The Truth About Cars » XJ The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Sat, 23 May 2015 15:11:46 +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 » XJ 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 […]

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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 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 […]

The post Review: 2011 Jaguar XJ appeared first on The Truth About Cars.


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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Interview: Jaguar Chief Designer Ian Callum Mon, 04 Jan 2010 16:03:25 +0000 Few aspects of the automobile are as examined, analyzed and obsessed upon as styling. Ask most people about cars and they won’t talk about engine displacement or suspension setup; it’s the physical presence of cars that captures interest and sparks passion. For a niche luxury brand like Jaguar, which  survives on the margins of major […]

The post Interview: Jaguar Chief Designer Ian Callum appeared first on The Truth About Cars.

Callum, center, at the GM Heritage Center (copyright: TTAC)

Few aspects of the automobile are as examined, analyzed and obsessed upon as styling. Ask most people about cars and they won’t talk about engine displacement or suspension setup; it’s the physical presence of cars that captures interest and sparks passion. For a niche luxury brand like Jaguar, which  survives on the margins of major markets without the backing of a full-line automaker, the art and science of auto styling is of supreme importance. Unable to match its rivals in the technological arms race of the upper-echelon luxury segment, Jaguar’s relevance is perhaps more tied to its ability to create compelling designs than any other modern brand. Were this the only challenge facing Jaguar’s chief designer Ian Callum, his job would be one of the most interesting in the business. Thanks to Jaguar’s nearly 40-year stylistic stasis however, Callum’s tenure is nothing less than one of the most significant in the history of automotive design.

Callum’s brief begins with a deceptively simple question: what is a Jaguar? The lack of easy answers indicates the enormity of the challenge. Is the brand a last bastion of old-world throwback luxury, as evidenced by an XJ flagship which went without a significant restyle for nearly 40 years? Is it a purveyor of retro-styled, also-ran sports sedans like the recently departed S-Type? Or is it a quasi-volume, entry-luxury brand, destined to do battle with the Buicks of the world with such models as the late, unlamented X-Type? Or is Jaguar a low-volume sportscar maker, battling with Aston Martin for the hearts and minds of Anglophile speed freaks?

callum3Ask the average consumer, and you might receive any one of those answers. Indeed, the Ford managers which guided Jaguar’s fate for nearly 20 years seem to have run with each of these visions at one time or another. Had Jaguar been blessed with a deep development budget, lending its every model with the kind of technological halo enjoyed by brands like Mercedes and Lexus, it might have gotten away with such a diffuse identity. Stylistically though, there’s little middle ground between a classic XJ (let alone its mini-me, the X-Type) and a modern XK. Creating a modern, relevant Jaguar brand had to start with a single decision.

In light of the new models introduced under Callum’s supervision, the sleek new XK, XF and XJ, the remaking of Jaguar might seem as simple as moving the brand away from a decades-long overindulgence in heritage and retro. But, explains Callum with a hint of a smile, Jaguar isn’t torn between heritage and modernity for the simple reason that they are one and the same. “Most people of the world see Jaguars as traditional looking cars,” he admits, “and the XJ was certainly part of that. But what people have forgotten is how radical that design was when it first came out. Jaguar had always made sleek, sexy sportscars, but even the Mk II owners thought it was ‘too much’ for a Jaguar sedan.”

For Callum, everything comes back to 1968 and the release of the XJ. That year a 13-year old Callum submitted his first-ever car design to Jaguar, inspired by the XJ. But where Sir William Lyons’ timeless design gave Callum an icon to strive towards, Jaguar fell victim to the XJ’s brand-eclipsing success. “The sixties was where it stopped,” says Callum of Jaguar’s Lyons-era styling heyday. “I always ask myself ‘what would Sir William have done?'”callum4

But don’t confuse Callum’s mission to recapture the spirit of Jaguar’s golden moment with anything retro. “When Lyons was designing cars, heritage would only have referred to racing,” he explains. Jaguar is fundamentally “a sexy car company,” which meant rebirth required “throwing away the rulebook.” The only rules for designing Jaguars are proportions, he says. Purity of line and a sense of length were the only givens in designing the new XK, XF and XJ.

This open-ended opportunity to imagine where Jaguar would be if it had stayed on the cutting edge of design for the last 40 years required immense discipline. “Cars are dictated by generic dimensions,” says Callum. “Good design is about pushing the boundaries of physics and legislation, going for a milimeter every day.”

Appropriately, Callum’s first Jaguar was the XK sportscar. With echoes of Callum’s most influential design, the Aston-Martin DB7, the XK marked a distinct shift from his previous Jaguar concepts, the curvaceous R-Coupe and segment-busting R-D6. From there, a far greater challenge came in the form of the XF, Callum’s first sedan for Jaguar. “XF was a hurdle,” he admits.

“We can’t do an E class and a CLS,” he says, referring to Mercedes’ approach to luxury market segmentation. A true CLS-style four-door coupe “was too much of a package compromise, so we had to get both.”  The result was a car that convincingly translated the XK’s aesthetic to the four-door format, and created a blueprint for the car that would bring Callum’s experience with Jaguar full circle: the first major restyling of the XJ since 1968.

According to Callum,the new XJ started with the profile of a mk. 1 XJ coupe (a body style he says he’d love to reimagine as a modern Jaguar). Like the original, the new XJ’s design had to be low and long, anchored by the coupe-inspired stretched side window profile. The interior would exhibit the kind of “cheekiness and indulgence” Sir William appreciated. “He might have found it too assertive or overly bold,” concedes Callum, “but you have to put it into context. You have to stand out in today’s world. It’s an agressive, assertive world.”

And in this world, Jaguar won’t be able to sit still, a reality Callum embraces with gusto. “if someone came along and said we’re going to make my XJ for the next 40 years, I’d be pissed,” he says with a grin. “We have to keep changing.” Although there is a sense that the core of Jaguar’s rebirth is complete with the new XJ, Callum can barely restrain his enthusiasm for new models that may or may not be under development. Besides mentioning his desire to create a new XJ Coupe, Callum refuses to deny that an XF wagon might be under development. He even admits that, as a trustee of the independent Jaguar Heritage Trust, he has heard- and approves of- rumblings that modernized C- and D-Type Jags might be developed outside of the Jaguar brand.Jaguar XJ (TTAC/Alex Dykes)

But ask Callum what car he’d most like to design, and he’ll tell you that “for purely selfish reasons,” nothing would make him happier than to design a mid-engine supercar. He’s a huge fan of Chevrolet’s Stingray concept, freely admitting that he wishes he’d designed it. Which might come as a bit of a surprise until Callum reveals himself to be an incurable American car fanatic, with a ’32 Ford and ’57 Chevy in his personal collection. During a three-hour visit to GM’s Heritage Center, Callum positively swooned over everything from Chevy Nomads to the Buick Y-Job, and it was impossible to not see parallels between GM’s attempt to reverse a decades-long malaise and Callum’s personal challenge at Jaguar. Both firms reached a zenith of style and prestige in the late sixties that overshadow everything they have accomplished since, and both are desperate to recapture that lost magic.

Whether Jaguar’s masters approve a mid-engine supercar project remains to be seen, but Callum is convinced that Jaguar “has a right” to play in the rareified air of the supercar market. “Not every company has the right to be there,” he says, “but for Jaguar it’s a natural evolution.” Having revived Jaguar’s natural evolution after 40 years in the deep freeze, Callum knows what he’s talking about. The only question left is whether the magic of the late 1960s is a portable phenomenon: something that can be reanimated outside of its specific historical moment. As Callum wanders through the relics of GM’s glorious past, you can almost see him capturing the elements of that magical period, and translating them to the modern context of plastic grilles and shared-architecture hardpoints. If these, and the thousand other mundanities which separate us from the lost glory of the late sixties can be overcome, Callum’s the guy to do it.

Jaguar XJ (TTAC/Alex Dykes)

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