The 2013 Jaguar XJ still boasts tasteful, minimalistic luxury, but its once-standout drivability has lost a step, and reliability issues should concern anyone looking to buy rather than lease one.
In the march toward better gas mileage, even top-flight luxury sedans have been dropping their standard V-8s. The latest is the Jaguar XJ, which teams a new, supercharged V-6 with a new eight-speed automatic. The combination delivers decent EPA-estimated gas mileage, and newly available all-wheel drive should further the appeal for snow-state shoppers.
Alas, this cat doesn't land cleanly on its feet.
The XJ comes in nine varieties, from regular- wheelbase XJs to extended XJLs. The supercharged V-6 pairs with rear- or all-wheel drive. Normally aspirated and supercharged V-8s are also available, but they come only with rear-wheel drive. Compare them here, or stack up the 2012 and 2013 XJ here. We drove a regular-wheelbase XJ with the supercharged V-6 and all-wheel drive.
Is Six Better than Eight?
Improvements on paper aren't always improvements on pavement. Last year's XJ employed a six-speed automatic, a longtime Jaguar setup that kicked down instantaneously and intuitively when heading into corners (read our review of it here). The eight-speed that replaces it immediately feels inferior. Its capabilities are impressive; it's able to downshift five gears in one fell swoop rather than stepping down through the gears. But doing so takes a strong jab to the gas; most of the time the automatic stays in higher gears and resists downshifts until long after you called for them.
More vexing are hints of accelerator lag from the get-go, though they're better than in some competitors, particularly the current Mercedes-Benz S-Class, which will be replaced by a 2014 redesign. A Sport mode in the XJ retains lower gears and quells some of the lag; so does a selectable Dynamic mode, which sharpens drivetrain and adaptive suspension settings. Both settings help a bit, but I'd gladly opt for last year's six-speed, which also came without the XJ's newest "advancement": an automatic stop-start function that's intrusive enough passengers will ask you if something broke. You can turn it off, but it cycles back on the next time you get in the car. Bah.
The other six — the supercharged V-6 — is worth keeping. With 340 horsepower and a handy 332 pounds-feet of torque, it provides plentiful, smooth-revving power. Jaguar says the all-wheel-drive XJ V-6 hits 60 mph in 6.1 seconds — modest for this crowd, given the six-cylinder BMW 740i and Audi A8 3.0T make it there in the mid-5s — but it's still plenty quick. EPA gas mileage, which is as high as 18/27 mpg city/highway with rear-wheel drive and the V-6, is comparable with these German models. All-wheel drive drops the XJ's mileage clear down to a not-so-competitive 16/24 mpg.
Ride & Handling
An adaptive suspension is standard, but it rides on the firm side. Dynamic mode firms up the ride even more, but it also quells the XJ's modest body roll. Those seeking a plusher ride should try the 7 Series, S-Class or versions of the Lexus LS with its adaptive suspension option.