The British have a penchant for revering (and some say clinging to) things past -- old buildings and dentistry from the 16th century, warm beer, 50-year-old double-decker Routemasters, the royal family and the Jaguar XJ. For more than 40 years, the XJ's basic styling strayed very little through three generations and several midlife updates. About the wildest thing to happen was the addition of square headlamps in 1990 -- and they were generally met with a chorus of jeers and "cor blimeys!"
Not since Prince Charles was a teenager had the Jaguar XJ been considered the cutting edge of full-size luxury sedans, even when it introduced a lightweight aluminum frame, powerful V8 engines, active damping suspension and high-tech features like adaptive cruise control, navigation and Bluetooth. Blame the vintage styling, which pleased the Jaguar faithful but was so stale it was practically growing mold.
That all changed when Jag pulled the covers off its radical next-generation 2011 XJ. Gone was the ye olde styling, and in came sexy modern duds unlike anything else on the road. The cabin ditched the stuffy fascia of wood, the ugly green lighting and crotchety old J-gate shifter in favor of a cabin so exquisitely detailed and dramatically designed that it may make a potential Bentley buyer think twice. Really, this would be like Susan Boyle walking into a pub and coming out looking like Keira Knightley. The XJ has truly gone from a forgotten player to a sought-after all-star.
Current Jaguar XJ
The Jaguar XJ is a large luxury sedan available in regular and long-wheelbase (L) four-door body styles. Both are available in three trim levels, which correspond with an engine: XJ, XJ Supercharged and XJ Supersport.
The base XJ and XJ L are powered by a 5.0-liter V8 that produces 385 horsepower and 380 pound-feet of torque. As with all XJ models, a six-speed automatic with manual shift control is standard. The XJ Supercharged features a supercharged 5.0-liter V8 good for 470 hp and 424 lb-ft of torque, while the XJ Supersport gets a more powerful version of the supercharged V8 good for 510 hp and 461 lb-ft of torque. Aided by the XJ's relatively lightweight aluminum construction, all exhibit rapid acceleration on par with or quicker than their competitors.
The Jaguar XJ's interior is exquisite. Not only does its aesthetic design appeal, but the XJ's craftsmanship and materials quality are a step beyond those of its impressive rivals. Supple leather, rich wood, tasteful applications of chrome and ice-blue lighting decorate a cabin fit for royalty. In-car electronics are dominated by a large touchscreen, which works OK but doesn't react as quickly to screen-and-knob inputs as BMW's iDrive. The instrument panel is, in fact, a big LCD, and adapts to different driving scenarios and in-use vehicle functions (navigation, for instance).
On the road, few cars balance ride comfort and sporty handling as deftly as the XJ. Even with the big wheels, it glides down the road with sophisticated composure. And yet with its lightweight aluminum chassis, adaptive suspension and sharp steering, the XJ is also deceptively agile.
Downsides include a less spacious cabin than rivals and suspect reliability, given the reputation of past Jags. Still, the XJ is a thoroughly modern and impressive luxury car that's actually less expensive than other European flagship luxury sedans.
Used Jaguar XJ Models
The current generation of the Jaguar XJ debuted for 2011 and there have been no significant changes since.
Those interested in an older XJ may want to take a look at one of the previous-generation models covered in a separate Jaguar XJ Series review.
Read the most recent 2013 Jaguar XJ review.
If you are looking for older years, visit our used Jaguar XJ page.