Jaguar has been at a competitive disadvantage recently - while its cars may be some of the best-driving, best-looking, and best-priced in their categories, they were all only available with rear-wheel drive with a big V-8. Enter the 3.0 - essentially Jag's 5.0-liter supercharged V-8 with two cylinders lopped off. The new forced-induction V-6 is just as fantastic as the eight. Still intact from the powertrain's downsizing is the deep well of power at any speed--even if, unlike the V-8, the V-6 doesn't feel like it has the power of a freight train. Neither does it have the V-8's sonorous and addicting exhaust note, but it still sounds sweet, and appropriate for an $84,000 luxury sedan.
Also new to Jaguar's powertrain stable is an eight-speed automatic sourced from ZF - the same one you find in Audis, BMWs, Chryslers, and elsewhere. The transmission is smooth, but requires a bit of prodding from the driver to downshift on the highway. Granted, those extra gears helped the Jag indicate an impressive 25-27 mpg during my 300 miles with it, and how many cars loaf along below 2000 rpm at 90 mph? The new automatic is also paired with an auto start/stop function to save fuel at red lights and in traffic. While the Jag's system is the most predictable I've driven (you know exactly when it's going to shut off and turn back on again), it's only about mid-pack in terms of smoothness. It is much better than the auto start/stop found in BMWs, but not nearly as seamless as the system in Porsches or Mercedes-Benzes. However, it does come with one really neat function: if you have parked the car and it has auto stopped and the driver seatbelt is unbuckled, the car's computers shut the vehicle down completely - no need to hit the ignition button.
Donny Nordlicht, Associate Web Editor
The northeastern United States, where it snows, is a huge, huge market for luxury brands, and Audi, BMW, and Mercedes-Benz have long reaped the benefits of their Quattro, xDrive, and 4Matic all-wheel-drive systems, respectively. Jaguar was missing out on that action and, thankfully, no longer has to. This particular XJ tester wasn't equipped with all-wheel drive, but we'll drive one with it soon.
Jaguar is also late to the trend of downsized powertrains, but in its defense, Audi just began offering a supercharged V-6 in its top sedan, the A8, for 2013 as well. To drive the XJ with its six-cylinder engine is to realize, as you do behind the wheel of the BMW 740i and the Audi A8 3.0, that six is the new eight. I didn't drive nearly as far as Mr. Nordlicht, but on two-lanes and freeways, I never felt the slightest lack of power from the supercharged V-6, which offers significantly more power and torque than Jaguar's long-running AJ-V8 engine did until not long ago. Slap on the new ZF eight-speed transmission, which Jaguar properly mated to the engine in terms of gear ratios and tuning, and we've got a winner. The only rough spot in this super-smooth sedan is the start-stop function, which is exactly as Nordlicht describes: better than BMW but rougher than most.
I've rhapsodized about the XJ sedan's interior many times before, but allow me one more love letter to the big, flat panels of burled walnut on the interiors of the doors; and the way the driver's door panel is perfectly designed, with the door opener and grab handle positioned exactly where you want them, unlike the BMW 7-series, which has an odd slit at the top of its door panel that is not immediately obvious to the user; and the way the upper dash drops down immediately inside the windshield, creating a ridge of sorts that is exquisitely finished in a dramatic band of wood, topped by French-stitched leather, the whole blending seamlessly into the door panels below the A-pillars; and the way that this lowered dash creates a feeling of spaciousness and airiness; and the reverse-cone-shaped climate control vents that sink into the dash as if Madonna had leaned toward the windshield while wearing her infamous Jean Paul Gaultier bustier from the Blond Ambition tour. No one else does an interior anything like this.
Joe DeMatio, Deputy Editor
Someone could spend all day Instagramming the Jaguar XJ's countless cool details. I was in a big hurry the morning I drove the XJ but still couldn't resist posting images of the dashboard clock and the mean kitty on the grille.
Now that the XJ has a standard V-6, more people will be able to afford to put an XJ in their garage, although I was surprised to learn that the car's base price has gone down by only about $1500. Still, any Jag XJ that costs less than $100,000 represents a great value considering all the luxury, style, and performance you get.
I know the more powerful XJs are pretty awesome, but I didn't miss the power of those engines with their 45, 130, or 170 extra horsepower. According to Jaguar, the V-6 car still sprints to 60 mph in less than six seconds, so that certainly has a lot to do with why I never felt slighted by the subtraction of two cylinders. Buyers probably won't, either.
Rusty Blackwell, Copy Editor
Jaguar cars always leave me torn. BMW has the reputation of being the ultimate driver's brand, but, dynamically speaking, Jag has the Bavarians in its rearview mirror and it's been that way for years. The XJ and XF are absolutely phenomenal behind the wheel, no matter the engine choice, which, incidentally, ranges from awesome to amazing. The powertrain and chassis are so perfectly matched, you wonder why there are so few Jags on the road.
Then you decide you want to listen to a different radio station, or, God forbid, input a destination to the navigation system. Jaguar's ancient touch screen interface is every bit as infuriating as CUE or MyFord Touch, except it's been around for a long time and hasn't been improved even the smallest bit since it debuted. Ok, there was an upgrade a few years ago, but that only changed the color scheme of the outdated graphics. The excruciatingly slow responses to inputs and disturbingly regular system crashes have not been fixed. If you happen to be viewing the info screen for a satellite radio station and want to turn off the heated seat, you'll have to press the seat button under the screen, and eventually you'll be able to tap another button 1-3 more times to get an ambient temperature seat. Perfectly easy to do in a parking lot, downright difficult to do while driving.
I love the way the XJ looks, the interior is incredibly luxurious and everything feels decadent. I just can't get over the infotainment system.
Phil Floraday, Senior Web Editor