By Shari Prymak
Jaguar is a marque with quite a few stories to tell. From racing victories at the 24 Hours of Le Mans in the 1950s, to building automotive legends like the E-Type Roadster, Jaguar has built itself a rich history like few others. Yet, by the same token, it seems as though few other carmakers have experienced as much turmoil as well.
Since the 1960s, Jaguar’s reputation has been as much about shady build quality and bouncing from one owner to the next as it has been about building prestigious cars. No model better represents this than the flagship XJ Sedan. Despite staying a brilliant luxury car, the XJ had remained largely unchanged since its inception in 1968, which, to some extent at least, was a sign of Jaguar’s issues. The complete redesign that surfaced in 2010 was a bold move indeed for the company, but one that was probably necessary in order to show the world that Jaguar has moved on from its troubled past.
Bold could certainly describe the XJ’s exterior. It’s contemporary, yet stylish, without a hint of retro Jaguar design. As attractive as that curvy sheet metal is, it wasn’t just sculpted for beauty. Every bit of it is made from lightweight aluminum, which gives the XJ a major weight advantage over its competitors. You can feel the added lightness in the drive. The XJ, as big as it is, somehow manages to feel naturally agile in a way that makes you forget that you’re driving a big sedan. The suspension, the steering, the brakes, they all feel as though they have been tuned with the keen driver in mind. Yet somehow, despite its sporting pretentions, the XJ remains properly comfortable and serene when the twisty roads aren’t beckoning.
The XJ offers a choice between a 340 horsepower, supercharged V6 engine, or a 550 horsepower, supercharged V8, both mated to a smooth 8-speed automatic transmission. My V6 tester felt marvelously smooth and powerful, delivering a subtle, yet satisfying roar as you urge it on. Although rear-wheel drive continues as the standard chassis configuration on the performance-oriented, XJR, the V6 models receive active all-wheel drive. It’s an effective system, and it has the ability to send 100 percent of the power to either axle depending on conditions.
Let’s not get too caught up in the drive dynamics though. This is a luxury flagship after all, which means that the Jag’s ability to wow its passengers is a big part of the equation. No issues here, the XJ’s interior is simply spectacular. It’s an incredible blend of fine, neatly stitched hides, gorgeous wood veneers, well designed displays, and even some cool animated instruments. Yet despite the high level of tech, everything feels as though it was designed to serve you, not annoy you. The climate controlled seats can be adjusted any which way to hug your body, even while massaging you if you so choose. The extraordinary Meridian sound system will make you question any need to attend genuine concerts. It’s a warm and cozy feeling cabin, yet somehow cavernous as well.
The XJ line starts at $92,000 for the V6 AWD, and maxes out at $124,000 for the XJR LWB. That makes the XJ something of a bargain when compared to its German rivals from Mercedes-Benz, Audi, and BMW, none of which can quite match the Jag’s near magical blend of luxury and sportiness. If you’re a keen driver who’s isn’t willing to sacrifice anything in the way of proper luxury, Jaguar has your car, and fortunately, this one ain’t from 1968.