2012 Jaguar XJ Review

2012 Jaguar XJ - Jaguar provides first-class travel with XJ


No leap of faith needed to fall under the spell of a Jaguar, especially its full-size flagship sedan. With England dialing down from a successful 2012 Summer Olympic hosting, the very British Jaguar can bask in its own record-setting trends.

The XJ sedan provides a glass-smooth road experience with a predatory-like personality. With a missile-like exterior design anything but stogy, XJ brings its cat-like presence to the forefront, with a supercharged (yet somewhat value-driven when comparedagainst rivals) price tag. The first generation XJ was launched back in 1968.The current body style, debuted two years ago, representing a fourth-generation effort.Little has changed from 2011. Thanks to body panels and some out-of-sight chassis parts constructed from lighter-weight aluminum, XJ delivers nimble handling with understated acceleration. Performance-oriented rear-drive is standard.All-wheel drive is not available.

Tata Motors of India purchased British automakers Jaguar and Land Rover from Ford Motor Co. during the spring of 2008. Ford first took its controlling interest in Jaguar back in 1989.

In 2012 as in 2011, the Jaguar brand keeps its model lineup simple, sporting three aspirational rides:the entry XF sedan (starting around $53,000), XK two door coupe ($84,500 to start) and posh XJ luxury sedan. Jaguar continues as a niche marketer with total U.S. sales of 6,506 'specialty sales' during the first half of 2012.

Three V-8 powertrains choices await 2012 XJ shoppers. All engines are available in short wheelbase length editions or long wheelbase (L) varieties. Extended wheelbase edition add close to five more inches between front and rear axles, and approximately five inches to overall vehicle length. Opt for the extended length.With limousine-like leg room in back, it's worth the few extra (alright, $7,000) bucks.The upcoming 2013 model year promises the introduction of a smaller, supercharged, 3.0-liter 340 horsepower V-6 engine.

A short-wheel base XJ with naturally aspirated, 5.0-liter V-8 starts at a high-end $73,700.This same engine with an extended wheelbase is marketed as the Portfolio designate, a vehicle serving as our tester of the week.Starting price checked in at a $80,700. Minimal extras included a wood and leather steering wheel ($500) and heated front windshield ($375) for a bottom line of $82,450 including $875 destination charge.

The plush, handsome interior includes high-tech electronics interfaces that take some familiarization. Nothing counterintuitive, but carving out some play time with the center, eight-inch information screen proved beneficial before setting out for an extended jaunt to central Wisconsin. That said, XJ's cabin represents a five-star effort.From the layout to comfort, to eye-appeal, XJ hits on all cylinders

The digitally animated, LCD instrument panel features three circular dials. A center speedometer is flanked on the left by fuel gauge/temperature readouts and current audio playlist and functions.The right-side tachometer magically fades into the background if requested, replaced by a tutorial listing with the press of a right-side menu toggle of the three-spoke, concaved inward power tilt/telescope steering wheel.When the cat's engine switches off with a push of the on/off ignition button, the entire screen fades to black. Cruise control functions are found on the wheel as are secondary audio controls. A long trunk release push plate is smartly positioned on the left-side dash, a more convenient local than the floor.

A and B pillars are ensconced with the same soft-suede-like material found lining the ceiling. Polished wood-grain paneling follows the door onto the top-side dash forming a semi-circle pattern between the windshield edge and pillowed, jet-black dash.Four intricately designed circular-type air vents easily maneuver for ample air cooling.The center duo flank a designer analog clock top center in the dash.Inside the elbow rest/storage bin between front bucket seats is a power outlet along with USB port and iPod connection. Just ahead lies an inline dual cuphoder and electronic six-speed automatic transmission shifter; a knob-like design where with a gentle twist, transmission shifts from drive to neutral to reverse to park. An electronic parking brake release lift lever resides just aft.Three dashboard dials (a center fan-speed flanked by dual zone temperature control) monitor most ventilation functions, while fan direction gets changed through the navigation/information screen.The driver's moon roof includes small top-side netting, helping direct rushing air away from the inside.

The Lazy Boy comfortable driver's seat powers 12 different ways.White stitching and piping adorns heated and ventilated front bucket seats and the back heated bench.Riders find themselves seated rather low when compared with conventional sedans and low-profile roof creates low head clearance. Headroom for those exceeding six-feet six inches or so could be an issue.Front doors include memory settings for three driving positions.With the added bonus of five inches more wheelbase, the back region holds three riders comfortable, even with the rear-drive transaxle hump positioned down the middle. When doors swing open, leg entry is wide and appealing. Row two also benefits from dedicated fan speed and temperature controls along with its own moon roof operation.

All 2012 Jaguars come with Jaguar Platinum Coverage covering a time horizon of four years or 50,000 miles. This includes all factory recommended scheduled maintenance including oil changes, brake pads/disks, wiper blade inserts and brake fluid performed at the dealership.

Keeping in mind an XJ does not pretend to generate hybrid-like fuel numbers (Jaguar offers no hybrid powertrains), the 15 mpg city and 22 mpg highway our naturally-aspirated V-8 (385 horsepower) was the fuel leader among the trifecta of powertrains offered. The supercharged 470 horsepower version and heart-pounding 510 horsepower supersportboth generate one less mile per gallon highway. All engines get teamed with a six-speed automatic (some competitors now offer seven or even eight-speed varieties). The fuel tank holds a rather generous 21.7 gallons of premium unleaded (required, not recommended) fuel.

When locking the XJ via key fob, side-view mirrors fold to the vehicle's side, extending back out and assuming working positions when unlocked. Narrow, wide side windows stretch along the sides with body-colored strap-like door handles. The roof's extended stretch continues along the same trajectory when meeting up with the small deck lid, creating an appealing, constant one-stroke flow.Blackened rear C pillars add to the sleek texture. Red tail light housing takes on a waterfall design, starting to the sides of the trunk lid and cascading down. A leaping cat logo makes its home on the trunk (or as the British say, boot) face.The large, front honeycomb grill is pure Jaguar. A temporary spare tire is located under the flat-floored trunk along with the car's battery, a location helping to optimize weight distribution. Dual exhausts come standard while 19-inch all-season tires sport double-barreled five-spoke designs.

Aspirational, full-size luxury import sedans carry a great deal of status...and owner loyalty. All in this strata are very worthy in their own right.A BMW 7 Series, Mercedes-Benz S-Class or Audi A-8 can easily surpass $100,000 when opting for high engine output.The German trio also offers an available gas-electric hybrid engine in the BMW 7 Series while the MB S-Class offers a tempting clean diesel; plus all have all-wheel-drive as an option.However, Jaguar's XJ deserves a spot on this same podium with its smooth, quiet touring ride inspiring those behind the wheel to flash an Olympic-sized grin.

At a Glance

2012 Jaguar XJL

Price as tested:$82,450

Length: 206.6 inches

Width:74.6 inches

Wheelbase: 124.3 inches

Engine:5.0-liter V-8


Curb weight: 4,131 pounds

Drivetrain warranty:Five years/50,000 miles

City/Highway economy:15/22

Assembly:United Kingdom

Dave Boe

Dave Boe, a lifetime Chicago area resident, worked at the Daily Herald, Illinois' third-largest daily newspaper, for 24 years. In 1989, the Daily Herald began a weekly Saturday Auto Section and he was shortly appointed editor. The product quickly grew into one of the largest weekend sections in the paper thanks to his locally-written auto reviews, the introduction of a local automotive question-and-answer column, a new colorful format and news happenings from Chicago area new-car dealerships.

Five years later, a second weekly auto section debuted on Mondays with Boe adding an industry insight column and introducing a "Love Affair with Your Car" column where readers sent in their own automotive memories for publication. During the next 10 years, the number of weekly auto sections Boe edited and coordinated grew to five and featured expanded NASCAR racing coverage, a dealer spotlight/profile feature and a Car Club Calendar where grass-roots automobile clubs could publish upcoming events for free. Boe also introduced more local automotive columnists into the pages of the sections, all of whom were seasoned members of the well respected Midwest Automotive Media Association. In 1997, Boe earned the Employee of the Year award from the Daily Herald.

Boe is a founding member and current president of the Midwest Automotive Media Association. He has degrees in Journalism and Business Administration from Northern Illinois University.