Jaguar XJ V-6 — Frugal luxury

By Jim Meachen and Ted Biederman

Jaguar has achieved the hat trick with its 2013 XJ premium sedan offering three new-to-the-model features — a supercharged  3.0-liter V-6 engine, all-wheel drive, and an eight-speed automatic transmission. It's a combination that works surprisingly well.

Although we were unsure about the adequacy of a V-6 in the brand's flagship sedan, we were quickly won over after just a handful of miles. Throw in the sophisticated eight-speed shifter and new-for-Jaguar AWD (a V-6 exclusive) and you have the makings of a winner especially at a base price in the mid-70s.The thing here is that for only a very slight fall-off in performance — a fall-off that the average person will probably never notice — you’re getting one heck of a vehicle.

Additionally the new powertrain offers improved fuel economy, 18 city/27 highway, compared to the standard 5.0-liter V-8 rated at 15 city, 23 highway. (These numbers are for the rear-wheel drive models.) Perhaps the real reason Jaguar and virtually every other manufacturer is jumping on the supercharging/turbocharging bandwagon is to cut fuel consumption to meet future EPA standards. In this case it works and the customer is the winner.

Jaguar's new supercharged V-6 engine making 340 horsepower and 332 pound-feet of torque is only marginally slower than the 5.0-liter V-8 that churns out 385 horsepower and 380 pound-feet of torque. Jaguar says the V-8 can reach 60 mph in 5.4 seconds while the new V-6 can accomplish the same feat in 5.7 seconds. The choice here is between three to four extra miles to a gallon of premium together with an $8,000 lower purchase price (compared to the standard V-8) and three-tenths of a second from 0-to-60? Seems like a no-brainer.

The Jaguar XJ has impeccable road manners that should please most drivers. Jaguar has also retuned the suspension this year to improve ride quality, so now — even if you opt for the 20-inch tires — they transmit less impact harshness than in the past. The comparatively light weight of the XJ imparts a sense of agility and nimbleness that most rivals can't match, while the driver-selectable settings for engine, transmission and suspension give the driver a wide range of dynamic choices.

One sour note, Jaguar's stop-start technology that was included with our test car is not ready for prime time. The fuel-saving program that cuts the engine off at full stop and then turns it on when your foot is removed from the brake, shuttered to off and then shuttered back to life in a very non-premium-car fashion. We think Jag needed to better perfect its system before installing it in its flagship model.

There's no letdown inside the V-6 model, which is an experience in luxury that makes the car very inviting. Craftsmanship and materials quality rival any sedan on the planet. We found the front bucket seats wonderfully supportive. The rear seats are also extremely comfortable, but we discovered rear-seat legroom on the tight side in our standard-wheelbase model. We expect the long wheelbase version is better.

Cutting-edge electronics is dominated by a large touchscreen. The dash is awash in ice-blue lighting with the traditional Jaguar large round dials. But the dials aren't real, just clever digital representations that dissolve away into a huge picture of a Jaguar Leaper when the car is turned off. There are some neat effects such as lighting only the portion of the speedometer or tachometer in use and darkening other sections.

On the downside the touchscreen is not as handy as the latest generation of BMW's iDrive and other luxury cars. Processing speed is sometimes slow and doesn't work as smoothly as this high-level of sophistication would dictate.

One of the truly magical features is the round transmission shift knob that rises out of the center console when the car is started and retracts when it is turned off.

The XJ is loaded with standard equipment goodies, many of which are options on other high-end cars. They include an adaptive suspension, panoramic sunroof, automatic xenon headlights, a power-closing trunk, rear-view camera, heated rear seats, front and rear parking sensors, and a blind-spot warning system.

We like the fuel savings, lower purchase price, and the availability of all-wheel drive with the V-6 package. But if you desire the traditional V-8 Jaguar performance you won't be disappointed. In addition to the naturally aspired V-8 there is a supercharged 5.0-liter V-8 making 470 horsepower and an even more performance-tuned variant producing 510 horsepower.

The base price of the V-6 with rear-wheel drive is $74,075. Our AWD test car with a couple of options carried a bottom line of $81,575.

Base price: $74,075; as driven, $81,575
Engine: 3.0-liter supercharged V-6
Horsepower: 340 @ 6,500 rpm
Torque: 332 foot-pounds @ 3,500 rpm
Drive: all-wheel
Transmission: 8-speed automatic
Seating: 2/3
Wheelbase: 119.4 inches
Length: 201.9 inches
Curb weight: 4,125 pounds
Turning circle: 40.7 feet
Luggage capacity: 15.2 cubic feet
Fuel capacity: 21.7 gallons (premium)
EPA rating 27/18 (FWD), 24/16 (AWD)
0-60: 5.7 seconds (manufacturer)
Also consider: Audi A8, Mercedes-Benz S-Class, BMW 7-Series

The Good
• Fuel-efficient supercharged V-6
• All-wheel drive available
• Elegant interior
• Abundant standard features

The Bad
• Touchscreen can be difficult

The Ugly
• Backseat a bit tight on standard wheelbase models