the touch screen and nav system stand out like a sore thumb. Either way, it detracts from an otherwise enjoyable driving experience.

The instrument panel is a TFT display, with virtual gauges. There are a couple of things that I don’t like about the interior, though I suppose that I’m picking nits to do so. I don’t like the way the big round HVAC vents look. They function better than most, with almost infinite adjustment, but I just don’t like how they look. The other thing is that I’d rather Jaguar had fitted proper analog gauges, at least a real speedo and tach. The virtual instruments look out of place, almost faddish in an otherwise traditional looking interior. I realize the need for digital displays these days, but I think that Jaguar could have put two smaller TFT screens flanking real gauges. Also, if you’re going to go with virtual gauges, at least sync the tachometer and speedometer indicators. One of the cool things about my old XJ was that at traffic speeds the tach and speedo needles were parallel and pretty much moved in sync as you went faster. If Jaguar could do that with mechanical gauges in the mid 1980s, I think they could do it with a virtual digital display. As is au courant in luxury cars, there’s an analog clock in the center of the dash that’s supposed to remind us of expensive wrist watches. Perhaps ironically, the analog clock is set digitally through the touch screen. Press “set” and the hands start spinning to the correct time.

Note how the grain in the burled elm wood trim is book matched left to right.

Quality control can be meaningless when it comes to prepped press fleet cars, but with that caveat, there were few noticeable flaws in the review car. Sometimes I could feel something moving around inside the driver’s seat back, perhaps it was part of the built in massager, and the back window glass slopes so that there is some visual distortion that makes objects look shorter and wider than they are. Fit and finish was as you’d expect in a car of this price. Other than some rather convincing looking vinyl on the door kick panels, just about everything you touch and see in the interior was once alive, sourced either from a cow or a tree. The leather trim shows signs of being fitted by real human beings. I see those slight imperfections as a good thing. The car smells like a leather jacket factory. That’s not hyperbole – my day gig is embroidery and every couple of months or so I trek down to Reed Sportwear to buy big leather scraps to use for motorcycle patches. I’m sure that my friends at Reed would admire the quality of the Jaguar’s leatherwork.

The XJ doesn’t just smell good, it feels good too. Car interiors are designed to fit just about 99% of people. If you can’t get those 20-way seats to find you a comfortable position, you’re probably in the 99th percentile. My bad back appreciated the inflatable lumbar support and massager. My love handles the inflatable bolsters, not so much. Those wealthy Chinese riding in the back will appreciate the longer wheelbase. Again, if you don’t have enough room sitting back there it’s probably because there’s a 99th percentile person sitting in the front seat. I can’t tell you how much that sloping roof affects headroom because at 5’6″, I always have enough headroom. Room for my ego? That’s a different question. I could get very used to driving this car.

The XJ is a fabulous looking car inside and out. That’s not just my opinion. Everyone who saw it just gushed with enthusiasm. While driving the XJ, I noticed that people noticed the car. More than one person came up to talk to me about it. The car makes a visual statement. The XJ is a big car to begin with and this stretched version came in an impossible to miss Polaris white paint.

After a week of driving, the painted alloy wheels were streaked with black brake dust.

Customers who opt for this color should invest in a coupon book at their neighborhood car wash because the bright white finish shows every tiny little bit of dirt. That’s a problem because like the XF I drove last year the XJ sheds brake dust like a Siberian Husky sheds undercoat in the spring. The big rims are painted in two shades of grey, perhaps to camouflage the dust. Or perhaps not, because it doesn’t really hide much of the dirt. Also, some of that dust ends up on the white paint. It’s a shame, because it’s really a beautiful car and its lines look great in white. Of course, in exchange for all that brake dust you get pretty effective anchors. It took a day or two of driving to get used to the somewhat sensitive pedal, but after that the brakes were easy to modulate and they retard your speed quickly. Use the brakes hard and the ABS will kick in, a bit earlier than I expected, but it’s not intrusive.

Location: Edward Fisher (Fisher Body) mansion, Detroit

It’s not perfect. On a white car Ian Callum’s rather notorious black sail panels that visually extend the rear glass from port to starboard are hard not to notice. I’ve never really objected to them as some folks have, since I get what Callum’s team was trying to do, but I understand those objections. Perhaps if the bottom edge of the window and those panels had extended couple of inches farther down, eliminating the slightly awkward little curl where the body meets the back edge of the side glass, there’d be fewer complaints, but I’m not going to lecture Ian Callum about car design beyond saying that I like or don’t like.

Speaking of the side glass, all things considered, visibility is good. The small window behind the rear doors really helps with your blind spot. I said all things considered because this is a modern high waisted high assed car, like just about every other sedan and coupe being made today. Between the high back deck and sloping roofline that distorted rear window only fills up about half of the rear view mirror, so the standard backup camera does come in handy.

Location: Mayer Prentis (longtime GM treasurer, Alfred Sloan’s right hand man) home, Detroit

The high beltline affects both the height of the back deck and the height of the front cowl. How high is it? Well, my big sister tells me that from the back seat I look like my dad when I drive, right hand bent over the top of the steering wheel, left elbow on the window ledge. Perhaps if I was six inches taller the window ledge might not be so uncomfortably high to use as an armrest. As it is, it looks like I’m trying to do the Funky Chicken. I should say, though, that the leather covered armrest on the door worked just fine. The high cowl, accentuated by that wood trim as it runs under the windshield, means that a short person like myself doesn’t have a prayer of seeing the front end of the car.

Location: Alfred O. Dunk home, Detroit

Still, that didn’t seem to be a problem, mostly because the XJ handles very well for a large car. Scratch that. It handles very well period. It doesn’t really feel like you’re driving such a big car. The fact that you can’t really see the corners of the car don’t really matter because it just goes where you steer it. All in all, I think the XJ may be a better handling car than the XF. The XF Supercharged had all of the XFR’s suspension upgrades, and according to published tests it’s a little bit quicker than the XJ Portfolio in the slalom. Ultimately the XF Supercharged is a bit more sporting, with less body roll, but the XJ Portfolio is more balanced. In long wheelbase form the XJ is a much larger car than the XF, about 10 inches of wheelbase and overall length, but its turning radius is only a foot wider than that of the XF. My perception is also that the steering on the XJ has a faster turn in than the XF. Not so quick that it makes the car feel darty, but once you get past 2 or 3 degrees from dead center, the car moves laterally with alacrity. This is one big car that can definitely get out of its own way. The speed sensitive power steering is very nicely weighted, with the right amount of effort in every case I experienced. The car is a pleasure to drive either sedately or with more vigor. It will waft with the best of them or alternatively, put the car into “dynamic” mode, which adjusts shock absorber settings and changes drivetrain mapping, and carve to your heart’s content. The XJ Portfolio has a lot of grip, the same .9g skidpad results as the XF Supercharged. I had to look up that figure because I don’t have a Traqmate or some other testing gizmo, but all of us have our own unofficial real world proving grounds. *Doing 60 on Providence Drive is pretty good, particularly with no tire noises or drifting. Though it doesn’t have the supercharged models’ active differential, the rear end is well controlled and when the dynamic stability control activates, it does so with little fuss. You have to try to break the rear end loose, and when you succeed, the DSC steps in quickly and fairly unobtrusively.  Alternatively, you can just deactivate the stability control and let it hang out. Even then, there’s enough grip that you have to work at getting the back end to slide. The ABS also shows a level of refinement that you might not find in cars at a lower price point. The XJ never seemed out of sorts. It drives with the composure that a longtime XJ fan expects from the marque.

Location: James Couzens (FoMoCo business manager & Ford partner) mansion

One of the things I was interested in finding out was if the stock 385HP engine was stout enough for the biggest cat Jaguar makes. The XF Supercharged had 85 more horsepower, a non-trivial delta. It turns out, though, that there is more than adequate power to endanger your driver’s license. The new XJ is Jaguar’s most modern architecture and the body is all aluminum, magnesium and polymer composites. The XF is highly ferrous by comparison. That means that the XJ Portfolio that I drove, at just over 4200 lbs, actually weighs about 100 lbs less than the smaller XF Supercharged. Though acceleration is not as instantaneous as with the smaller, blown Jaguar, you’re still capable of doing 90 mph without thinking about it as you enter the freeway. If Providence Drive is suitable for testing cars’ handling, the northbound Southfield freeway just north of Eight Mile Rd just before the expressway ends is great for short high speed runs. Detroit PD doesn’t patrol north of 8 Mile and Southfield cops generally won’t go all the way south to 8 Mile just to do traffic surveillance on 1 mile of expressway. So you have about a mile where you can open it up as much as you are willing to do, traffic allowing of course. The XJ Portfolio is still accelerating at 115. I have no doubt that it will pull hard all the way to its electronically limited top speed of 148 mph.

Attention was paid to weight (aluminum wheel for spare tire) and weight distribution (battery mounted in the trunk).

There are signs of attention to reducing weight from front to back and in between. Under the hood, you can see the lightweight castings that are used for the suspension towers. Next to the trunk mounted battery is a dedicated space saving spare tire, with its own aluminum wheel. The body panels are a mix of aluminum and composites. Jaguar did a fine job getting uniform paint color over multiple substrates.

Location: Ty Cobb home, Detroit

There is one aspect of the XJ that it unfortunately shares with the XF Supercharged that I tested last year. Right off of dead idle, throttle response is kind of flaky. After a week with the car I decided it was probably a combination of throttle and transmission mapping to keep MPGs high. I believe that under normal circumstances, the transmission starts out in 2nd gear. At least it starts out in second when you switch it to sport mode and activate the paddle shifters so I assume that from stops, the car starts in second. You step on the gas pedal and the car kind of sits there for a fraction of a second till you get past that point on the throttle. If you’re real sedate you might not notice it, and if you drive with a lead foot you probably won’t either, but if you drive like Goldilocks, it almost feels like a stumble, almost. It’s not something that would keep me from buying the car, but it is out of character with Jaguar’s sporting ways.

Location: Henry Ford mansion, Detroit. It should be noted that the Ford Motor Co. was a success before the Model T. Completed in 1908, Ford started building this home before he introduced the T.

The XJ Portfolio also had a firmer ride than I expected. Once you enter the freeway, that’s really where the XJ’s ride quality shines and it evokes memories of older XJs, but with a suspension tuned for drivers, those 20” rims give the XJ a ride on Detroit’s frost heaved roads that is surprisingly firm for a luxury car. Not harsh, but definitely on the harder edge of firm. It would be interesting to drive the XJ with 19” wheels to see if there’s a substantial difference in urban ride quality.

Perforations allow some engine noise to reach the cabin. Big cats gotta growl.

Jaguars are luxury cars for enthusiasts so they don’t entirely isolate you from what’s going on outside. There’s a little bit of road noise from the huge back tires, and there’s a perforated panel under the hood that lets some engine noise into the cabin. Still, the car cossets you in its own way. I could get very used to driving this car.

Location: Horace Rackham (FoMoCo lawyer and investor) mansion. Built in 1907, a year before the Model T was introduced. Ford and his partners were rich even before they put the world on wheels.

Once out on the open interstate or on winding back country roads the skill of Jaguar’s chassis tuners shows through. On the highway, the XJ Portfolio has all of the grace of old school XJs, though with a bit more pace, and at least as much space. On winding roads, the XJ is surefooted, quick, and will bring a smile to your face.

Gas mileage was about what you’d expect from a two ton car with almost 400 horses. I averaged 16.2 mpg for a bit more than a tank of gas, though most of that was not highway driving. Judging by the instantaneous readings, on the highway you should get into the 20s, maybe 25 mpg if you lightfoot it. EPA ratings are 16/23.

The suspension towers are lightweight castings that are fastened to the aluminum superstructure.

Not having driven a recent S klasse Mercedes, 7 Series BMW or LS from Lexus I can’t tell you how the XJ Portfolio stacks up against its direct competitors. I can say that if I could afford any of those cars, the XJ would definitely be on my short list. Yes, the infotainment system is a bit clunky, but ultimately I judge a car on it’s utility and its dynamics.  The XJ Portfolio is such an engaging car in terms of performance and handling, the comfort and aesthetics so well executed, that the question of how easy the touch screen is to use becomes almost irrelevant. We all know the Lucas, Prince of Darkness jokes and historical downsides to British cars, but at the same time the Jaguar brand and in particular the XJ has always stood for a uniquely British take on sporting luxury. A few flaws notwithstanding, the 2012 XJ Portfolio is a great Jaguar, a great XJ and should be considered by anyone in the market for a full size luxury sedan.

*Very late at night with no other traffic.

Jaguar of North America provided the car for a week, insurance and a tank of premium gasoline. Detroit’s historic Boston-Edison district provided most of the backdrops for the photos, which are courtesy of Cars In Depth.

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2011 Jaguar XF Supercharged Review Fri, 25 Feb 2011 20:22:45 +0000 The first issue that any reviewer must face is perspective. Whether it’s a $70,000 Jaguar or a $15,000 Chevy you have to maintain an appropriate perspective. You have to be fair to the product you’re reviewing while putting it into proper context for your readers. When Jaguar told me that a 2011 XF Supercharged was available for me to test, my first thought was the same as yours would be, “Goody, goody. What’s not to like?” My second thought was to email the other writers and ask if Michael Karesh or Jack Baruth could do a better job on the review. Michael test drives a variety of luxury cars, and Jack’s pretty familiar with high-end sporting machinery, but I have absolutely no experience with 470 HP, loaded-to-the-gunnels luxury sports sedans. I can’t tell you if it’s better or worse than competing cars because I haven’t driven those competing cars. The time with the Jaguar was bookended by a Mazda3 and a Kia Sportage. Not exactly ideal perspectives from which to view a luxury performance car. Notwithstanding my personal reservations, Ed and the other editors told me to go for it, so…

With a base MSRP of $67,150, the XF Supercharged fits between the lower trim and performance XFs and the 510 HP XFR, priced exactly $12,000 more. No Jaguar can be a Q-car, but compared to the XFR the XF Supercharged is definitely a sleeper. For that extra 12 large you get an additional 40 horsepower out of the supercharged version of Jaguar’s new 5.0L DOHC V8, a more aggressive body kit, a different hood (bonnet) and a wire mesh grille. That’s just about it. The XF Supercharged is much more subtle than the XFR. To all but the most discerning Jaguar enthusiast, it’s a plain vanilla XF but the XF Supercharged has all of the XFR’s chassis upgrades, including bigger brakes, upgraded shocks and springs and Jaguars superb Active Differential Control, which uses an electric motor built into the rear end to control wheel slip. Oh, and an additional 85 horsepower over the base XF. There might be one or two luxury options available on the XFR not offered on the Supercharged, but for the most part the XF Supercharged and the XFR are mechanically identical, and have the same equipment except for the additional power. The only available options that this car did not have were Adaptive Cruise Control, inflatable side seat bolsters, and special paint. The press fleet car that I was loaned was painted in a handsome and understated medium pewter that shows of the body contours well.

Yes, Virginia, that’s Detroit

The XF Supercharged already comes with most of the available XF features as standard, so the only optional equipment my test car had was the $350 heated windshield and the $500 “jet” Alcantara headliner. I don’t know if it’s worth 500 bucks for a nice headliner and A pillar trim but it does add a capping touch to what is already a very luxurious and nicely appointed car. There’s so much leather in the cabin that between the fully leather upholstered seats, the leather covered steering-wheel, the stitched leather on the door panels and the stitched hide covering the dashboard I could still smell leather on me while sitting at my desk hours after leaving the car. Everything is real, the leather, the wood and the brushed aluminum. The wood is as one would expect in a proper British luxury car, finished better than fine furniture. All the switchwork has a silky feel to the controls while also imparting a sense of stolidity. Speaking of switchwork, this XF has the newer glove box release switch, an actual pushbutton that Jaguar has spec’d in response to complaints that the original touch sensitive switch was a bit too touch sensitive.

Actually, I shouldn’t say that all of the controls worked well. Alex Dykes, in his recent review of the XK, alluded to Jaguar’s oft-complained-about infotainment system. The UK is home to a number of audiophile equipment companies so it’s no surprise that the Bowers & Wilkinson sound system (440 watts, 13 speakers plus a subwoofer, Dolby ProLogic II Surround Sound) sounds great, with good imaging, natural highs and clear bass. It has all the head unit bells and whistles too: Bluetooth, Sirius, Voice-activated controls, Nav with voice-guidance, AM/FM/HD, 6 disc CD changer, USB, iPod control, and an aux in.

Regardless of the source it’s a real a pleasure to listen to the B&W system. For additional aural enjoyment, filtered engine sounds are discreetly piped into the cabin. Jaguar’s done a fine job tuning the exhaust and controlling underhood noises because under heavy acceleration you hear a Jaguar’s roar, not the blower’s soprano whine. The controls for the audio and navigation system, though, are clunky. The touch-screen reacts very slowly and you have to be fairly precise where you put your finger or you’ll miss what you’re trying to activate. Selecting an audio source is time consuming since you cannot directly access any of the functions, you have keep pressing the “source” button and scroll through the choices. Having remote controls on the steering wheel are nice, but the control sequences are not thought out well.

Hey, where’s that abandoned train station?

One might think you’d get tired of the XF’s “handshaking” procedure. As you probably know if you’ve read anything about current Jaguars, when you power up the car, the ventilation grilles rotate open from their power off position and the round gear shift knob rises up out of the console. Perhaps small minds are amused by small things but I found it entertaining every time. I don’t know if Jaguar was expecting owners to just sit in the car and gaze at its features when it’s powered down, but the dashboard does look pretty snazzy all closed up.

The seats are comfortable, though the driver’s seat cushion’s bolsters could have been more substantial. The dual zone climate control was, as it should be, imperceptible. Like Mr. Popeil says, set it and forget it. The heated seats and steering wheel get warm very quickly. All the automatic gizmos worked automatically. The rain sensing wipers also sense the amount of rain and adjust their speed accordingly. It’s been a long time since wipers sped up and slowed down as manifold vacuum varied. I wonder if younger people realize just how amazing technology is today.

Would the Packard Plant make a better backdrop?

Whenever a car company comes out with an obviously not-ready-for-production concept car, there are people who criticize, saying that it’s a waste of money that could be used to better develop production cars. Still, if you look at the show cars of the 1950s and 1960s you’ll find that all sorts of features that are now commonplace were first proposed on some kind of outlandish concept vehicle. While some “concepts” are just pie in the sky, eg. Ford’s Nucleon, others are pretty accurate predictions about things that might improve the driving experience. In the 1950s before the recently departed Chuck Jordan rose to head GM styling, he designed the Buick Centurion Motorama car. The Centurion had no rear view mirror. Instead it had a camera in the back and a CRT screen in the dashboard. Science fiction in 1955, standard equipment today. I’m predicting that it won’t take half a century for the thin film transistor liquid crystal display (TFT-LCD) touch screens used in Jaguar’s C-X75 concept to show up in a car that you drive.

No abandoned homes. Your sure this is Detroit?

And driving is what the XF Supercharged is about. Dynamically, the XF Supercharged is greatly rewarding to drive. Even though it’s made mostly out of aluminum, and it has a curb weight of just over 4,300 lbs. so you can’t exactly call the car tossable, but it is nimble. Like a big man who is a good dancer, the XF Supercharged is light on its feet. It never lost its composure or made an awkward move. With a 0-60 time of 4.9 seconds those moves are made quickly.

Steering is also quick, I measured 2.75 turns lock to lock. That’s Lotus Elan level quick steering. With two tons of aluminum, leather and polymers to change direction, and fat P255/35ZR20 tires in front (P285/30ZR20s in the rear) steering that quick requires substantial power assist. Effort is just right, with good feel for where the front end is. The variable assist works flawlessly. Maybe a dab more weight would have made it perfect for me but I don’t think anyone will find fault with the XF Supercharged’s steering. Turn in is precise, with just the slightest bit of understeer for safety. That understeer, though, can be easily balanced with your right foot anytime even with the nannies on. I hate roundabouts because I’m a cyclist but I discovered they can be fun when you have a powerful and properly sorted out car to drive. It was just a little bit slippery out and I was able to do a modest drift all through the rotary without having to deactivate anything. The Active Differential Control is very impressive.

C’mon, south of 8 Mile? Don’t be a kidder!

Anyone thinking that this car is underpowered, that they must have the additional 40 ponies that come with the XFR either has been exposed to some very rarefied machinery or they just really really like really really fast Jaguars. Michigan State Police troopers may judiciously allow you to maybe drive a little faster than their counterparts south of the border collecting revenue in Ohio, but I’m not going to explore the performance limits of a 470 horsepower car. I’m certainly not going to need to find out how fast 510 will do. Even with “just” 470 HP, I found myself inadvertently doing 90mph entering the freeway. From a dead stop at full throttle the traction control will kick as it upshifts to both second and third. There is always enough power to do whatever you want to do whenever you want to do it, at least on the street.

That’s John & Horace’s place on the left

That gear selector can be moved over one position from Drive, to Sport. The sport setting changes the engine and transmission mapping for more immediate response. An additional control will stiffen the suspension and speeds up the steering ratio. As a car guy I’m embarrassed to say that for the most part I left all of the settings in normal mode and hardly used the paddle shifters either. With 470 horsepower and an already sophisticated suspension, steering and rear end, do you really need “sport” settings? Drivers who take their XF to the track will appreciate them, and they do make a perceptible difference but on the street the gear shift’s S mode is like painting the lily and the performance suspension setting is gilding refined gold.

Brakes are all you’d ever need on the street. The rotors have larger diameters than the tires on some cars that I’ve driven. While they sometimes can be a little bit grabby after sitting, from surface rust on the rotors, for the most part the brakes worked very well, with good modulation control. I tried some 0-50-0 runs (on a 400′ driveway) and the ABS and other nannies worked unobtrusively. The good braking performance comes at a price: brake dust. After a week and about 500 miles of driving the 20” aluminum wheels were coated with brake pad dust. A friend leases a non-supercharged ’11 XF, with smaller brakes and he says that he also has to wash the brake dust off frequently.

Heaping big brakes means heaps of brake dust. The shiny spot is where
I wiped
some of it away.

Rear wheels too. The brakes, though, work great.

Suspension is a little firmer than I expected, but it seems to me that folks who buy the Supercharged version will expect a sportier ride.

I don’t know if the Superchaged has the upgraded torque converter and additional clutch plates equipped on the XFR, but the six-speed ZF automatic transmission worked flawlessly.

Like most well equipped cars today, the XF Supercharged comes with a backup camera. Since this is a luxury car and even Kia now offers a cam, to make it special yellow guide lines are superimposed on the image to guide you as you back up. The guidelines curve according to steering wheel position. Perhaps in time I’ll appreciate backup cams but for now I think they’re a hazard. It’s one thing to be looking in your rear view mirror while going backwards. You’re looking up and you can still see motion in your peripheral vision. However, looking forward and down when you’re backing up is a formula for disaster. Mandating backup cameras may save 300 kids a year from getting backed over in the driveway, but I suspect such wide scale use will get even more kids hurt or worse when traffic on the street t-bones people paying close attention to the backup screen on their instrument panels. Backup cameras have very poor peripheral vision.

A couple of words about styling: like it. Some feel that the XF is a bit nondescript (a neighbor called it a cross between a Jaguar and a Lexus). I think that’s because the car has that rear window / C pillar with the BMW kink that you see on the Malibu and Altima, but most of the car is original and the styling grew on me over the week. I’m an old XJ owner and as the week went on it started looking more and more like a Jaguar and I started noticing more signature styling elements. The rear of the car is perfect, even if it recalls Ian Callum’s work for Aston Martin. Nobody ever called an Aston ugly. Michael Karesh recently discussed the long overhang of the Kia Optima. Large overhangs are a necessary consequence of front wheel drive packaging needs. You need a lot of space to fit the engine and transmission under the hood. Looking at the XF, one knows right away that it’s a RWD car. The front wheels are pushed to the extreme corners of the car. That visually lengthens the long flanks of the car. Those long flanks, smooth save for a character line near the bottom of the doors, started reminding me of a classic XJ. The flanks flow into rear haunches that Jaguars must have. The beltline has a subtle wedge that combined with the wheels pushed out to the corners gives the car a purposeful stance. Surprisingly for a short guy in a wedgey car, visibility was acceptable (few modern cars have good visibility). I still hate fender gills but at least the XF’s were designed in from scratch. Jaguar adding gills to the last traditional XJ was a travesty. These don’t look half bad.

For the most part I came away very impressed with the XF Supercharged, though it’s likely that I would feel the same about any cars in its class. There aren’t that many crappy cars in that price range. Still, it’s not perfect. While it may be less expensive than German competitors (well, at least the base XF is), the higher powered Cadillac CTS-V is about $10K cheaper than the XF Supercharged. Of course for that ten grand you’re getting the cachet of a Jaguar and not being the samo samo luxury brand is part of Jaguar’s appeal. Gas mileage was about what you’d expect from a perpetual adolescent driving a high powered car. I averaged ~14mpg for the week and when I was driving enthusiastically the instantaneous rate dropped into the single digits. There’s the aforementioned severe brake dust issue and my issues with the infotainment system. Come to think of it, there’s another issue with that system. I decided to use the Jag to pick my mom up at the airport and managed to get stuck at the curb at the wrong terminal. It took 5-10 minutes for things to clear up enough to pull away. In the meantime, the parking assist nannies are warning me that there’s a car next to me. I’m not blind, I can see it. The nannies also mute the stereo when they’re active. Dammit, I know that I’m backing up, I still want to listen to the flipping song I have on, not the stupid nanny chime. Perhaps if I had RTFM I could have muted Mary Poppins.

The only quality control issue that I noticed was in the windshield lamination. I don’t know if it’s because the glass is heated or if they did a poor job in laminating the safety glass, but at night there was a noticeable interference pattern in the glass. It didn’t affect visibility but there was a star effect around oncoming headlights.

There was also, surprisingly, a driveability issue. Well, that might be a bit too strong, but right off of dead idle the car hesitates. It’s not a stumble, just a hesitation. I started to mention it to one of the fleet company’s drivers and he finished my sentence, so it’s not just me. My guess is that it’s either due to fuel efficiency concerns or that with 470 horsepower, Jaguar didn’t want wheel spins at every green light, so the throttle is mapped that way. Either way it’s so out of character compared to how the car performs in all other circumstances that it stands out.

Other than those few quibbles, I thought the XF Supercharged was damn near perfect. Alex and Michael, who have more experience than I do with cars in this segment might be more critical than me, but as long as someone else was making the payments and paying for the gasoline and insurance, I could be very comfortable using the XF Supercharged as my daily driver. If Jaguar had asked me if I wanted to test the XFR, I would have said “Goody, goody, what’s not to like?” Who wouldn’t want 40 more horsepower in almost any car? But I’m not convinced I’d spend the money on the XFR if I had it. The XF comes in four flavors: base, premium, Supercharged and R. The base car is $52K and the premium trim model is $56,000. So the difference between the XF premium and the Supercharged is about $11,000, close to the difference between the Supercharged and the XFR. For about half of the additional cost of the XFR, you get 2/3rds the power increase and all of the other go fast parts. If you must have those extra 40 horses, I’m not going to tell you that it’s a waste of money, but if the XFR is worth $80K, then the XF Supercharged is a bargain.

Note: Jaguar of North America provided the XF Supercharged and insurance for a week plus a tank of premium gas. The nice folks at the office of Woodlawn Cemetery in Detroit helped me find the Dodge brothers. The other photos were taken in the Palmer Woods neighborhood of Detroit.

It’s December and the world seems filled with Michigan grey. On a bootleg mp3 Dylan’s singing Paul Simon about brown leaves and a sky in a hazy shade of winter. Perfect day to be tramping around a cemetery looking for famous dead guys who made cars. Rich and famous Detroiters are at Woodlawn. Auto magnates like Edsel and his good friend Roy. Politicians, car guys. Car guys turned politicians. Entertainers. Lots of entertainers. Aretha’s daddy, Rev. C.L. Franklin, is there, as are her siblings and in the office they told me she’d be joining them. And of course, Motown. Eddie Kendricks, what a tragedy, he’s there. So are a couple of the Spinners. Rubberband Man would make you smile even in a cemetery (yeah, I know they weren’t on Motown, but they’re from NW Detroit). But as soon as I saw the name on their list of celebrities, I knew I had to pay my respects to James Jamerson, the man who put the funk in the Funk Brothers, the bass player in Motown’s house band. It was bitter cold, and it’s a flat marker in the ground. The wrong number was written down, the grave was hard to find. It was bitter cold and I started walking every grave in that section. Finally after a call or two to the nice lady in the office, cemetery office workers are the most helpful people you’ll find, I was able to pay my respects. There were some artificial flowers in the urn on James Jamerson’s marker. I saw no flowers at the Dodge brothers’ tomb. John and Horace drank like fishes, died young. James liked to get a good buzz on too, also left us too soon. The Dodges had storied mansions and people see the name Dodge every day. Hardly anybody knows the name Jamerson was but his music will make people dance forever. I turned on the heated seats and steering wheel of the Jaguar, dialed up the ACC a couple of degrees, put the fan on manual, and pulled out on to Woodward. RIP, James, Horace, John, Roy & Edsel.

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Review: 2011 Jaguar XJ Supersport Wed, 02 Feb 2011 19:23:22 +0000

Americans are a funny bunch; our views of the larger world are crafted by our prejudices which then tend to be peddled back to us out of sheer convenience. For example, we tend to view British luxury as being some stuffy old stone mansion with dark wood panelling and and swirling cigar smoke, a perception that “Cool Britannia” left behind years (if not decades) ago. Ironically though, nothing perpetuated this dated view of Old Blighty like the previous Jaguar XJ. Jag’s flagship had been trapped in a decades-long styling time-warp, with every generation trying to be more and more connected with the past. Not because the British people actually like wallowing in dated stereotypes about themselves, but because they don’t mind making a buck off of the Americans who do. Free from the need to indulge the country-squire delusions of the colonials, however, the Brits are a people that are more likely to turn a 500 year old stone mansion into an ultra-modern chic lounge. Which is why the new XJ may finally be not only a truly modern luxury sedan, but a truly British one as well.

The XJ has been the jewel of the Jaguar line-up since 1968 when the first XJ6 rolled out of the factory.  While the iconic shape of the XJ was modern for 1968, it soon morphed into the charming antique we’ve known for the past 42 years. As the owner of a 2000 XJ8 and a lover of all things “quaint,” the styling direction of the XF sedan left me worried my antique would finally be the last of its kind. While the old XJ aged better than Ford’s Town Car, observers were always right to call the XJ the English “Town Car” for its soft ride and aging clientèle. Indeed, Robert Farago called the previous go-fast XJ a charming stunner but was less than impressed with its performance back in 2005.

Michael Karesh was able to wrangle a drive in the new XJ for a short take back in December, meanwhile I was able to squeeze an XJ Supersport out of Jaguar North America for a longer review. So what’s the XJ really like for a week? Let’s dig in.

Outside, the new XJ is a clean sheet design, but underneath the surface the all-aluminium monocoque chassis shares some suspension design and portions of the floor pan with the previous XJ8. The striking exterior is shockingly different from the German competition having an almost French flair to the rear. While being a total departure from the previous XJ8, it is still surprising how many passers-by still recognized the XJ as a Jaguar. The fluid and contemporary shape of the XJ belies the size of this cat, especially in pictures. This sedan is both large and bold in person making the similar shapes on the mid-size XF seem almost compact. The blacked out C-pillars and black tinted glass roof panels further separate this large sedan from the more sedate competition. It would seem however that not all buyers are fond of the almost “hatchback like” look caused by the black pillars in the back; my local Jaguar dealer tells me it’s a common request to have them painted a matching body color. Speaking of coupé like shapes, the proportions of the new XJ also combine to have a negative effect on the trunk space. While it is possible to get golf clubs back there, it is a tight squeeze for even four light-packers to go on holiday, or as we discovered: picking up relatives at the airport who pack for vacation like they are moving house.

The interior of the new XJ is as much of a departure from tradition as the exterior. Fear not, modern luxury still means plenty of cow hide and wood, as the new XJ easily contains more of both than its predecessor. Our Supersport tester even included a full-leather headliner which, aside from being oddly practical (it’s easy to clean), was caressed frequently by passengers.  Round air vents with blue-lit rings are a prominent feature on the single-needle stitched dashboard, but passengers were split whether they liked or disliked the frog-eye look of the vent pod in the center console. Opinion however was unanimous in the like of the expansive inlaid wood trim panels that wrap around the interior. Speaking of trim, Jaguar offers 11 interior color combinations which can all be had with your choice of ten veneers including ye olde classic wood veneers, carbon fiber or the mysterious “Piano Black.” Whatever color selections you make, the interior of the XJ is far more personable and warm than the mechanical precision of the Mercedes S-Class or BMW 7-Series interiors. Perhaps it is the relative scarcity of this species in the wild, but it certainly garners more looks than the German luxo-barges at the moment.

The large, dark-tinted panoramic glass roof is standard on all XJ models, but due to the low-slung shape of the roofline, the glass doesn’t extend as far back as the heads of the rear passengers (even in long-wheelbase trim) making it more of a way to illuminate the rear cabin than a way for rear passengers to peer skywards. Also standard on all models is a new 12.3”LCD gauge cluster similar to the one used in the recently re-designed Range Rover. While Mercedes and BMW have replaced portions of their instrument cluster with an LCD, Jaguar has taken the next step with a wide-aspect ratio LCD that replaces all conventional gauges. The display is easily readable in any light condition but I had hoped that the LCD would “do more.” Maybe I am just missing the point, but being the techy nerd I am, I had hoped that some level of customization might be possible like rearranging the gauges, applying custom “wallpapers” etc. Still, the gauges are engaging, the graphics are suitably swish and the response time of the cluster was adequate for most driving situations. A quick perusal of online reviews reveals complaints about the tach seeming “jittery” under hard acceleration, I experienced the “issue” but being in the tech industry I recognize it for what it is: normal LCD lag. As LCD gauge clusters become more common place we’ll get used to the effect, and honestly it didn’t bother me at all. The trade-off for the “jittery” tach is that when using the nav system the needle is replaced with turn-by-turn directions and lane guidance when needed.

The base audio system serves up tunes with as much precision as you would expect in this class (the base XJ carries a $72,700 starting MSRP) but stepping up to the Supercharged and Supersport trim gets you the 1200-watt, 20-speaker Bowers & Wilkins sound system. The up-level boom-box is sure to summon the inner audiophile from even the most tone deaf while B&W’s yellow speakers will make sure all your passengers know you bought the best that Kevlar can offer. Peruse further down the option list you will notice something missing; well the entire rest of the list is missing really. While the old XJ sold on charm, the new XJ sells on luxurious minimalist performance, i.e. there are few options. It is refreshing in a way for a luxury sedan to be so totally devoid of fun-sucking electronic nannies, but in reality Jaguar’s limited R&D budget is probably to blame. Never the less, average buyers generally don’t opt for expensive gadget options like night vision, pedestrian detection, lane-keeping assist, eye movement sensors, or seats that grope you around every turn, so you probably won’t miss them in the XJ either. Instead, the relative simplicity and button-free atmosphere in the cabin is almost Scandinavian in design and highly driver focused. Our Supersport carried the base MSRP of $110,200 and delivers an essentially fully-loaded XJ with the exception of the rear seat entertainment system which is an additional $2,200. In a world of me-too luxury brands, it is refreshing that the XJ doesn’t even try to do everything an Audi A8 or BMW 7-Series can do. Instead, and in contrast to everything else about it, the XJ has a distinctly retro raison d’être: performance.

While driving the XJ I found myself drawing M5 and E63 comparisons. Why? Because of the way the XJ handles and accelerates. Jaguar’s history is full of racing connections, and in an attempt to “get back to basics” the XJ has been tuned very differently from the former XJ. The 7-Series and S-Class may handle and perform well, but even in Alpina and AMG trim, they feel as big and heavy as they actually are. The Audi A8 on the other hand is fairly light at 4,409lbs and is equipped with a superb AWD system, but “nose-heavy barge” is not an infrequent complaint from owners and journalists alike. Lurking under the XJ’s hood is the 510hp 5.0L supercharged V8 that has been spreading across the Jaguar/Land Rover line-up.  Delivering 461lb-ft of torque from 2500 to 5500RPM, the third generation supercharged AJ-V8 delivers an experience similar to being tied to a rocket. Direct injection and variable valve timing save the XJ from the US gas guzzler tax and deliver a respectable (for a 510HP luxury car) 15MPG city and 21MPG highway. Our observed economy over 860 miles was 21.5MPG.

As we know from the previous XJR, power is nothing without handling. Despite actually gaining weight on the old XJ8, the new XJ no longer feels like a leather clad marshmallow. Adjectives like “nimble” and “connected” can actually be applied to this XJ’s performance with a straight face. Jaguar redesigned the front suspension swapping a more conventional spring setup for the old air suspension (fewer changes out back left the air suspension in for load-leveling), but it’s the svelte 4,281lb kerb weight that really pays dividends when the chassis is pushed to its limits. While just over two tons may sound like a heavy car, the XJ is not only the lightest in its class, but the short wheelbase XJ is actually 22-25lbs lighter than the mid-size Jaguar XF. While I was unable to schedule back-to-back time with the XFR, XKR and XJ Supersport, a record check revealed the XJ Supersport managed to be the fastest of the feline-trio. The XFR we tested in 2010 ran to 60 in 4.5 seconds, the XKR tackled the same feat in 4.7 due to a distinct lack of grip in the rear but the XJ dug in its claws with a perfectly repeatable 4.30 second run. That’s not just luxury sedan fast, that’s seriously fast.

Put in perspective: if you wanted to buy S-Class that’s faster to 60, you’d need the enormously expensive 621HP S65 AMG starting at $209,000 in order to be 1/10th of a second faster. If BMWs are more your style, then be prepared to be happy with your handling because even the $122,000 (starting) Alpina B7 takes longer to get to speed. Priced at $110,200 the XJ Supersport could almost be called a bargain. Need speed with some extra leg room? The XJL Supersport delivers the same driving experience with 5 inches more rear legroom (and fold-down walnut-clad Grey Poupon trays) at the expense of only 58lbs of additional curb weight and $3,000 more of your hard earned cash.

While the XJ’s low curb weight, well-tuned suspension and wide rubber make the XJ a real joy to drive, the most shocking thing about the behind-the-wheel experience is just how “youthful” the XJ feels. While the old XJ was a stuffy old cat, the new XJ is a kitten that just wants to play. The 6-speed ZF automatic is lightning fast and always in the right gear, the dynamic rear axle kicks out the rear end predictably when pushed, burnouts are a mere DSC-off button-push away and even when the nannies are all engaged they don’t intervene until they are truly needed and then quietly retreat when the pucker-factor is dealt with.

Despite being the bargain in the main-line full-size luxury sedan line-up, the XJ’s unique personality, brand cachet and driving experience are more akin to what you expect from a Maserati , Panamera, or dare I say it: an entry level Bentley. The XJ has always marched to the beat of a different drummer, and it’s that uniqueness that is still special about the XJ today. While the old XJ was more of a “classically styled Lexus”, this cat has leapt to the opposite end of the scale… and America’s image of Britain may never be the same again.

Jaguar provided the vehicle, insurance and one tank of gas for the review.

Performance statistics as tested:

0-60: 4.30 seconds

30-60: 2.5 seconds

Average economy: 21.5MPG

Facebook followers.  Andy: The interior is excellent except for the steering column trim which seems a touch low rent. Richard: It’s not like my 2000 XJ8, but then it’s not trying to be anymore. It is the perfect car for the white collar criminal; it will make ‘em look even smoother. Robandcindy: Waaay better than an A8? No, but I’d rather have an XJ unless I was in the snow belt.

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Review: 2011 Jaguar XKR Mon, 17 Jan 2011 22:01:33 +0000

In 2007 Jaguar started the most intensive make-over in the brand’s history with the redesigned XK. While the look was drop-dead gorgeous, the interior was more evolution than revolution when you consider the direction the XF and new XJ have taken. Now that the world has managed to catch its breath after the shock of the XF and XJ’s ultra-chic modern styling, Jaguar decided to give the XK a thorough refresh in 2010.

The old Jaguar XK often received a bad rap as the old man’s sports car. From the surface, it was easy to dismiss the previous generations of the XK as simply a shorter XJ with a rather plain nose. To address this complaint, Jaguar has altered the size and shape of the proboscis, added some chrome grilles and a set of hood louvers to give the XK a more sinister look. The combination looks more visually interesting than the previous model, but still delivers a much more subtle first impression than the other two-doors in this price class. What sets the XK apart from the styling competition is the sleek side profile and perfectly executed rear. The style is not one that screams something wicked this way comes; that would be less than civilized, less than what consumers expect of Jaguar. Instead of aping the sometimes brash style of the Germans, the swooping lines, long hood, sashless windows and wide fender flares are executed with typical British restraint.

Inside the 2011 XKR the changes are largely limited to the removal of the J-gate shifter in favour of the hockey-puck style “JaguarDrive selector,” improved leather door trim and a revised steering wheel. The puck is unique and quirky looking, but actually ends up being no less frustrating than BMW and Merdedes’ latest “solution” to the “problem” of the classic gear selector. The steering wheel is another slight miss, while it feels great in your hands, the base XF gets the same tiller for half the price. Note to Jag: for 2012, swipe the wheel from the new XJ.

Current Jag owners I spoke with seem concerned that the latest Jag models are getting “too modern.” For those concerned about classic Jaguar styling; how “classic” your XK looks is largely depends on your interior color choice. There are no less than 11 interior leather color combinations up for grabs, and traditionalists would do well to note that the lighter the color the more “traditional” the interior tends to look. Seriously. Fear not Jaguar faithful, the XK can still be equipped with “acres of wood trim.” The option list includes three wood, one metal trim option and something called “piano black” which I would like to think is made from thousands of priceless tiny recycled pianos, but I’m probably wrong. Our press car was fitted with the black-on-black-on-black leather interior with metal trim and the same sluggish nav/infotainment system that garners complaints from reviewers and owners alike. I won’t beat a dead horse on this subject, but will say the new system in the flagship XJ sedan is certainly an improvement.

While we’re on the topic of complaints, not all is rosy inside the XKR. The first thing I found issue with is the rear seat arrangement, or should I say “stitched-leather luggage compartment.” No doubt countless hours were spent on the beautiful stitched leather and alcantara bits rear seat passengers would encounter, the problem is they just won’t fit back there. I’m a fairly averagely sized six-foot-tall person and with the front seat in a comfortable driving position you could have to be a legless-midget to fit back there. Room is so tight that the front seats are programed to prevent contact between seat-back and rear-seat, if you try to recline the fronts too far it starts scooting the bottom of the seat forward. My issue is not that the seats should be usable; I frankly don’t care if I have a 4-seater. The problem is that four seatbelts just restrict the XKR with a happy couple on board from using 3+ person HOV lanes. On the other hand, your briefcases and handbags will never feel as special in anything else.

Pop open the hood or romp on the go-pedal and you will immediately notice the biggest change to the XK: Jag’s new 5L V8. The 2009 XK’s two engine choices were a 300HP naturally-aspirated V8 or a supercharged 420HP V8, both displacing 4.2L. While the old Jag AJ-V8 is a nice engine, the supercharged version delivered an audible supercharger whine when pushed and with “only” 420HP on tap, the big cat always felt out of breath when running with the pack. Detractors may claim the new XK is still that old man’s car in a new-cat-suit with a big engine jammed in. To this I have to say: jam the new 5.0L engine into anything and it could be a winner. Even as lacklustre as the former X-Type was, if Jag had managed to stuff the 510HP V8 into the frame, it too would be a winner. When it comes to engines, it’s not all about power; it’s also about the noise. While the XKR doesn’t posses the XFR’s sublime bellow (I am guessing due to a different exhaust setup due to space constraints), it is never the less one of the most melodious V8 sounds I have ever heard. I’m not usually a fan of convertibles, but the engine note is reason enough for you to drop your top and choose the less-rigid XKR convertible.

Out on the road the new Jaguar Active Differential Control (unique to the R version of the XK) is immediately obvious. The XKR produces more than 125HP more than the base XK yet it applies the power with much greater finesse. While it is really not possible to call any rear-wheel-drive 500+ HP car drama free in the wet, the ADC takes most of the hair-raising drama out of the equation. The system is capable of not only locking the rear diff when it needs to, but it can also torque vector whenever the electronic nannies feel they should. Because the system can disengage itself at any time, it doesn’t feel unnatural the way some limited slip diffs can. The ADC’s activation is always seamless and fluid. Matching the ADC’s precision and feel is the re-tuned active suspension system which delivers a fairly compliant ride on the freeway and enough heft on the track to satisfy most GT buyers. Yep. GT buyers.

In truth the XK and XKR have always been “grand tourers” (Gran Turismos for those who prefer Italian) at heart, a type of car that aims more for gracious pace than maximum-attack. While BMW shoots for a GT-sized sports coupé with their M6, a V10 that screams all the way to its 8,250RPM red-line is not my idea of luxury. I mean F1 is fun and all, but for the city dweller seeking some coupé panache, something more subtle is called for… and that is what the XKR does best. With 461lb-ft of torque available from 2500-5500RPM Jaguar obviously had a choice to make: stuff some massive rubber out back and favour acceleration and handing over ride quality, or stick to Jaguar’s luxury-oriented roots. Jag chose the latter, and rightly so. The already low stock 4.6 second 0-60 time (TTAC verified) could be far lower if the rear end could find more grip. For the sake of comparison, the 2009 M6 runs to 60 in 4.4 seconds. Buyers will be pleased to know that somehow this kitty manages to be a fuel sipper delivering 15/22MPG neatly avoiding any gas guzzler tax. Ok, so fuel sipper is a relative term but Jaguar claims it is the first 500+HP V8 capable of skipping the gas guzzler tax in the USA. That has to count for something, right?

Speaking of the competition, let’s see how the XKR stacks up. BMW’s M6 is still the technology king despite having ended production last year, and the soon-to-be-released 2011 6-series is likely to raise the bar even higher. Still, the M6 is about gadgets and performance, the XKR marches to a slightly more posh drummer. The M6 may be faster, but is also carries a slightly higher price tag and is saddled with a $3,000 gas-guzzler tax due to the epically low 11/17MPG EPA numbers. While BMW’s 7-speed SMG is significantly smoother than the Mercedes Speedshift transmission, it’s still not as silky as the 6-speed ZF unit Jag selected. The M6 will probably always be the top choice for track days, but the XKR will make your vertebrae happier on your daily commute and your bank account fatter at every fill-up.

From the AMG corner we have the SL63 and CL63. The CL may have a real back-seat, but the looks of the CL have never been my cup of tea. At $150,000 for the CL63 and $139,050 for the SL63, it’s easy to just stop at pricing and call the XKR a bargain. The CL550 lacks the grunt of the Jag but does being 4MATIC AWD to bear, at $113,150 it still makes our tester XKR seem like a flat-out bargain at $101,000 as tested.

A wise man I once knew said it is impossible for a human to ever be truly objective. With that admission out of the way I have to say my week with the XKR left me smitten. Not because the XKR is the best car ever made, but because it fit me. While I can say as objectively as possible that the 2010 XKR is quite possibly one of the finest Jaguars ever made and with an available top speed limiter set to 174MPH, it might just be the fastest since the ill-fated Jaguar XJ220. While it may not have the athleticism of the BMW 6-Series, it actually does match the marketing hype on Jag’s website “elegance and beauty combined with power and grace.” Personally I would call it “automotive sex” but that’s probably why nobody hires me for marketing. If you have 100 large to spend on an aristocratic coupé, the XKR should be at or near the top of your list.

Jaguar provided the vehicle, insurance and one tank of gas for this review.

Feedback for our Facebook fans: Ronald Balit: it is a well sorted chassis, but with 510 and RWD it’s easy to get yourself in a situation where it feels like the car is trying to kill you. But that’s half the fun, right? Peter Dushenski: I would have it over a Carrera S any day. Over an M6? Close call, but yes I would take the XKR over the current M6, the 2012 M6… maybe not. Darren Williams: it purrs when you start it and growls like a lion when you prod it. Careful, those claws are sharp. David Hoyt: judging by the looks in downtown Los Gatos, the 0-Woman time is very short indeed. Amir Kazi: one or two clubs perhaps. The trunk is fairly shallow.

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Review: 2011 Jaguar XJ Mon, 13 Dec 2010 21:13:16 +0000

Mercedes-Benz, BMW, and Audi are all parts of huge organizations with vast resources. When developing a new flagship sedan, they can finesse every last detail. (Whether they actually do so is another matter.) Though previously owned by Ford and now owned by Indian conglomerate Tata, Jaguar has had to make do with so much less that it’s almost a miracle it can field a contemporary large luxury sedan at all. And yet we have the new XJ.

To have a chance, a Jaguar must be beautiful. The new XJ passes this test. Though the new sedan bears no resemblance to the classic Series III, the spirit remains the same. While the tape measure will beg to differ, the new XJ looks much lower and sleeker than the German dreadnoughts, with proportions the Audi A8 can only dream of. The Jaguar’s black C-pillar applique doesn’t work—at all—but there are two easy fixes: paint it body color or buy a black car.

The new Jaguar XJ also goes its own way inside, with a gutsy blend of high-tech LCD displays and retro sports car styling. The latter lends the interior a warmth and sportiness absent from the Germans. Though some of the switches feel a touch cheap, the leather and wood are first-rate and a definite step up from the XF. Unfortunately, the LCD instrument display attempts to meld with the retro sports car vibe, and fails. Some video games manage more convincing digital representations of classic, chrome-ringed round instruments. Even if the display was convincing, why invest in a reconfigurable LCD panel, then employ it to mimic classic analog gauges?

The front seats fit like a glove, with relatively soft padding and curves that cosset in a way the Germans refuse to. It’s that warmth thing again, even in black. The rear seats are even more comfortable, at least in the two outboard positions. Thanks largely to its organic design, the cabin seems narrower than those in competing cars, but in the extended wheelbase model there’s legroom to spare—44.1 inches. Wooden fold-down tray tables are another nod to tradition, but it’s hard to imagine them being of much use. If there was a way to level them without the cooperation of the person in the front seat, I couldn’t find it.

In the recent past both Cadillac and Jaguar were scraping by with DOHC V8 engines well past their sell by dates. Jaguar somehow managed what GM could not, and developed a new V8—and at the same time ex-parent Ford was also developing a new V8. The entirely unrelated V8s both displace 5.0 liters. The Jaguar engine isn’t quite as strong or as smooth as the new Mustang mill, but is still quite good on both counts. Cars in this class keeping getting more and more powerful, but we’re not yet to the point where 385 horsepower seems—or feels—remotely weak. Even without the available supercharger, which pumps output to 470 or 510, depending on how much you want to spend, the XJ is quick. It helps that an aluminum body keeps curb weight to a relatively light 4,131 pounds. The new V8’s exhaust note is throatier than that of competing German V8s, and yet refined enough for a Jaguar.

Jaguar continues to employ a six-speed automatic. It’s not a bad transmission, but the new eight-speed ZF in the Audi A8 and BMW 7 is smoother and more responsive. Perhaps the XJ will get the better box next year. Dialing (yes, dialing) the gear selector to S quickens the transmission’s responses at the expense of some smoothness. S also holds a lower gear, rendering this option impractical for continuous use.

Compared to the ultra-firm system in the new Audi A8, the new Jaguar XJ’s steering can initially seem disconcertingly light. Though a little more heft would be welcome, this isn’t entirely a bad thing, as the chassis rewards a delicate touch with precise responses and a surprising amount of agility for such a large car. Especially in “competition mode,” which quickens the responses of the throttle and suspension, but doesn’t affect the steering, the big cat likes to turn. It could teach the smaller (but equally hefty) XF a thing or two. Between this chassis tuning and the styling of the interior, the big Jaguar doesn’t feel so big from the driver’s seat. Until you glance to the side, in which case the high beltline and overly close B-pillar conspire to sap your confidence.

So far, mostly so good. Jaguar had relatively few resources to draw upon, but the car doesn’t seem to have substantially suffered as a result—unless you pay close attention to the ride. Quivers you won’t find in a German supersedan make their way through the XJ’s steering column. Especially in the back seat the ride often feels a touch jittery. Many people won’t notice these minor lapses. But the most discriminating buyers will.

Reliability is a big question mark. The Jaguar XF has been among the least reliable cars in TrueDelta’s Car Reliability Survey, with the second model year no better than the first. Most problems have been electrical. Might the more complex XJ fare better? Not that you’re guaranteed to have problems. With the 2009 XF 43 percent of owners have had no repairs in the past year.

The Jaguar XJ has some shortcomings, but do they really matter? There are benefits to buying a car from a huge organization, but there are also benefits to buying one from a relatively small outfit. Unlike some other luxury brands, Jaguar has never been about perfection. Instead, the marque has long gotten by (if barely) on a unique combination of sportiness, comfort, and charisma. All are present and accounted for in Jaguar’s new flagship. Compared to the technically astounding Audi A8, the new XJ might be harder to admire, but it’s easier to love.

Michael Karesh owns and operates TrueDelta, an online source of automotive pricing and reliability data

Lee “Pete” Canupp of Checkered Flag Jaguar in Virginia Beach, VA, provided the car. Pete can be reached at 757-490-1111.

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Capsule Review: Jaguar XJ-S V-12 “HE” Wed, 10 Nov 2010 17:31:24 +0000

Why did we have an eleven-year-old, scratch-and-dent, no-maintenance-records, twelve-cylinder Jaguar on our lot? Blame our naive sales manager, who always paid top dollar for trades. In his haste to revolutionize the way people bought and sold luxury cars in Dublin, Ohio, “Steve” tended to ignore the established car-sales playbook. At the time, I thought he was bold; I now realize he was stupid.

It’s famously said that the SCCA road-racing rulebook is “written in blood”. Every rule in the book is a lesson learned from a tragic occurrence. By the same token, every rule in the car-sales biz is written, not in blood, but in red ink. There’s one rule in particular that is written in so much ink that it’s bled through the page, and that is: Don’t take used cars to customer homes for test drives. If you look closely, you will see an asterisk to that rule, added by me, and at the bottom of the metaphorical page, I’ve written: * this goes double for Jags.

The history of the Jaguar XJ-S could fill a book, and in fact it’s filled a few books. As the Seventies dawned, it was commonly believed that the sportscar era was about to come to a permanent halt. The affordable race-on-Sunday ragtop was an early casualty of Arab oil prices, American safety regulations, and California emission controls. Jaguar believed that a move upmarket would be required to stay in business (the more things change…) and the XJ-S was created to replace the aging XKE (E-Type to us USians).

Surely fifteen years of depressing, timid, default-retro Jags have taught us to appreciate this automobile for what it is: a unique and stunningly proportioned grand tourer. It was never rapid off the line; until the six-liter XJR-S arrived in the Nineties, it was impossible to push any of the sleek cats to sixty miles per hour in under seven seconds. Top speed, however, was 145 or better in an era when most family sedans on the Continent struggled to break the “ton”.

The original 5.3L V12 was smog-strangled to just over two hundred and forty horsepower in the States, but again, this was in an era where American five-liter V8s often claimed one hundred and twenty horsepower or less. The “HE” revisions debuted in 1981 and significantly increased fuel economy, bumping power by about ten percent as well.

Seventies-era Jaguar twelves are, to put it mildly, nightmares to own. Mechanically, they can be fragile and service access underneath the long bonnet is difficult. There are miles of wiring required simply to make the XJ-S start and run, with some of that wiring located in places seemingly designed to burn or damage it. On a whim, I downloaded a community-generated service manual for the XJ-S off USENET back in 1996 and printed it out; it was over two hundred pages and in many places consisted simply of a friendly word and a few admonitions not to give up in the face of adversity. Do not expect to operate any XJ-S built prior to 1991 as a daily driver. It’s as simple as that.

Naturally, I did not provide the above caveats to the Ohio State adjunct faculty member who arrived on the dealership lot early one Saturday morning to examine our light blue ’83. Even at a somewhat-reasonable $7995, the Jag hadn’t attracted a single “up” in months. This fellow looked like a solid candidate. Not unlike the car in question, Mr. Customer was pallid, sad-looking, and clearly well past his best days despite only being in his early thirties. I fetched the jump-start cart while our incandescently sexy assistant manager distracted the fellow with a coffee and a flip of her skirt. Wonder of wonders, it fired right up and I pulled up for the test drive…

…only to find that the customer had left his driver’s license at home. No tickee, no drive-ee, as they say. Panicked at the prospect of losing the only warm body to ever point a bewalleted derriere at the car’s cracking left front seat, the assistant manager promised that I would bring the car by tomorrow for a private test drive. She then told me that the dealership would pay me a flat spiff of five hundred bucks if I could move the car. Count me in.

I picked up the keys at noon on Sunday and pointed down Route 71 to the not-quite-professor’s home in the precious little suburb of Clintonville. I’d never driven an XJ-S before and was keen to take the ride, actually. First impressions: it was surprisingly like my father’s old ’86 Vanden Plas, but it had even more weight through the steering and drivetrain. As mentioned above, it wasn’t quick, but it also didn’t run out of steam on the freeway the way my VW Fox did. I was well past one-twenty and simply hammering down the left lane, sweeping traffic out of my way with an authoritative flash of the quad headlamps, enjoying the outrageously solid stance and almost complete lack of aerodynamic instability, when all the instrument needles dropped to the pegs and the engine Just. Funking. Quit.

It took me a moment to really believe that I was sailing down the road on inertia; the V-12 was quiet and smooth enough that at triple-digit speeds the relatively low wind noise was still enough to drown out the mechanicals. I slotted the transmission to “N” and started to think. There was an exit perhaps half a mile ahead, so I eased the big coupe through four relatively empty lanes of traffic, gradually falling from one-ten or so down to fifty-ish. A Chevrolet Celebrity “Eurosport” refused to let me merge into the exit lane with it so I had to brush the brakes and kill some of my precious momentum.

I came to a halt perhaps five car lengths from the stoplight at the top of the ramp. For a few long minutes I sat with my head in my hands. I’d killed the car, I would have to be towed back, I would lose my sale and I’d lose my job, and somehow everyone would figure out that I’d just been driving wayyyy too fast. A worn-out brass cat seemed to snarl at me from the key in my hand. With my eyes closed, I reinserted and twisted the key.

There was silence, then a single crank of the starter. The tach jumped. Although I continued on to the precious little home on Fallis Road, I knew that there wouldn’t be any sale. Call it luck, call it grace, call it the entirely understandable scientific operation of Lucas electrics, but whatever you call it, I’d used it up.

Want to take a chance on the beauty in the photos? It’s for sale at Motorcar Portfolio.

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Review: 2010 Jaguar XFR Wed, 14 Jul 2010 15:55:42 +0000

A wise old man once told me: “you can’t just own a Jaguar, you have to have a love affair with one.” The reasons for this were several, the sexy rooflines hampered head room and visibility, trunk space was non-existent, and then there are those reliability woes. Although my 2000 XJ8 has (no kidding) been the definition of a reliable car for the past 120,000 miles, the mantra applied. When Jaguar came out with a new S-Type, the restrained classic styling screamed “this is your father’s Jaguar.” When Jaguar created performance models like the XJR and S-Type R, they were just fast fat cats, not really holding their own against the Germans. But that wasn’t their goal at the time, the goal was to propel an English gentleman’s club on wheels with “swift progress” to quote the XFR’s owners guide. Jaguar styling was the definition of restrained classic elegance. Everyone who saw a Jaguar would gush about how gorgeous they looked in the parking lot. Consumers loved the look in someone else’s parking lot, but put a BMW in their driveway. Like the box of abandoned kittens at the PetCo front door, nobody really wanted to take the kitty home, and that’s a pity.

While beating the bushes at Jaguar over a 2011 XJ test car, I was given the opportunity to sample the 2010 XFR, a car that had been a bit low on my list. I’ve driven the 2010 E63 AMG and the 2010 BMW M5. My kidneys still hurt after only a few hours behind the wheel of the M5. I still have whiplash from the harsh shifting of the E63’s 7 speed contraption. I was therefore somewhat wary of what the XFR would bring to the table especially since the lads in Coventry had decided to compete head on with the E63 and M5 rather than just making a faster cat. Thankfully for the masses, the Jaguar is both worthy competition for the German ‘bahn burners, and a faster cat.

Looking at pictures of the XFR since its release, I was concerned that the XFR would look too bland, too conformist in styling, but in reality the front is expressive and the rear end has an Aston Martinish feel that pictures fail to convey. The only styling let down is the XFR’s side profile, which could stand to be more expressive. Parked next to a BMW or a Mercedes, the XF looks plain, or perhaps I should say restrained. Minimalist styling continues into the interior, which I would swear is more of the Stockholm design school than classic Coventry. Build quality is excellent, save for some nasty plastic on the airbag cover and steering column. Truth be told, the plastic on the airbag cover is competitive with the E-Class and BMW 5 series, but everything else in the XFR’s cabin is so sumptuous that these two parts stick out like a sore thumb. Speaking of those German rivals, the XFR on the whole gets high marks for interior quality and feel compared to all except the Audi RS6.

Bumping up to the XFR from the plebian XF gets the buyer full leather upholstery with more seat bolstering, a stitched dashboard, alcantara headliners, dark oak trim with knurled aluminum accents. And just about every option available in the XF is standard in the XFR, 20-inch wheels, subtle side skirting, extra exhaust tips, and lest we forget an insanely powerful 510 horsepower 5 litre supercharged V8. The 18 way adjustable driver’s seat is very comfortable and just in case your backside needs extra care it is heated and cooled as well. Bolstering is not at BMW levels, but let’s be realistic; with a 4,000lb car you really don’t need them. Sadly the rear seats in the XFR are just a bit less special than the front. Rear thrones in the XFR get neither heating nor cooling, and absolutely no special controls or knobs to play with.

The XF and XFR share the same touch screen navigation system. While the system is fairly simple to use, the system has an annoying delay when switching screens. I appreciate minimalist design in theory, but in practice putting controls like the seat heater/cooler and the steering wheel warmer in the touch screen just seem odd. Jaguar’s voice control system unfortunately receives my harshest judgment, this thing is terrible. Not only are the commands not intuitive, the help feature unhelpful, the system slow to respond, but it also didn’t seem to understand anyone at least half the time. My local Jag dealer tells me it is a common complaint. Adding to voice control’s issues: you can’t control your iPod at all with the voice control system. Jaguar’s previous owner Ford should be blamed for this deficiency, none of Ford’s PAG companies were allowed to use Ford SYNC which is a pity since this means the Ford Fiesta has a better voice control system than an $80,000 Jaguar. For shame. For those into comparisons, fear not: the Mercedes voice command system is just as terrible.

Taken on the surface, the XFR looks like an also-ran in the performance luxury space. The styling is no longer unique or quirky, the exterior is modern, and the interior is Scandinavian chic. What takes this car from average to extraordinary is how it drives. Your average 500+ horsepower luxury car is an odd animal, you get the trappings of luxury but all too often you get a harsh crashy ride, jerky transmissions, and occasionally you are [gasp] expected to row your own gears. The jerky transmission is one lesson that Maserati learned early on with the Quattroporte, installing a ZF 6 speed after massive complaints about its daft transmission. Likewise the E63 could be a great car except the transmission is so herky-jerky when driving in stop and go traffic or trying to drive that the current generation E-Class AMG joins the M5 on the list of cars that are great, but just aren’t daily driver material anymore. The XFR on the other hand is smooth, Lexus smooth, on the highway you might even think that it’s too smooth to be a performance sedan, but you’d be wrong. One firm press on the accelerator pedal and the XFR accelerates with a combination of effortless grace and some seriously aggressive snarl from the exhaust.

On windy back country roads, the XFR is incredibly agile, the ZF 6 speed transmission is lightning fast even in regular Drive mode. Flick the silly hockey-puck shifter in to Sport mode and any desire for a DSG-style transmission vanishes. All automatics should be this good. Shifts are practically psychic, and should the computer somehow get you the wrong gear, the paddle shifters summon that gear up in an instant. Every time. Speaking of the hockey-puck, yes it is a tad gimmicky but it is easy to use and with fast rev-matched shifts I quickly forgave the quirkiness. If you actually decide to exercise all 510 ponies and 461 lb-ft of torque, vanes in the exhaust open up and the XFR goes from house cat to a wild snarling beast, but thanks to an electronic rear diff (and  more processing power than NORAD) the XFR is a wild beast on a short leash.

Over boosted numb steering has been a complaint of high-speed Jags for some time, but the XFR’s steering is quick and communicative and straddles that line by being neither too light nor too heavy. The dynamic suspension is also excellent; it firms up when you’re thrashing the XFR on the twisties and settles down to provide a smooth ride on a rough freeway. The combination of excellent ride and the incredibly quiet cabin belie how fast this beat can be. If you aren’t careful on freeway onramps you’ll find yourself in the triple digits in less than 10 seconds.

After a full week with the XFR I was sad to see it go. At $82,000 as tested, the XFR isn’t exactly cheap, but compared to a similarly equipped M5 or E63 the XFR represents a decent bargain and that’s important in this space. Many shoppers who are buying a car in this price range still care about the “deal”  and an extra $10-15k is still noticed. Many publications will never dare to say something is better than a BMW, but that’s not the TTAC way: The XFR is the better car when compared to the E63 and M5 and given the choice I would take the XFR every time. At the end of the day Jaguar has managed to get the luxury side of the equation balanced perfectly with the performance side. The XFR is a car you can drive every day with a smile, it gets looks from people on the street, and while it may not beat an M5 at the track, it will sure give it a run for its money. The XFR may just be the perfect sleeper, and the best kept secret in the European sports sedan lineup.

For 2011 Jaguar has made some subtle changes to the XFR, including a new front grille unique to the XFR, a real button to open the glove box rather than the proximity sensor, and the radar cruise is now a $2000+ option. The BMW M5 is on hiatus for 2011 returning as an all-new 2012 model.

Jaguar provided the vehicle, insurance and one tank of gas for this review.

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Capsule Review: 1985 Jaguar XJ6 Vanden Plas Fri, 11 Jun 2010 17:07:10 +0000

I could bore you all with the long story of how I ended up in the check-cashing business — it involved an attack with a broomstick and a coffee mug — but instead we will simply join the action in medias res some time in 1996. I am standing on the used-car lot outside Welsh Enterprises choosing my XJ6. Bill Welsh, the owner, had just treated me to lunch at “Jaggin’ Around”, the restaurant he owned in Steubenville, Ohio. A millionaire several times over from his intelligent decision to purchase some sixty-odd E-Types for pennies on the dollar in the Seventies and resell them at top whack in the Eighties, he was cheerfully burning his afternoon as I drifted among no fewer than six solid-condition Series III Jags, none priced above $4995. Clearly, this was more about amusement than money.

Upon its introduction in 1968, the Jaguar XJ6 was almost certainly the best sedan in the world. It was fast and smooth thanks to its big straight-six, as comfortable as a Rolls-Royce Silver Shadow (if not nearly as tall and syrupy) and gorgeous beyond dispute. It was also an utterly terrible, completely unreliable automobile. The absorption of Jaguar into British Leyland and the succeeding “Series II” model didn’t help matter. Series II XJ6s are utterly hopeless. My neighbor at the time owned one and wanted to sell it to me for four grand. I asked the USENET Jaguar group and was told to go see Bill Welsh for a decent XJ6, so I did just that.

As Welsh and I walked through the labyrinthine old brick buildings which comprised his loosely assembled enterprise, we kept coming upon Series III XJ6es, parked nose-first against a wall under a stack of boxes or peeking out from beneath rotting old car covers. When Jaguar returned to private ownership under John Egan, he demanded that the quality of the Pininfarina-restyled Series III be brought up to par. It mostly was, although as previously discussed, my father’s ’86 XJ6 was notoriously unreliable. This did not stop me from wanting one of my own.

Although I was smitten by a grey base XJ6 with red leather interior, my favorite of Welsh’s cat herd was an ’85 Vanden Plas in champagne with cream interior. It was $3995. The “Vanden Plas” badge was a curious artifact of Jaguar’s US branding. In England, upscale XJ6es were sold as “Daimler Sixes” since Jaguar owned the “Daimler” brand there. (The story of Daimler and Jaguar is a fascinating story of its own.) Jaguar could not badge the car as a “Daimler” in the United States so they used “Vanden Plas”, the name of a Belgian coachmaker, to denote the full-equipment cars.

Compared to a regular XJ6, the Vanden Plas had Connolly Autolux leather in a quad-seat arrangement. The interior wood was burled walnut rather than standard walnut. Most options were standard, and a set of fleecy floormats were provided as well. My car also had real Jaguar wire wheels. Those wheels were, ironically, made by the Dayton Wire Wheel Company. That’s right, Jaguar had thrown some “Ds” on it.

My Vanden Plas had eighty-six thousand miles on it. I put another seven thousand on during the course of a hot Ohio summer before storing it for the winter. In one memorable incident, I was rolling through an urban Rally’s drive-through when some of the local youths took exception to the fact that I had two gorgeous African-American women in the Jag with me. I was accused of “pimping the sisters”. The “sisters”, who were in fact managers of check-cashing stores themselves, objected vociferously. Something that looked like a pistol appeared in somebody’s hand. I floored the throttle and hoped the Jag wouldn’t stall.

Not that it ever stalled. In my ownership, it was dead reliable, running like a top and fabulous on the freeway at eighty miles per hour. Even the tape deck worked. Hell, the air conditioning blew cool. Ish. I’ve owned and driven a lot of luxury sedans, but the Series III XJ6 remains the benchmark for me. The driving position was pure sports car; the XJ6 delivered what the Panamera falsely promises. It wasn’t fast by modern standards but it was torquey and rarely needed to stir the three-speed automatic to make forward progress. One foible of the XJ6 is the considerable pressure required on the accelerator pedal; it was supposedly matched to the brake pedal for some reason. Getting in my other cars from the Vanden Plas always resulted in a “lurch” out of the driveway as I gave the throttle a Jag’s worth of push.

The dual fuel tanks were a joy to fill through their top-mounted, real chrome-and-metal caps. On the fly, a rectangular button changed tanks and caused the fuel gauge to swing to the appropriate reading for the selected tanks. It was positively Supermarine, old boy.

Even after twelve years, the depth of the champagne paint on the Vanden Plas was amazing to behold. My detailer accidentally dropped his sander on the car; the handle cut a solid dig through the rear quarter-panel but didn’t reach the primer. Very few corners were cut on the Series III. As a result, it was the most successful Jaguar in modern history, effectively rescuing the company and making it possible for Jaguar to complete the development of the XJ40 successor.

We all know how that ended, of course. My personal Jaguar story wasn’t much better. I lost everything I owned in the world through a series of personal reversals. The Jag was sold, at a loss, for cash by my wife while I was far away from home. She was able to keep just one thing from the deal. Our Vanden Plas had come with a spare wheel. No tire was mounted. When the car sold, the buyer didn’t care about it. That wheel sits in my garage now, next to my green Audi S5, as a reminder: Nothing is permanent, not joy, not sorrow.

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Import Sport Sedan Comparison: Third Place: Jaguar XF Thu, 22 Oct 2009 15:23:42 +0000 Rowr!

If there’s a counterpoint in this test to the GS350′s robotic rationality, it’s the Jaguar XF. If the Lexus makes perfect sense to the kind of people who see car buying as an equation to be solved, the XFR is the only choice for right-brained aesthetes. It screams sex appeal like nothing has since Sofia Loren could steal your virginity with once glance from the silver screen. And yet, as with most beautiful things, a hard look past the exterior reveals things you might wish you didn’t know. Love at first sight can be a blessing and a curse.

Take a moment to savor the XF’s looks – sleek, elegant, and beautifully tailored. The XF is the best-looking Jaguar since the old XKE, possibly because it’s the first time Jaguar has attempted an all-new look since the E Type came out. The XF also breaks a more recent Jaguar tradition – instead of all-aluminum construction, it utilizes a conventional steel structure and sheetmetal. This adds some mass, but it also undoubtedly keeps the price down. The XF starts at a reasonable $52,800, and unlike BMW, most of the goodies you expect in a car like this are standard. jaguar_xf_interior

The XF’s interior also breaks with Jaguar’s past. The usual wonderful-smelling leather and wood trim are there, gracefully echoing the original XJ, but the interior design has been updated to match the XF’s sharp new suit. The result is a sweeping, elegant dashboard swathed in wood and genuine aluminum that looks smashing, and works commendably well. At least until you hit the ignition switch. When that happens, a round aluminum knob about the size of a hockey puck pops out of the center console; this is the shifter, and you twirl it back and forth to change gears. When the XF is turned off, the knob disappears into the console. This arrangement is easy to use, but feels like an unnecessary gimmick, as do the ignition-keyed vents, and the sensor-driven latch for the glovebox, which you wave your finger over to operate.

Call me cynical, but is Jaguar far enough removed from its days as a synonym for unreliability to get away with gimmickry like this?

Other ergonomic details are fine, including the standard touch screen control system, which proves you don’t need a million buttons or MMIDrive-style silliness to use the navigation system or change a radio station.

The wide, comfortable driver’s throne offers decent ergonomics, simple and stylish instrumentation, and a fat, grippy steering wheel with paddle shifters. From the captain’s position, the illusion that love at first sight might last forever is well-perpetuated. As a passenger hauler however, the XF comes up short compared with some of its competitors. The coupe-like profile limits rear headroom, and while the rear seating is comfortable, space is at a premium.

jaguar_xf_official2The XF’s base engine is a carryover from Jaguar’s days as a Ford subsidiary, the 4.2 liter V-8 originally found in the old Lincoln LS and Jaguar S-type. While adequately powerful – 300 hp is underfoot – and blessed with a wonderful engine note, the 4.2 suffers from a very narrow power band and a too-low redline of 6000 rpm. This, combined with the XF’s stout curb weight, gives the car’s power delivery a most inelegant “on-off” feel – probably the only true sour note in the XF’s driving experience. For a few more bucks, Jaguar offers a new 5.0 liter V-8 with 385 horsepower, and for a lot more bucks, it also offers the far more potent XF Supercharged and XFR models, with 470 and 510 horsepower, respectively. But the base powerplant is certainly adequate, particularly at this price. And as long as you’re in love, adequate is, well, adequate.

In contrast, it’s hard to have any major reservations about the steering and chassis dynamics. Though definitely tuned for a silky ride, the XF’s steering and chassis setup make it feel eager and quick on its feet, especially compared to the numb joylessness of the Lexus. The current BMW and Audis are machines of pure sport, always seeking that edge which urges you to drive faster, and rewards you when you do. The Jaguar philosophy has more to do with poetry in motion. The XF allows you to drive almost -but not quite- as fast as the BMW, but that misses the point. There’s an elegance to the XF’s dynamics that the two pure athletes fail to capture. While the Germans were playing gym-rat at the Nurburgring, the XF was prowling the winding roads around Monaco: the XF doesn’t lack capability, it’s merely too refined to demand a flogging to the last tenth. In an age of speed cameras and expensive speeding tickets, this may be a surprisingly rational reason to choose the Jag.

Of course, there’s the price as well. The XF’s  $52,800 base price includes equipment you’ll pay a lot extra for on any of its German competitors – leather seats, navigation, a keyless “comfort access” system, and many other features. The test vehicle stickered out at $53,900, with the only option being an upgraded sound system – very reasonable for this class. Should you worry about cost of ownership? Probably, but it won’t make much of a difference if you’re already head-over-heels in love.

Beautiful, athletic, easy to live with and graceful – not to mention a fairly cheap date – the XF is quite the seductress, as long as all-out performance capability isn’t your bag. Still, as Jaguar’s ads once claimed, “gorgeous gets away with it,” and this XF bats its eyelashes into third place.

Performance: 3/5

XF’s powertrain is amply powerful and sounds sweet, and paddle shifters are a great addition, but the V-8’s power band is narrow.

Ride: 5/5

The XF has a posh, elegant way of dealing with any road surface

Handling: 4/5

Definitely tuned for comfort, but Jaguar baked in quick reflexes and commendable amounts of feedback.

Exterior: 5/5

Sleek, sexy and elegant

Interior: 3/5

Beautifully styled and made, and user-friendly as well; needless gimmickry and poor rear-seat room cost points

Fit and Finish: 4/5

Looks and feels more handmade than any other car in this test, but exterior finish is not up to the German standard

Toys: 4/5

Great feature quotient for the money, but some of the really good stuff, like ventilated seats, require expensive package upgrades.

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