Editor’s note: This review was written in August 2016 about the 2016 Jaguar XJ, but little of substance has changed with this year’s model. To see what’s new for 2017, click here, or check out a side-by-side comparison of the two model years.
The XJ comes in regular or extended wheelbases with rear- or all-wheel drive, which you can compare here. Jaguar tweaked the XJ’s styling and updated its multimedia system for 2016; compare it with the 2015 XJ here. Engines range from a supercharged V-6 to two supercharged V-8s. We drove an extended-length XJ with the lesser of the V-8s. (That’s a comparative adjective only; this sedan still hauls.)
Exterior & Styling
Refreshed with new headlights and a reshaped lower bumper with new brightwork, the XJ remains a sharp-looking sedan, at least from the nose. Jaguar changed little in back — a missed opportunity, as the rest of the brand’s lineup has some variation of the F-Type roadster’s athletic taillights. The XJ’s tail retains its bulbous shape and drooping lights. Taken as a whole, they make even the largest available wheels (20-inchers) look undersized.
An extended-wheelbase version increases total length by about 5 inches. The range-topping XJR model, which has the highest-output V-8, adds hood vents, quad tailpipes and a body-colored lower rear bumper; it also loses some brightwork up front.
How It Drives
Thanks to an all-aluminum body, the XJ weighs hundreds of pounds less than its German peers and the benefits are obvious. The extended-wheelbase car changes direction with a degree of precision that seems incompatible with its 206.9-inch length. (That’s longer than a Mercedes-Benz S-Class — or a Chevy Tahoe, for that matter.) Steering turn-in is immediate and the wheel exhibits smooth, natural feedback without requiring too much effort at low speeds. The nose tracks well through sweeping curves and the tail is seldom skittish when you lay on the gas. After an inch or so of initial pedal travel, the brakes are strong.
Still, I wish Jaguar accompanied this with better ride quality. The current XJ has always ridden on the firm side of the class and that was still true on this test drive. Adaptive shock absorbers all around with air springs over the rear are standard, but the sum of it allows a degree of disturbance at highway speeds that’s a far cry from the isolating suspensions in the S-Class and BMW 7 Series. Even in its softest settings, the XJ’s suspension doesn’t soak up manhole covers and major potholes in a way befitting a full-size luxury sedan. The Lexus LS and Audi A8 ride on the firm side of the class, too, but Jaguar may have staked out even firmer territory.
Even with the lesser V-8, the XJ boasts a prodigious 470 horsepower and its acceleration should leave no question about that figure. Revs are smooth and swift, with immediate accelerator response from a stop — a welcome characteristic in a class where gradual accelerator response, or just plain lag, is the norm. The drivetrain lacks the head-snapping torque of the BMW 750i, but nobody should want for more power in the Jaguar.
We’ve criticized Jaguar’s switch from an excellent six-speed automatic to an indecisive eight-speed unit in the past but, in the 2016 XJ, Jaguar seems to have improved on the transmission’s missteps. The eight-speed upshifts quickly and downshifts with little lag, kicking down a few gears at once if necessary.
The XJ offers two other supercharged engines: a 340-hp V-6 or 550-hp V-8. We’ve driven the former (read the review here) and it should satisfy most people. On the other end, Jaguar says the top-dog V-8 gets the XJ to 60 mph in a scant 4.4 seconds. That’s fierce acceleration, though some rivals’ quickest versions hit the mark in the 3-second range.
Cabin materials are expectedly lush, but taller drivers should note that headroom is modest. With the driver’s seat elevated to my liking, my hair kept brushing the headliner (I’m 6 feet tall). Extended-wheelbase models get quilted leather seats, but I could never get the hard backrests to conform to my body during our time in the XJ. Visibility is limited, too, with a tiny rear window and shallow windshield rake that puts the A-pillars in your forward view.
A panoramic moonroof is standard, as are a power-adjustable steering column and heating and ventilation for the front and rear seats — rare features to have standard, even in a flagship sedan. XJR models have sport seats with more aggressive bolstering.
The rear seats have abundant legroom and a supportive seat height, though headroom is still modest. Buy the extended-wheelbase XJ and you can opt for a two-position backseat with power-adjustable outboard seats, massagers, separate climate zones and a rear entertainment system with dual 10.2-inch screens, USB and HDMI ports, and folding tables.
Ergonomics & Electronics
The XJ’s 8-inch dashboard display supports pinch-and-swipe operation and has a row of physical buttons beneath it. Our test car, however, had a seemingly endless sequence of electronic glitches. The multimedia system would occasionally (and inexplicably) take an eternity to get past Jaguar’s startup banner and into any submenus. One editor observed the entire system freeze and restart while he was driving. On another occasion, the backup camera failed to activate, producing a black screen while I reversed the old-fashioned way. After I shifted back into Drive, the screen finally rebooted itself. In another instance, the camera refused to activate despite shifting into Reverse multiple times.
The stereo had its own gremlins, switching inexplicably between Bluetooth streaming audio and the radio at one point, then dropping satellite radio despite no signal obstruction in two other cases. Ultimately, the satellite radio failed altogether and never returned.
HD radio, Bluetooth audio and phone connectivity, a USB port and Meridian surround-sound audio are standard. In-car Wi-Fi and upgraded Meridian audio are optional. Jaguar’s InControl Apps platform runs applications off a compatible iPhone or Android smartphone, but the XJ doesn’t offer Apple CarPlay or Android Auto.
In place of analog gauges, the XJ has a 12.3-inch virtual instrument panel that can show similar gauges or full-screen navigation maps. The latter feature is similar to Audi’s Virtual Cockpit, though it lacks Audi’s Google Earth overlays.
Cargo & Storage
Typical of high-end luxury sedans, the XJ is meager on cabin storage areas. Trunk volume is 15.2 cubic feet. It’s an unremarkable figure for the segment, but it’s fairly deep. A power trunk lid is standard.
The XJ has not been crash-tested, a status that’s unlikely to change because of its limited sales volume. A blind spot warning system and a backup camera with front and rear parking sensors are standard; 360-degree cameras are optional. Full-speed adaptive cruise control and self-parking systems are optional, as is forward collision warning with automatic emergency braking.
Value in Its Class
This isn’t the first time we’ve had a buggy XJ and that should concern anyone who plans to buy, not just lease, the sedan. If our experience is any indication, the glitches could extend well beyond the warranty period. That said, Jaguar furnishes one heck of a warranty: five years or 60,000 miles of bumper-to-bumper coverage, with free scheduled maintenance the whole time. That should go a long way toward soothing problems large and small.
Pricing for the XJ runs from around $75,000 to north of $130,000 with all options. That’s a reasonable range as top-shelf luxury sedans go, especially given the XJ’s generous standard features. Jaguar’s range-topping sedan lacks the serenity of an S-Class or the technological spectacle of the new 7 Series and, if money is little object, both competitors are better all-around choices. But the XJ’s drivability still stands out. That, plus some big savings, might entice certain shoppers.