Full 2009 Jaguar XJ Review
What's New for 2009
For 2009, the Jaguar XJ8 and XJ8 L gain standard 19-inch wheels, navigation, a premium sound system and front parking sensors. Added to those models' options list are heated and cooled seats, along with a heated steering wheel. Other trim levels carry over mostly unchanged, although some options have been regrouped into packages.
The 2009 Jaguar XJ brims with style, character and tradition. While German rivals might boast precision, efficiency and a number of high-tech gizmos befitting a space shuttle, comparing the XJ to one of its Continental competitors would be like pitting an old comfy wingback against one of those stark leather and metal chairs from Mike Myers' "Saturday Night Live" sketch "Sprockets." Not that we're condemning the XJ to a retirement community somewhere in Florida. On the contrary, this British sedan's unique brand of old-world charm, new-world driving dynamics and relative simplicity has a special appeal to members of any generation.
It may look like Ye Olde Motorcar, but the Jag XJ drives like a thoroughly modern automobile. It strikes an ideal balance between driver involvement and luxurious comfort. And although the XJ will never be the best candidate for tackling a tight canyon road, its ability to handle around-town corners is a welcome surprise for a car that is mostly intended to ferry four passengers in opulent comfort at high speeds.
The long-wheelbase XJ, despite dimensions similar to those of the Audi A8 L, BMW 750Li and Mercedes S550, manages to feel a bit smaller than its competitors from behind the wheel. The wide, low-slung cabin may have something to do with that, but most of the credit should go to the XJ's rigid aluminum chassis, which contributes to a curb weight that's about 600 pounds lighter than its luxury-sedan competitors. The steering also helps in this perception, as its excellent feel and well-balanced weighting make you forget there are several feet of British saloon astern. We suggest opting for this longer body style (XJ8 L, Vanden Plas and Super V8), since we think the backseat is a bit cramped on standard-sized models.
The choice to buy a 2009 Jaguar XJ cannot be made using logic; it's more of an emotional decision. For those who find cars like the Audi A8, BMW 7 Series and Mercedes S550 too sterile and lacking in character, the XJ will fill that gap. Also, the fact it doesn't have all the high-tech (and often confusing) gizmos of those German sedans or the Lexus LS 460 will appeal to some and turn others off. On the other hand, its weird ergonomics, several low-rent interior pieces and less interior space make the XJ feel decidedly behind the times. So for those looking for something decidedly different, the Jaguar XJ will definitely deliver -- just make sure you truly like "different."
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2009 Jaguar XJ is available in five trim levels: base XJ8, XJ8 L (long wheelbase), ultra-luxurious Vanden Plas, performance-oriented XJR and the Super V8, which combines the plush appointments of the Vanden Plas with the supercharged performance of the XJR.
Standard equipment on the XJ8 and XJ8L includes 19-inch wheels, an adaptive suspension, xenon headlamps, front and rear park assist, a sunroof, auto-dimming and heated mirrors, dual-zone climate control, 14-way power front seats with driver memory functions, a power tilt/telescoping steering wheel, power-adjustable pedals, heated front and rear seats, leather upholstery, burl walnut trim, a power rear sunshade, Bluetooth, a navigation system and a 12-speaker Alpine stereo with a CD player. The XJ8L differs only in its extra rear-seat space. Many of the features that are standard on higher trim levels are optional on the XJ8 and XJ8 L.
The 2009 Vanden Plas is available in long-wheelbase form only and adds power folding mirrors, a heated steering wheel, heated and cooled front seats, fold-down rear-seat picnic tables, lambswool rugs and extra veneer trim.
The 2009 XJR (standard wheelbase only) adds a supercharged V8, 20-inch wheels, high-performance tires, upgraded brakes, a sport-tuned suspension, adaptive cruise control and a sport non-heated steering wheel.
Optional on the XJR and Vanden Plas are a Multimedia (DVD entertainment) Package and a Warm Climate Package that adds four-zone climate control and rear side sunshades. Both packages are standard on the 2009 Super V8, which is essentially equipped with the XJR's performance bits and Vanden Plas' luxurious pieces. Added niceties on the Super V8 include a power-adjustable rear seat (including lumbar support and head restraints) and rear control of the front passenger seat (to allow a rear passenger to maximize legroom). The Super V8 Portfolio Package adds unique wheels, special trim, a unique interior color and satellite radio. The latter item is optional on all XJ models.
Powertrains and Performance
All 2009 Jaguar XJ models employ a 4.2-liter V8 that sends power to the rear wheels via a six-speed automatic transmission. All but the XJR and Super V8 have a naturally aspirated version of this engine that makes 300 horsepower and 310 pound-feet of torque. A supercharger on the XJR and Super V8 trims pumps output up to 400 hp and 413 lb-ft of torque. Fuel economy for non-supercharged XJs is 16 mpg city/25 mpg highway and 19 mpg combined. The supercharged models return 15 city/22 highway and 18 combined.
All XJs are quick, with a Vanden Plas we tested going from zero to 60 mph in 6.8 seconds. The supercharged versions are simply thrilling -- we've timed a Super V8 at just 5.6 seconds for the 0-60 sprint.
Front-seat side airbags and full-length side curtain airbags are standard, as are antilock brakes and stability control. The XJ features Jaguar's "Adaptive Restraint Technology System" that monitors the positions and weights of the front-seat passengers to determine how and when to deploy the various airbags.
Interior Design and Special Features
This thing is a tomb. Even at 100 mph, the cabin hushes wind and road noise. And with its soft leather trim, burl walnut veneer and commodious space, the Jag wouldn't be a bad place to spend your eternal slumber either. The 14-way front seats strike a nice balance between plush comfort and firm support, while rear passengers will find the long-wheelbase body equally welcoming. Beverages aren't so lucky, as the four cupholders are small and poorly placed.
Unfortunately, the Jaguar XJ's interior design is so far past its prime, it deserves to be in a tomb. The flat dash and large swaths of wood certainly satisfy a traditional luxury aesthetic, but the puffy black buttons, green backlighting and antiquated touchscreen graphics are a throwback to the 1990s. Ergonomics are a mixed bag. Some controls are far simpler and user-friendly than those found in German competitors, but the audio controls are haphazardly placed. Other -- let's say "charming" -- idiosyncrasies that remain on the XJ include cryptic ventilation controls and the "J-Gate" shifter that, should you choose to change gears manually, operates with all the precision of rebar stuck in half-dried cement. If the XJ had the new Jag XF's modern interior (or even something remotely reminiscent of it), its appeal would increase greatly.
The 300-hp V8 won't knock your socks off, but it still provides plenty of low-range and midrange power to forcefully push this rear-wheel-drive sedan off the line and make highway passing a breeze. With the supercharged engine, it's practically a hurricane as power surges forth effortlessly. In both versions, however, the six-speed auto is a little too eager to fling itself into 6th gear (presumably for fuel economy), requiring frequent downshifts.
For such a large car, the 2009 Jaguar XJ actually handles quite well and -- particularly with the XJR and its 20-inch wheels -- features a ride that's on the firm side among large luxury sedans. Still, with its active suspension system, the XJ still delivers the comfort that folks expect from a car wearing a Jaguar badge.