Would you try climbing a tall hill of soft, moist sand in your brand-new Jaguar XJ luxury sedan? Of course you wouldn't. But now that Jaguar finally offers all-wheel drive, you actually have a chance of making it to the top without damaging the car and/or getting it seriously stuck.
For decades, buyers who live in places where the roads are slippery for much of the year have loved premium all-wheel-drive large sedans from Mercedes-Benz (4Matic) and Audi (Quattro). Acura, Cadillac, Infiniti, Lexus, Lincoln, Porsche, Volvo, and even BMW for years have been building executive cars that power all four wheels. That left Jaguar as the lone nonexotic luxury carmaker to offer only two-wheel-drive vehicles (with the exception of the chagrined, smaller X-type, which has been gone since 2008).
All of those other automakers offer big luxury sedans with fewer than eight cylinders, too. Since the 2009 model year, though, Jaguar -- long ago a purveyor of world-beating straight sixes -- has sold cars in the U.S. exclusively with thirsty V-8s. Jaguar is filling that Abominable Snowman-sized void in its lineup in 2013, as well, with the addition of six-cylinder XF and XJ models.
Enabling all-weather ability
The new 3.0-liter supercharged V-6 is actually the lynchpin to the newly available all-wheel-drive (AWD) system. Engineers took advantage of the fresh powerplant and integrated a hollowed-out section of the oil pan to create space for the front axles to pass through without having to raise the engine. A Magna-sourced transfer case was bolted to the tail of the also-new eight-speed ZF automatic transmission, and power is delivered to the Dana-supplied front differential and axles by a prop shaft that runs alongside the transmission case. The application requires a different front subframe and knuckles as well as a modified steering rack and retuned bushings and front and rear dampers. Because the XF and the XJ share much of the same architecture, modifications to both cars are essentially identical.
No other Jaguar engines -- including diesels, V-8s, and the new-for-2013 turbocharged four-cylinder -- can currently accommodate the AWD components. In fact, engineers didn't even bother making the system work with right-hand drive, since very few customers in the British Isles opt for it in their luxury cars. According to Simon Barnes, Jaguar vehicle engineering manager, however, all powertrains and cars developed in the future will be AWD compatible.
Jaguar and Land Rover have been corporately married since 2001, but Jaguar Instinctive All-Wheel Drive, as it's known, doesn't just pick Land Rover parts off the shelf. "It was designed exclusively for the Jaguar brand," says James Towle, Jaguar's global brand manager, but the SUV maker's engineering expertise was freely utilized in creating these AWD Jaguars.
The company claims to have focused a great deal of energy "to ensure that steering integrity and suspension refinement are unaffected" and that the cars "remain every bit as agile and communicative as their rear-wheel-drive counterparts."
No longer declawed
Based on our time behind the wheel of AWD XJs and XFs, those claims seem to be on the mark. We didn't have a chance to drive back-to-back with rear-wheel-drive examples, but the four-wheel-drive cars felt just as composed, connected, and sporty as their siblings. On cold, paved Quebec roads (largely covered in gritty slickness-fighting sand) it was virtually impossible to tell the difference unless Pirelli Sottozero-spinning was attempted, in which case the AWD cars generally refused to comply. Torque steer was absent, too.
On snow-slickened surfaces, ice, and even the aforementioned sandy hill (which is sometimes part of a bona fide racecourse for off-road trucks at the Mecaglisse motorsports facility near Notre-Dame-de-la-Merci, Quebec), the XJ was extremely sure-footed and anxious to claw its way to the next obstacle prepared by Jaguar personnel. With stability control fully deactivated on a closed course, the big Jag felt livelier and more tossable, but it wasn't as entertainingly tail-happy as other winter-tired AWD luxury cars we've driven in similar conditions, particularly Acuras, Audis, and BMWs.
The downsized six-cylinder engine surely contributes to the cars' unwillingness to do anything your mom would disapprove of, but it's far from a disappointment. It's basically Jaguar's 5.0-liter supercharged V-8 with two cylinders sliced off. That's a good thing. A rear-wheel-drive V-6 XJ made an appearance at Automobile Magazine's headquarters in October, and our editors had great things to say about it. Executive editor Joe DeMatio: "I never felt the slightest lack of power from the supercharged V-6, which offers significantly more horsepower and torque than Jaguar's long-running AJ-V8 engine did until not long ago." Associate web editor Donny Nordlicht: "Still intact from the powertrain's downsizing is the deep well of power at any speed. However, unlike the V-8, the V-6 doesn't feel quite like it has the power of a freight train barreling at full speed."
Those impressions jibe well with our experience in Quebec, although the AWD versions of the XF and the XJ are each 0.4 second slower than their rear-wheel-drive V-6 twins in the sprint to 60 mph. Big deal. Both AWD cars still turn the trick in an adequate 6.1 seconds. (Even though the XJ is larger than the XF, the cars weigh almost the same because of the former's primarily aluminum construction. Speaking of curb weight, AWD adds about 250 pounds.)
Getting down to business
If faced with the prospect of choosing between two- or four-wheel-drive V-6-powered Jaguars, we'd be more concerned about the fuel-economy sacrifice than the performance reduction. Having AWD on your XJ will cost you 2 mpg in the city and 3 mpg on the highway, according to the EPA's ratings (16/24 mpg versus 18/27 mpg). The Snowbelt XF doesn't suffer quite as much, losing 1 mpg in the city and 2 mpg on the highway (16/26 mpg versus 17/28 mpg).
To equip these cars with all-wheel drive, Jaguar charges $3000 extra for the XF (for a minimum cost of $53,875), $3500 for the XJ ($77,575), and $2500 for the long-wheelbase XJL ($84,575). The addition of the six-cylinder model has cut the base price of the XJ by only $500. The V-6 XF starts at $3000 less than last year's base V-8, but the new four-cylinder model (which we've yet to drive) chops the minimum XF price from $53,875 to $47,850. The XJ AWD goes on sale in mid-December, and the XF AWD will hit dealerships in February.
Jaguar says that the V-6 engine and AWD will make its cars appeal to 30 percent more buyers in the XF's segment and 20 percent more folks shopping for gratifying luxosedans like the XJ. Officials expect that a substantial 40 to 50 percent of XJs purchased in the U.S. will be equipped with AWD and about 40 percent of XFs will end up with the feature.
We believe that most Snowbelt drivers would fare just fine with two-wheel drive and a good set of winter tires, but there's no arguing that adding all-wheel drive to that equation is the safest solution. Imagine how many more Jags Northerners would've seen in bad weather if the company hadn't waited so long to offer the products that so many buyers prefer.
Jaguar XJ AWD
On sale: Mid-December
Price: $77,575/$84,575 (XJ AWD/XJL Portfolio AWD)
Engine: 3.0L supercharged V-6, 340 hp, 332 lb-ft
EPA mileage: 16/24 mpg
Jaguar XF AWD
On sale: February 2013
Engine: 3.0L supercharged V-6, 340 hp, 332 lb-ft
EPA mileage: 16/26 mpg