The Jaguar XJ, the renowned British automaker’s flagship model, stands out among full-size luxury sedans for its sporty character and road manners, benefits partly attributable to lightweight aluminum construction.
For the 2018 model year a new high-output V8-powered XJR575 takes the place of the XJR. Modifications to engine calibration have raised output from Jaguar’s supercharged 5.0-liter V8 from 550 to 575 horsepower. Torque output totals 517 pound-feet.
Other XJ versions get some aerodynamic tweaks outside, complemented by some styling touches within the cabin. Touch Pro infotainment, with 4G Wi-Fi, gets a new, larger (10-inch) central touchscreen. Rear-drive XJ models gain lane-keep assist and driver drowsiness monitoring, to complement their intelligent automatic. Jaguar’s All-Surface Progress Control system works like low-speed cruise control, to get the XJ moving on low-grip surfaces.
The new XJR575 boasts unique interior touches and aerodynamic exterior upgrades. Side sills, the rear spoiler, front bumper and lower air intakes feature gloss black surrounds. Twin louvers identify the hood, and 20-inch black wheels are joined by red brake calipers. Inside is diamond-quilted seat upholstery.
Each regular engine comes in a choice of two trim levels: V6-powered XJ R-Sport and XJL Portfolio, plus V8-powered XJ Supercharged and XJL Supercharged. The 3.0-liter V6 develops 340 horsepower and 332 pound-feet of torque, while the 5.0-liter V8 generates 470 horsepower and 424 pound-feet. Both engines mate with an 8-speed automatic transmission. All-wheel drive is optional for V6 models.
Jaguar offers short- and long-wheelbase body styles. Short-wheelbase models consist of the V6-powered XJ R-Sport and V8-engine XJ Supercharged. Long-wheelbase models include the V6-powered XJL Portfolio, V8 XJL Supercharged, and new higher-output V8 XJR575.
Neither the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration nor the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has crash-tested the Jaguar XJ. Only six airbags are installed in each model, but a number of active-safety features are available.
In addition to a rearview camera, standard safety technologies include forward collision warning with automatic emergency braking, lane-departure warning with active lane control, blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert, and front/rear parking sensors. Adaptive cruise control and a surround-view camera setup are optional rather than standard.
XJ R-Sport ($75,400) is powered by the 3.0-liter V6, with rear-wheel drive. Standard equipment includes heated/ventilated leather front/rear seats, power front seats, a heated steering wheel, power tilt/telescoping steering column, dual-zone automatic climate control, pushbutton start, and panoramic sunroof. Also standard are adaptive dampers, a rear air suspension, and 19-inch alloy wheels. Meridian 825-watt 20-speaker audio comes with Bluetooth. (Prices do not include $995 destination charge.)
AWD XJ R-Sport ($78,300) adds all-wheel drive to the V6 sedan.
XJL Portfolio ($84,500) comes with the V6 engine and rear-drive, on a longer wheelbase.
AWD XJL Portfolio ($87,400) adds all-wheel drive to the long-wheelbase V6 sedan.
XJ Supercharged ($93,000) contains the 5.0-liter V8 with rear-drive, along with 14-way power massaging front seats, navigation, adaptive headlights, softer leather, four-zone climate control, an active rear differential, and 20-inch wheels.
XJL Supercharged ($96,300) has the 5.0-liter V8, on a long-wheelbase chassis.
XJR575 ($122,400) includes high-performance 5.0-liter V8 with rear-drive. Standard equipment includes a sport-tuned suspension, performance tires, red brake calipers, metal pedals, a suede headliner, gloss black trim, and rear spoiler.
Long-wheelbase models can get the Premium Rear Seat package with two individual seats.
Like the invariably-stylish Jaguar sedans of past decades, the 2018 XJ presents a dashing silhouette, casting a striking presence on the road. Design cues are well-matched to the sedan’s aluminum body panels.
Big rhombus-shaped headlights help set off Jaguar’s signature wire-mesh grille, which exudes a commanding aura. Gloss black rear pillars help create the illusion of expansive glass stretching across the body. Fenders swell in concert with the low roofline, recalling certain flowing classic French designs.
Abundantly equipped, inspired by luxury yachts, the richly appointed XJ is swathed in soft leather and chrome. Passenger room is good up front, but the sleekly sloping roofline takes a toll on back-seat space. Headroom is in short supply, though it’s a bit better in long-wheelbase models.
As expected, fit and finish rank as excellent. Supple leather and genuine wood veneers ensure top quality throughout. Still, the piano-black accents on the instrument panel aren’t as rich as the accompanying wood trim.
A long, arcing dashboard serves as a unifying element. Gauges and controls appear on a 12.3-inch LCD screen. A 10-inch touchscreen controls infotainment and climate, augmented by actual buttons. The spacious trunk holds 18.4 cubic feet of luggage.
Every Jaguar XJ delivers a far sportier experience than is customary for the premium large-sedan class. Smooth and refined with a V6 powertrain, the British luxury sedan turns into a sophisticated fireball in new XJR575 form.
Because of the XJ’s lightweight chassis, the efficient V6 produces ample energy, not so far removed from V8 performance. Acceleration to 60 mph takes about 6 seconds with the V6, versus 4.9 seconds for V8 models.
Jaguar’s admirably responsive 8-speed automatic transmission shifts smoothly and promptly. S mode holds each gear longer, when desired. JaguarDrive Control has Normal, Dynamic, and Winter settings that affect the throttle, transmission, steering, and ride quality.
As a rule, each XJ is quite composed. Reflexes are pure and predictable. Adaptive dampers work with the comparatively light body to present a more unified driving feel than typical competitors. Big ventilated disc brakes on each model yield good pedal feel.
Standard adjustable dampers and an adjustable rear air suspension smooth out most bumps. Although the ride is generally smooth, it starts to decline on high-performance models. Some drivers may consider the XJR575’s suspension too firm.
On dry pavement, Jaguar’s all-wheel-drive system sends 90 percent of power to the rear wheels, but a front/rear split up to 50/50 is possible.
Jaguar’s V6 engine is fairly fuel-efficient for the class, EPA-rated at 18/27 mpg City/Highway, or 21 mpg Combined, with either the short or long wheelbase. All-wheel-drive drops the estimate to 17/26/20 mpg for the short-wheelbase model and 17/25/20 mpg for the long wheelbase sedan.
The supercharged V8 is EPA-rated at 15/23 mpg City/Highway, or 18 mpg Combined. No estimate is available yet for the new XJ575. Jaguar’s stop-start system works well, with barely a flutter.
Lavish furnishings and illustrious British heritage, help make the XJ a good value. Sportier-than-usual road behavior also compels, drawing enthusiastic drivers. Naturally, the XJ’s lush profile attracts yet another group. Because available features are less extravagant than those offered by competitors, prices don’t become astronomical.
Driving impressions by The Car Connection. James M. Flammang contributed to this report.