2011 Jaguar XJ Review

2011 Jaguar XJ - Finding tradition in all the right places.


Vehicle Tested
2011 Jaguar XJL Supercharged
Base Price: $90,700
At-Tested Price:

Built in England.

Heated Front Windshield
Rear-Seat Entertainment System

Engine: Supercharged 5.0-liter V8
6-Speed Automatic

Drive Wheels: Rear-Wheel Drive

Jaguar redesigns its flagship sedan for 2011, giving it more power, additional features and new styling. The XJ exchanges its familiar two-box silhouette for a slippery fastback design but still comes as a four-door sedan in standard and extended-wheelbase "L" versions. It competes in the high-rent district of the luxury car playing field with icons like the Audi A8, BMW 7-Series, Hyundai Equus, Lexus LS, Mercedes-Benz S-Class and Porsche Panamera.

Still available only with rear-wheel drive and constructed primarily of aluminum, the new XJ is dimensionally similar to the outgoing model. The standard model has a 119-inch wheelbase and the L has a 124-inch wheelbase. Both bodystyles come in Base, Supercharged and special-order Supersport.

All XJs get a 5.0-liter V8 engine and six-speed automatic transmission. Base models get a normally-aspirated version with 385 horsepower. The Supercharged gets a blown 5.0 V8 with 470 horsepower. The line-topping and special-order only Supersport models get the same supercharger treatment, but this time to the tune of 510 horsepower.

Standard safety features include antilock four-wheel disc brakes with brake assist, stability control, blind-spot alert, tire-pressure monitor, front-seat active head restraints, rear-view camera, front- and rear-obstacle-detection system and dual-front, front-side and curtain-side airbags.

The Base lists for $72,700 with the standard length body. Included is air conditioning with /dual-zone automatic climate controls, interior air filter, navigation system with voice recognition, power tilt-telescope heated leather-wrapped steering wheel with radio controls, cruise control, leather upholstery, heated/cooled front bucket seats, 16-way power driver seat, 12-way power passenger seat, memory system (driver seat, mirrors, steering wheel), heated rear seats, wood interior trim, heated power mirrors with automatic day/night, power windows, power door locks, keyless entry, keyless access and starting, sunroof, AM/FM/CD/MP3 player. high-definition radio, satellite radio, iPod adapter, hard drive, Bluetooth cell-phone connection, trip computer, automatic day/night rearview mirror, compass, outside-temperature indicator, illuminated visor mirrors, universal garage door opener, rain-sensing variable-intermittent wipers, rear defogger, automatic headlights, floormats, theft-deterrent system, HID headlights with washers, computer-controlled self-leveling suspension, 245/45R19 tires and alloy wheels.

The $79,700 XJL adds to the XJ a five-inch-longer wheelbase, four-zone automatic climate controls (including rear controls), 20-way power massaging front seats, heated/cooled rear seats, rear-seat fold-down trays, rear illuminated visor mirrors, power rear sunshade, manual side sunshades, alcantara headliner and 245/45R19 front and 275/40R19 rear tires.

The XJ Supercharged lists for $87,700, while the XJL Supercharged bases at $90,700. Included on those models is limited-slip differential, Bowers and Wilkins sound system,
rear illuminated visor mirrors (XJL), self-dimming headlights, steering-linked adaptive HID headlights, cornering lights and 245/40R20 front and 275/35R20 rear tires.

The line-topping Supersport lists for $110,200 in short-wheelbase form and $113,200 in L trim. It adds to the Supercharged adaptive cruise control, leather headliner and dual-screen DVD entertainment system.

Options include adaptive cruise control, dual-screen rear-seat entertainment system, heated windshield, wood- and leather-wrapped steering wheel and carbon-fiber interior trim. The XJ is built in England and has an $875 destination charge.

Get Up and Go  Jaguar upped the ante across the board. Compared to the outgoing models, the base XJ V8 produces 85 more horsepower and the Supercharged adds an additional 70 horsepower. As you might expect, these gains show up in improved acceleration. According to Jaguar the base model will scamper from 0 to 60 mph in a scant 5.4 seconds. Supercharged models pull off the same feat in a breathtaking 4.9 seconds.

Regardless of model, this big car simply jumps off the line and boasts impressive passing response. Simply stomp on the gas and the car lurches forward. Obviously, the Supercharged is significantly quicker than the base, but that power comes with a price premium.

The six-speed transmission upshifts with buttery smoothness and downshifts quickly when more power is demanded in highway passing situations. However, when coasting to a stop transmission downshifts can be felt as a slight driveline shudder. While not uncommon among newer automatics, the annoyance seems out of place on an $80,000 car.

As with any high-powered luxury sedan, wet or snow-covered road traction can be a problem. Though the XJ doesn't offer an all-wheel drive version like some of its competitors, it does offer a limited-slip differential and traction control. Regardless, if you want to drive this, or any other large luxury car, in Chicagoland during the winter it is best to change out the standard touring tires for a set of snow tires. Jaguar dealers offer a swap and store program for owners.

EPA estimates for the Supercharged model are an unimpressive 15 mpg city and 21 mpg highway. Adding to the misery is the fact Jaguar requires premium-grade fuel for all XJ models.

Surprisingly, you're likely to average better than EPA estimates if you drive with a light throttle foot. In gentile highway cruising it's easy to average more than 23 mpg and if your daily commute includes lots of highway driving, you might be able to average 20 mpg overall. Not bag for such a large car with a tremendous performance potential.

On the Road  Perhaps the best riding luxury sedan on the market, the Jaguar XJ sets the benchmark for all competitors. The sophisticated suspension provides an unequalled combination of ride comfort and control. Large bumps occasionally jolt but that's the exception, rather than the rule. Even on the roughest of roads this big car never loses its composure and provides relaxed ride.

The remarkably stiff chassis provides an excellent driver's platform. In addition, the weight-saving aluminum-intensive structure helps this big cat feel light on its feet. Driven sedately, the XJ doesn't impress, but turn up the heat and the car hunkers down and digs in to provide surprisingly athletic moves. The intuitive steering has a nice heft at speed and is light when parking. Brakes are arrestingly strong, but can seem "grabby" around town when cold.

Interior noise levels are appropriately low for the class. Supercharged models have more road noise than expected on coarse concrete surfaces, but that's to be expected with the ultra-low-profile tires. All engines produce a throaty and expensive-sounding growl in hard acceleration and cruise quietly.

Behind the Wheel  Much like designers broke with orthodox tradition on the outside, the interior of the new XJ is refreshingly modern. Ditching the baroque design of Jaguars' past, the large sedan's interior sports plenty of leather and wood blended into a design that is fresh and contemporary. Materials are beyond reproach and assembly quality is top notch.

Instead of conventional gauges, drivers face a large video screen that displays "virtual" dials for speedometer and tachometer. Easy to read day or night, these digital dials allow for some customization. Audio, climate and navigations controls are muddled together in an orderly but byzantine fashion in the center stack. While offering more intuitive operation than some competitors, drivers are still required to make multiple taps to change the radio station or turn off the climate control. Adding to the frustration is a slow responding touch screen that often times is unresponsive.

As you might expect, the front seats are quite configurable and should suit just about any size driver. They offer good support and are long-haul comfortable. Leg room is impressive, but head room is tight under the standard sunroof. Visibility is good except directly astern, where the tall parcel shelf and thin rear window conspire to limit the outward view. Thankfully blind-spot alert and a rear-view camera are standard.

In extended-wheelbase models, rear-seat occupants are treated like royalty. There are heated and cooled seats, sun shades and dual-zones for the climate control. Head room and leg room are quite generous and the seats are well padded for good comfort. Sitting three abreast will be uncomfortable because of a seat-bottom that isn't contoured for that configuration and a prominent driveline hump.

Sporting one of the largest trunks in the class, the XJ has plenty of cargo room for a week's worth of luggage. The opening isn't as large as you'd expect, though, and the rear seats don't fold to increase cargo space. Interior storage is merely adequate with a few open bins up front and decent-size map pockets.

Bottom Line  Seeing me getting into the new XJ, one Jaguar loyalist asked why the company chose to forgo the pouncing cat hood ornament. I thought that very interesting. The new XJ is so intrinsically Jaguar that is mattered not to me that the sweeping hood terminated sans chrome icon. In fact, it was almost symbolic that the pouncing cat was missing--Jaguar blatantly choosing to eschew baggage from the past and carefully selecting enduring character traits for the future.

The 2011 Jaguar XJ is about as fine an automobile as can be crafted today. The ride-handling balance is simply sublime and the unpretentious supercharged V8 arrogantly propels this large sedan forward with incontrovertible haste. Interior appointments reek of old-world craftsmanship yet blend modern style and functionality with a whimsy that's unmatched by any competitor.

Obviously this cat isn't without fault. Shortcomings include poor fuel economy and a somewhat frustrating control interface--two common traits that are shared by all cars in this class. Looking beyond its demerits, the new XJ is a careful compilation of all that rings good and true at Jaguar without any of the corrupt cache that clouded the famous mark. 

Specifications 2011 Jaguar XJL Supercharged
4-door sedan
Supercharged DOHC V8
Wheelbase, in.
Size, liters/cu. in.
5.0 / 305
Length, in.
206.6Horsepower @ rpm
470 @ 6000
Width, in.
Torque (lb.-ft.) @ rpm
424 @ 2500
Height, in.
6-Speed Automatic
Weight, lbs.
EPA Estimates, mpg
15 city / 21 highway
Cargo Capacity, cu. ft.
Fuel Capacity, gals.
Manufacturer's Warranty
Seating Capacity
5 years / 50,000 miles
Front Head Room, in.
Front Leg Room, in.
6 years / Unlimited miles
Second-Row Head Room, in.
Free Roadside Assistance
5 years / 50,000 miles
Second-Row Leg Room, in.
Free Scheduled Maintenance

Mark Bilek

Mark Bilek is the Senior Director of Communications and Technology for the Chicago Auto Trade Association and the General Manager for DriveChicago.com. He is also responsible for developing and maintaining the Chicago Auto Show Web site.

Mark has been reviewing vehicles for more than two decades. Previously, he was associate publisher at Consumer Guide, where he oversaw publication of Consumer Guide Car & Truck Test, Consumer Guide's Used Car Book, and ConsumerGuide.com. He was also responsible for publication of "Collectible Automobile" and various hardcover automotive titles. In 2001 and 2002 he served as president of a Midwest Automotive Media Association. Mark has appeared on NBC TV, ABC TV, Fox News, WGN and MotorTrend TV as an automotive consultant. He hosts the Drive Chicago radio show on WLS 890 AM and was a regular guest on WGN Radio's Steve & Johnnie show. Mark lives in the northwest suburbs with his wife and three sons.