The 2013 Jaguar XJ is an imposing car, but in Ultimate Black paint, the XJ is also subtle and understated. It's a handsome ride that garners smiles and nods from those whose eye it catches, but largely doesn't attract a lot of attention when prowling the streets. The Jag's stealthy nature is probably why nearby pedestrians were so startled when a weird quirk of the fuel-saver system prodded the big cat into angry snarls.
The stub-nosed front end features lots of chrome brightwork and a pair of angry feline headlights. When viewed in profile or from certain front angles, the XJ's proportions are similar to those of the Audi A7, with a roofline that flows smoothly from the A-pillars all the way to the rear or the vehicle where it joins with vertical LED taillamps at the deck lid's drop-off. However, the Jag is a proper sedan with a discrete trunk having nothing to do with the Audi's liftback trickery.
Purring supercharged engine
Under the XJ's long hood purrs a 3.0-liter, supercharged V-6 engine that turns its crank to the tune of 340 horsepower and 332 pound-feet of torque. I don't feel like I'm laying the "jaguar" metaphor on too thickly by saying that the engine "purrs" because that's just the right word for the way this engine sounds. The idling engine can be heard and even felt in the XJ's quiet cabin, but it never becomes intrusive or obnoxious, even when making a full-bore 0-to-60 run.
That power makes its way through an eight-speed automatic transmission that the user operates with a motorized shift knob that rises and lowers from its position flush with the center console when the vehicle is started or stopped. With the vehicle under way, the XJ's gearbox can also be controlled via steering-wheel-mounted paddle shifters, which I was not a fan of in this vehicle due to their plasticky and hollow feel. Paddle shifters really have no place in a cruiser like this anyway, but there's no excuse for cheaping out on them.
The XJ is based on a rear-drive platform, but our XJ AWD was equipped with an optional Instinctive all-wheel-drive system, which is Jaguar's way of saying "on-demand" all-wheel drive. The system adds a couple hundred pounds to the curb weight, adds a few ticks to the 0-60 time, and widens the turning circle, but it also adds traction. In particular, the XJ AWD's winter mode locks in a baseline 30 percent of available torque to the front axle to make sure that the sedan has the best grip over slippery surfaces.
The sedan features multiple performance-modifying modes. On the transmission dial, there are Normal and Sport modes. Below that dial, the driver will find buttons that activate the aforementioned Winter mode and a Dynamic program that further augments the XJ's performance. Make no mistakes, this is not a sports car, so that "Dynamic" mode is largely a "use extra fuel and make more noise" straight-line performance boost.
Speaking of fuel usage, the EPA estimates that the XJ AWD will purr for 19 miles of driving for every gallon of premium gasoline in its tank. That breaks out to 16 mpg city and 24 mpg highway. In order to reach these numbers Jaguar has equipped the XJ with an auto stop-start system that shuts the engine down when the vehicle is stopped to prevent fuel losses due to idling.
I found the XJ's start-stop system to be loud and somewhat unpredictable. A nudge of the steering wheel, a slight change in brake pedal pressure, or the whims of the climate control system would cause the system to shut down and fire up the engine. It lacked smoothness, shaking the vehicle to life whenever it fired the engine up. This system was particularly annoying in stop-and-go traffic, when it would shut the engine down just as I was releasing the brake pedal to go again, resulting in momentary jerkiness. If the system fired up when I didn't have the brake pedal fully depressed -- such as when I'd relax my foot on the pedal while waiting for a long light -- the car might lurch forward slightly.
The XJ also seemed to hate pedestrians. On multiple occasions when I was waiting for a traffic light to change or crawling through a parking lot, the stop-start system would fire up the engine just as a pedestrian was crossing in front of the vehicle, startling them with the sudden snarl of the engine and shake of the vehicle. I was beginning to wonder whether the Jaguar had developed a taste for human flesh when, after a few dozen dirty looks, I simply deactivated the stop-start system with the touch of a button.
The XJ rides on a fixed suspension, but it's such a comfort-minded vehicle that I'm not sure that it would benefit at all from an adaptive suspension system with a sport program.
The sedan's ride is soft, but also controlled. I wouldn't go as far as to call the XJ "boatlike," but the word does come to mind when behind the XJ's wheel. Particularly as the sedan smoothly glided over the normally brutal expansion joints of the Bay Area's Interstate system with a barely audible thump-thump and a slight bobbing of the cabin as if breaking over waves. Only the harshest of potholes were able to jar the Jag and almost no road or wind noise made it into the sealed and insulated cabin.
The XJ doesn't hide its size and 4,125-pound curb weight when on the road, but it also doesn't really try to. It feels large and substantial -- sort of like an old Cadillac, but in a good way.
The sedan exhibits noticeable amounts of lean and understeer when asked to corner at even moderate speeds and going fast outside of relatively straight freeway blasts is not really in its bag of tricks. But I found it nice that, in a time where luxury marquees are all trying to make sport sedans with firm rides, this nearly base-level XJ would fixate so uncompromisingly on comfort.
Luxurious Portfolio Package
Our XJ's luxurious cabin was easily its best selling point -- and with nearly $10,000 in optional cabin and tech upgrades, it had better be good.
Our example started out with the supercushy $4,000 Portfolio Package, which upgrades the leather trim on the dashboard and seats, adding contrast stitching and piping to the visual mix. Our tester also featured a two-tone interior that pairs London Tan leather seats with a Jet Black leather upper dashboard and suede headliner for an additional $775. The Portfolio Package seats feature massage functionality on the front row and heated and cooled surfaces for all four seating positions. The sedan is also upgraded with four-zone climate controls.
Passengers noted that the XJ's cabin felt smaller than they'd expected in a car of this size -- no doubt feeling the press of the low ceiling, swathed in the jet-black fabric. Those same passengers also remarked on the plentiful shoulder and elbow room afforded by the XJ's wide ride.