The styling of the 2011 Jaguar XJ doesn’t excite me, but I also don’t find it offensive. Get behind the wheel, though, and the XJ elicits strong emotions. The 470-hp supercharged V-8 is so smooth and so authoritative. As usual, though, Jaguar’s expertise in chassis tuning is what really shines. Steering and handling are confident while the ride is comfortable. Surrounded by a band of lovely dark wood, the cabin combines old-school luxury with modern style. Even with the dark cloud of Jaguar reliability hanging around, it’s easy to understand why someone would own this dynamic hero.
The digital instrument cluster is beautiful in the XJ. The Jag’s tasteful stylization is a significant improvement compared with the dead simple, Windows 3.1 look of the Land Rover digital gauges. Activate dynamic mode and the hue fades from blue to red, a neat trick. While the navigation interface is nicely updated, it still responds slowly to inputs. Fortunately, the touch-sensitive glovebox release now appears to work consistently, unlike in the Jaguar XF. The massaging front seats are wonderful, with far more presence than those used by the BMW 7-Series and the Mercedes-Benz S-Class. Legroom in the rear seat feels more confined than in cars like the BMW and the Benz, but Jaguar does offer a long-wheelbase model if you’re buying an XJ for its back seats.
– Eric Tingwall, Associate Editor
I’m so conflicted. The XJ looks very modern and luxurious both inside and out, with a clear connection to the XF’s design language that goes far beyond making a bigger XF and calling it an XJ. I especially appreciate the lack of motorized vents (like the XF has) and the standard premium stereo. It would be great if Jaguar’s infotainment department could make a touch-screen system that has the response of, say, a first-gen iPhone or admit defeat and switch to an iDrive- or MMI-style controller. I find changing radio stations to be so incredibly slow in any new Jag that I’d just as soon go out and buy a physical CD to listen to.
I love, love, love Jaguar’s V-8 engine range. Each variant develops enough power to roast the rear tires or blow past anyone afraid to drive the speed limit and also has excellent refinement and a delightful exhaust tone. The chassis and suspension tuning is among the best in the industry and brings a smile to my face each time I need to change directions. BMW would be wise to buy a few XJs to deconstruct, because the current 7-series isn’t nearly this involving behind the wheel.
No matter how well the XJ drives or how incredibly well equipped it comes, there’s always a nagging feeling that it’s not going to stand up to daily use. Jaguar dependability has been all over the board lately: according to J.D. Power, it matched Lexus in 2009 and then took a massive dive for 2010. How does a luxury car company go from an average of 122 reported problems per 100 vehicles in 2009 to 175 in the 2010 study while the industry average shrinks from 167 to 155? I realize that J.D. Power studies are not above reproach, but the results seem to be in line with my personal Jaguar experiences.
Hopefully Jaguar can get a handle on the dependability issues and figure out how to create an infotainment system that’s a bit quicker to respond to inputs. Otherwise, the XJ is about as good as it gets for a large luxury sedan.
– Phil Floraday, Senior Web Editor
I like Phil’s line: “about as good as it gets,” because that’s how I feel about the new XJ as well. It’s big but not enormous. It’s sleek but substantial. It’s powerful but it’s subdued. It’s plush but not soft. It’s elegant but masculine. It’s modern but not silly. Our tester’s silver paint over black leather seats with white French stitching and white piping makes for a very stylish combination. Anyone seeking a full-size, full-boat premium luxury sedan ought to give the XJ a look before they pop for one of the predictable German competitors.
I left Ann Arbor the other morning at 7:20 a.m. and made it to West Branch by 9:15, a trip that usually takes about 2 hours, 20 minutes, or more. The XJ is an immensely capable and comfortable freeway car, and it cruises effortlessly at 80 to 90 mph. The familiar supercharged V-8 is absolutely superb, with lovely power delivery, an excellent relationship with the transmission, and a nice growl. The steering is communicative and precise without being heavy.
I love the interior ambience, especially the Gatling-gun climate vents at the top of the center stack and the big slabs of vertical wood on the door panels. I agree with others about Jaguar’s touch-screen controls for radio and navigation: Jaguar should have been able to fix those by now. They kinda sucked when they debuted in the XK coupe/convertible. They continued in the XF sedan and they still weren’t great. So now we have the third major model debut from Jaguar with the same inferior infotainment interface: a shame.
I can forgive that, though, because overall I like the car so much. My rear-seat passengers were impressed by the room and comfort, and we are talking about the short-wheelbase XJ here, not the long one. I covered 356 miles, mostly freeway, and the trip computer claimed that I got about 20 mpg.
– Joe DeMatio, Deputy Editor
Visually, this car could hardly be more different than its predecessor. It looks contemporary and has a presence that the old XJ lacked. Inside, the cabin is beautifully trimmed and, although I wouldn’t describe it as distinctly British, it definitely feels richer and looks more styled than its German competitors. There are a few miscues — the most obvious is the tacky “Jaguar” logo centered just under the windshield — but overall it exudes originality and modernity while retaining its “Jaguarness.” The leather is fabulous.
Jaguar’s new touch-screen interface is marginally faster and better looking than the previous system but it’s still slow and it’s not nearly as intuitive or attractive as Mercedes’ COMAND or Hyundai’s infotainment system. Plus, the font size on the display is so small that I often had to wait until I was stopped at a light to adjust the HVAC or see who sang the ’80s song I was listening to on satellite radio. Hopefully Jaguar’s new owners will put revamping this interface on the top of their to-do list.
Driving the XJ is both effortless and involving, and it feels far more agile than the BMW 7-series or the Mercedes-Benz S-class. My only complaint is that the brakes felt a bit dead, and that lack of feel caused me to slow or stop far quicker than I intended on a few occasions. Otherwise, the Jaguar XJ is truly a dynamic specimen.
– Jennifer Misaros, Production Editor
One look at the new XJ tells you that Jaguar has finally shaken off the old-world styling of the previous generation and has embraced a more modern design aesthetic. At first glance, the XJ isn’t particularly eye-catching, but on closer examination you can appreciate the clean lines of the new Jaguar design language, which was first seen on the XK coupe and the XF sedan.
The cabin features several nice touches, such as the virtual instrument cluster with a special “spotlight” effect — for instance, if you’re traveling 50 mph, that section of the gauge in highlighted. The double sunroof, with separate glass over the front and rear seats, is another. As others have stated, the touch screen is still a little slow to respond and can be hard to read, but there’s not denying the superb sound quality from the Bowers & Wilkins stereo.
The trunk, which Jaguar says is the largest in the class at 18.4 cubic feet, was easily able to hold three bags of golf clubs and could have held a fourth. In addition, the load lip is not too high, and the opening is large enough to maneuver bulky items in easily.
Last but not least, it’s refreshing to see a luxury sedan whose base price includes all the features for which other manufacturers charge you extra. For instance, the base price of this XJ ($87,500) is about the same as the Four Seasons 7-series we recently tested ($86,025). But in the Jaguar, a rearview camera, a power trunk, keyless ignition, automatic high beams, blind-spot warning, heated seats, a premium sound system, and satellite radio (among others) are all standard. In the 7-series, with all the add-ons, the price topped the $100,000 mark. With the XJ Supercharged, the only available options are a heated windshield and adaptive cruise. In addition, a wood and leather steering wheel is a no-cost option, and you can delete the XJ badge, also at no cost. All of which makes for a much simpler — and less expensive — luxury-car buying experience.
– Amy Skogstrom, Managing Editor
What a lovely automobile! I will gladly add to my colleagues’ shower of praise for the new Jag XJ. The car looks fantastic, rides great, and drives even better, in the manner that is typical of Jaguar products. The V-8 has plenty of power, sounds great, and does not have too much supercharger whine. The transmission responded well to every input I threw at it.
The ultramodern interior, though, is the best part about this car. It’s the complete opposite of the previous XJ, and all the better for it.
Jason Cammisa was right in his initial review of this car: a huge weakness of the XJ is its infotainment system, which, like the XK and XF’s before it (although not quite as bad), is slow to respond and has on-screen “buttons” that, as Cammisa wrote, “were clearly designed by someone with fingertips the size of an embroidery needle.” My biggest complaint, though, is that the sideview mirrors wouldn’t lock themselves into place very well, so I found myself adjusting them frequently after the mirror housing would slip backward due to the force of the wind from driving the car. As the owner of an old MGB, I’m often extra forgiving of idiosyncrasies in British cars, but this is ridiculous, not to mention a potential safety hazard.
Still, I couldn’t help but fall in love with the new XJ, what with its massaging and ventilated seats, levitating shifter, fully virtual analog-looking gauges, and superfine leather, all of which consistently impress onlookers. In fact, one family member who’d experienced the lovely Rolls-Royce Ghost that we recently tested said that he was actually more impressed by the XJ’s interior than the $300,000 Ghost’s. And that’s in a car that costs a surprisingly reasonable $87,500. Nice work, Jaguar!
– Rusty Blackwell, Copy Editor
2011 Jaguar XJ
Base price (with destination): $87,500
Price as tested: $87,500
5.0-liter supercharged V-8 engine
6-speed automatic transmission with shift paddles
Dynamic stability control
Active differential control
Tire pressure monitoring system
Panoramic glass roof
Smartkey keyless entry
1200-watt B&W premium sound system
30GB hard drive
8-inch HD touch screen
Leather steering wheel
Options on this vehicle: None
Key options not on vehicle:
Adaptive cruise control — $2200
Advanced emergency brake assist
Heated windshield with timer — $350
Fuel economy: 15/21/17 mpg (city/hwy/combined)
Size: 5.0L supercharged V-8
Horsepower: 470 hp @ 6000-6500 rpm
Torque: 424 lb-ft @ 2500-5500 rpm
Transmission: 6-speed automatic with shift paddles
Curb weight: 4281 lb
20-inch aluminum wheels
245/40ZR20 front; 275/35ZR20 rear Dunlop SP SportMaxx GT performance tires
Competitors: Mercedes-Benz S-class, BMW 7-series, Audi A8