By on February 2, 2011

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.

Get the latest TTAC e-Newsletter!

54 Comments on “Review: 2011 Jaguar XJ Supersport...”

  • avatar


    • 0 avatar

      When I tested the XJL supercharged, the dealer actually looked at me and thought I was someone else who’d just bought a supersport. Apparently, a music producer who looked just like me physically. Another guy who happened to be 6’6 tall.
      I Loved the design of the XJL supercharged and I love the fact that Jaguar doesn’t nickel and dime you for options. This car comes LOADED for a price considerably lower than the S600 or BMW760  and offers more I think. The styling is fantastic and grows on you really quickly.
      My major problem with it, however, is the interior space.  To me, it was CRAMPED. I get more space in the 2011 Chrysler 300 which is a shorter car.  The BMW7 is also more spacious up front.

    • 0 avatar

      I hardly think the fact that you can’t comfortably fit your well above average frame into the car merits any sort of serious criticism. Inconvenient for you if you wanted to own the car? Sure. A “flaw”? Not in the least.

    • 0 avatar

      Great review, Alex, but you forgot to mention one detail.  How did it go over with ladies?  What does the handjob-index look like with this one?

  • avatar

    Things I hate:
    1) Taillights
    2) Steering wheel
    3) Frog Eye air vents

    • 0 avatar

      I hate the grill and front clip, personally. Most of the styling on these new Jags is decent, but the grille looks cheesy and sophomoric – like something Hyundai would done back when it didn’t have a clue how to style cars. It ruins the whole front view of the car.

    • 0 avatar

      This one is for Robocop fans who have been waiting patiently for the 6000 SUX to reach production.

    • 0 avatar

      Yeah, what the heck is the point of tail-lights that wrap up into the top of the trunk?  Is being rear-ended by low-flying aircraft a more common occurrence than we know?
      I like the new style of the XJ, but when you step back and take a look at the car from a few feet away, it still seems like a big old boring car.  Does not look ‘special’, like an Aston Rapide or a Mercedes CLS did when it was new.  For a new car that is supposed to be a great new leap in styling, that is a little underwhelming.
      Good review, though.  But you may want to take a few more pictures from further away.  More Cowbell, Less Fisheye, is what the adoring public demands…

  • avatar

    Sounds like Jaguar got its mojo back.  Less electronic bling and more driving pleasure is exactly what the Jaguar formula should be.  Not crazy about the LCD tach, but with an automatic who really cares?  As for the small trunk, that’s classic Jag, I can barely get two sets of clubs in my XJ6.
    Alex, one request:  Less fish-eye the next time you’re shooting

  • avatar

    That rear view makes it look like the Lincoln MKwhatever (Taurus rebadge).
    OT:  Boy, does the new Jalopnik format suck?  What a mess.

    • 0 avatar

      +1 On Jalopnik’s new format. Sure, Ill get used to it, but I don’t have to like it.

    • 0 avatar

      Boy, does the new Jalopnik format suck?  What a mess.
      I’m surprised that none of the other car sites have mentioned it. The redesign has some really good features and with a little bit of fine tuning it could be improved. It seems to be designed to increase the number of page clicks but , but as it is right now I think they are going to get fewer click throughs  to individual stories. Also, when Wert announced the changes a while back, they said that all stories would be illustrated by some kind of attention grabbing photo or video, but by pushing only one big story and three featured stories, relegating the other stories to headlines with virtually no illustrations on the home page, that may be at crosspurposes to the “ooh look at the pretty pictures” strategy.
      That being said, if they make the top story rotate through a bunch of stories and the other three below a scrollable gallery, plus some navigational tweaks (it’s hard to go backwards) it might be an improvement.
      If you’re trying to grab eyeballs with graphics, you need to have some of those graphics on the home page.

    • 0 avatar
      Acc azda atch

      Ronnie Schreiber:
      Are you completely ON POINT about the redo for Jalopnik. As a frequent commenter, been on the site for at least 5yrs I can say this has to be the worst site redo Ive ever had the bad fortune to participate in.
      It has turned out to be a confusing site to navigate, both on my working quite fine on current Mozilla updated Dell Laptop, as well as my current Backflip phone. The various commenting features dont work, and the side bar doesn’t work properly on the phone.
      Id give it a month before I find somewhere else…

  • avatar
    Acc azda atch

    Ya had me at repaint.
    I find it quite interesting.. that the rich snots who buy these things have little enough taste to not recognize the design concept that the blacked out C pillar represents. Its a stylistic endeavor, just like the front A pillars on many new and or coming cars, a kind of cantilever.
    Yahoos, just want another Town Car to fill with their golf bags. I guess for 110k, I’m sure Ford could have found SOMETHING in its rwd fleet with enough leather to kill someone with boredom.

    • 0 avatar

      The C-pillar applique looks like crap–people with taste repaint it. If it aligned with the wide window trim it would look okay–see how this is done on an old Merkur Scorpio–but it doesn’t.

    • 0 avatar

      I guess Acc azda etc is being ironic? If the Jaguar had actually had a window insert in the C-pillar, then kudos to them. Then, it would really had been a design statement. But faking it with blacked out plastic? Please… That’s taking the Chrysler Sebring road to haute couture.

    • 0 avatar
      Acc azda atch

      This car is styled well and its interesting if not different.
      I know car companies approach a vehicle from one end, being a stylistic endeavor. The customer on the other end of these D-E-F segment cars are just looking for the most expensive car to LEASE with their past cars giving hints being are all about comfort, BOREDOM, isolation, golf bag storage, with AT LEAST 1 continental / town car, top end Uber german mobiles in their past drives.
      That’s how I see it: both ways.
      The C pillar has a design point, removing it / repainting it, dumbs down / reduces the visual impact of the design, which was albeit expensive to produce, through design and manufacturing.
      Which in the end tells me.. those that buy this have more money than taste, which is why the rich Town Car loving bastards repaint it.

    • 0 avatar

      You are missing the point. The blacked out C-pillar is not a stylistic tour de force, it’s a half-assed effort of making a half-assed statement. That half of the owners opt to have it re-painted at their own expense even before taking delivery talks bundles of how misguided that particular design statement was in the first place. And I’m willing to eat my hat if isn’t going to be the first thing to go at the next re-design.

    • 0 avatar


      Speaking as a Scorpio owner, I would say I agree with you that the Scorpio pulls off it’s continuous glass look much better. The only thing in between the hatch glass and the rear quarter glass  on a Scorpio are two rubbery trim pieces that are less than 3/4″ thick that appear to be for air/water management at highway speeds. No silly applique, or other contrivances – the glass covers the c and d-pillars and the frit (I believe that’s the appropriate term) hides the metal behind it. Elegant and simple. Plus, in addition to the look of a hatchback, I have the actual utility of a hatchback…such a novel concept.  

  • avatar

    Recently happened to stumble upon one just parked out on the street where my dentist lives and took some time to give it a closer look;

    I decided that I do like the front and the interior that I wasn’t really sure of when I saw the first pictures looked nice as well. The rear however…I know it’s something new and something different but I don’t think it works. The extra side windows after the rear doors in combination with the high placed rear taillights gives it a bit of a liftback look and I don’t like it.

    Luckily though the XF stands to receive the XJ’s much better looking snout shortly and then that would be the one I’d get (if it weren’t for an unfortunate lack of funds).

    • 0 avatar

      “unfortunate lack of funds”
      …darn reality! Always getting in the way. The only thing worse than being poor, is being a poor auto enthusiast.

      On the bright side, In 3 years this will make a nice CPO for about half the price. I’ll be waiting.  *winks at XJ picture*

    • 0 avatar

      “The only thing worse than being poor, is being a poor auto enthusiast.”
      It gets worse.  The only thing worse than being a poor auto enthusiast is being an auto enthusiast with money.  When you actually have the money to buy them, you realize that you don’t really want about 99% of the cars you lusted after when you could not buy them…

  • avatar

    The XF continues to have problems.
    I’d love to have reliability stats on the new XJ as well, just a matter of getting enough owners involved. Which is a challenge given the number they sell.
    To help with the Car Reliability Survey, with just about any car from 1995 on:

  • avatar

    Risking offending everyone again, I would like the quarter mile time, as this is obviously a seriously “quick” automobile.
    The only Jaguar owner I know misses her old Hummer.

    • 0 avatar

      Published tests say 12.6 to 12.8 seconds in the 1/4 mile, not bad for a factory car.
      As for your former Hummer driving Jaguar owning friend, I’ve yet to come across a Jaguar enthusiast who is unhappy with either the XF or the new XJ.

  • avatar

    I took the XJ8 L version out for a test drive and liked it. It will make a decent >$20k used car in a couple of years. Jaguar needs to deal with our perception of quality and customer retention here in the Colonies.

    I’d venture to guess if you parked on on the street, covered the badges and asked people to guess what it was, few would say Jaguar (which is not a bad thing). Sir Ian did a good job of bringing some of his Aston Martin design cues to Jaguar.


  • avatar

    Can I be the first to ask, “…but how many cupholders?”

  • avatar

    Enjoyable review, thanks. One of these, plus a long-wheelbase XJL (both black-on-black) were on display at local-area auto show here last month. Just stunning in person. They seemed to attract more attention than the Audis displayed nearby.

  • avatar

    Very nice review…. good to see that Jaguar can get it right without simply aping their rivals. But the word you’re looking for is “cachet.”

  • avatar

    I saw one of these in the flesh recently for the first time (at Frankfurt International Airport in their airport shopping mall, of all places). In dark burgundy red-metallic, with tan leather seats and wood interior.
    All I can say is: What a striking and beautiful limousine. The design alone would convince me to buy one if, well, I had enough money.

  • avatar

    I’ve seen a white XJ around my neighborhood; nice car, but terrible color on this design.

    For extra class, they’ve added the traditional leaper hood ornament.

  • avatar

    The 7-Series and S-Class may handle and perform well, but even in AMG and Alpina trim (respectively)
    Um… I wanna see that Alpina S-class.

  • avatar

    I like the fact that this car doesn’t have night vision, lane assist, i drive and all that jazz but instead it just focuses on handling and performance. Something Audi, Mercedes and BMW have all forgotten about at this level.

  • avatar
    Steven Lang

    As someone already mentioned…
    This vehicle in burgundy and tan leather is an absolute knockout. A great review Alex as always and I really do appreciate your authentic pics.

  • avatar

    The new Jag’s look can be encapsulated in three letters.  MEH.  They all look like a boring rehash of the current batch of (yawn) other sedan designs.  It looks less like an object of desire, than just another Camry.  The taillights are a blatant ripoff from the Nissan Z.
    If you’re in the market for one of these, I think you gotta ask yourself, is anyone even going to notice this car going by?  Only if you’ve got it cranked up to 130mph.
    As the man said, everything Italian should be red, fast and wicked.  On the same note, everything from England should be dark green, understated and wicked.  But understated does NOT equal BO-RING.

  • avatar

    As the fellow owner of a 2000 XJ, which is a wonderfully reliable car and fantastic for 600 mile runs to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, I found the review very helpful.  I think the Jag has always been the best luxury value available, and the result of a bad rep that does not really relate to the brand after ford.  The few problems I have had have been fairly easy to fix myself.  Obviously there are many advantages to the new model, but the styling will not appeal to a lot of people.  The old design still works well and draws attention, at least in the cornfields of Illinois.  Not sure I want to chance as much electronics as are in the new version with no dealer within a hundred miles.

  • avatar

    I wish I could afford it!

  • avatar

    What a treat to have a review of such a unique car here on TTAC.
    Thank you.

  • avatar

    “A quick perusal of online reviews reveals complaints about the tach seeming “jittery””

    Tachos are supposed to be jittery, at least on traditional English sports cars which had ‘chronometric’ units, which displayed an average of the last 1/4 second or so rather than an extrapolated reading like a more standard tacho.

    The car is an auto, so the tacho is redundant anyway. It wouldn’t suprise me if it were deliberate.

  • avatar

    Thanks for the review Alex. Such a car is out of my price range, but I’ve always had a thing for Jags…

  • avatar

    I’ve been visiting the site for five years and have never commented on a single review or article. But I just dropped in to say that this was one of the best all-around car reviews I’ve ever read. The first paragraph was just about perfect – totally captured the previous-gen XJ

  • avatar

    Pfff!  I’ll take a previous-gen XJ8 L all the same.  Give me either.  We love our Jag.  Only issue ever (knock on the plethora of interior wood) is a fuel-injector covered under warranty.  Local Jag service dept sucks A$$, but that’s a different story.

  • avatar

    The gauge cluster looks as classy as a $2 digital watch. And that rear overhang. Sir Mix-A-Lot should write a song about it. The Audi A8 does luxury better, and the Maserati does style way better.

  • avatar

    Those taillights remind me of a Kia Amanti.
    Not exactly the same, but similar enough to be odd.

  • avatar

    I’d buy one if I wanted a large car, and I like the rear lights.

  • avatar

    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
    Some of us enjoy this false but romantic view of Britannia… and the jags.
    The modern Jag may perform and feel nice but it looks like everything else…and looks were Jaguar. This fails in that. You do not turn heads in a modern jaguar because it is unseen in today’s modern car design and no longer stands out as unique. Sorry, but fail.

    • 0 avatar
      Educator(of teachers)Dan

      Though perhaps not as harsh as you, I know exactally what you mean.  At least the Jags that looked like Jags had a certain cachet to them, even back in the dark ages when you had to replace the I6 with a SBC for reliability. 

Read all comments

Recent Comments

  • dal20402: KBB had it in the high 18s at the beginning of the year and now in the 22s. I’m sure part of that is...
  • probert: The government should protect them – regulating predatory practices is something government should do....
  • 28-Cars-Later: Then get one more year out of it before something expensive breaks.
  • 28-Cars-Later: Your Bolt? Carvana has them listed out your way for 21,9-22,9, were they retailing for much less?
  • dal20402: In the last few months my “green full electric nonsense” has appreciated more in percentage...

New Car Research

Get a Free Dealer Quote

Who We Are

  • Adam Tonge
  • Bozi Tatarevic
  • Corey Lewis
  • Mark Baruth
  • Ronnie Schreiber