Reviews

2012 Jaguar XJ Walk Around

The Jaguar XJ expands the work done with the mid-sized XF by bringing a more sporting, sleeker look to Jaguar's flagship that just oozes style. Central to this are lots of glass and no building-size pillars for a roofline that seamlessly blends into the trunk.

At more than 200 inches long the XJ is not a small car but it disguises its size well, much like the smallest Learjet more than three times the length of an XJL, and the XJ doesn't look nearly as imposing as a BMW 7 Series or Audi A8. The Lexus LS looks rather plain next to the Jaguar.

Surprisingly, the XJ design works as well on the standard wheelbase as it does on the long-wheelbase XJL. A larger rear door and side glass are the only way to differentiate them.

Pulling the lower door sheetmetal inward toward the rear wheel enhances the hips covering the rear tires. The only design element that incites any controversy is the black polycarbonate panel between the rear doors and rear window, a pillar normally body-colored on other cars. From dead astern it looks merely a wider rear window, but from any other angle it tends to look better on cars with dark paint or deeply tinted rear windows.

Exterior ornamentation is kept to a minimum with the requisite mesh chrome grilles and chrome spats in the outer lower nostrils, a badge behind the front wheel which includes supercharged if it applies, bright window trim, the trunk badge, Jag's leaper in the middle, chrome strip across the rear bumper and dual quadrangle tailpipes. Apart from larger standard wheels and the front fender badge there is no trim distinction between XJ and XJL or standard or supercharged cars.

With 152 light emitting diodes outside, the lighting elements take up where chrome leaves off. Front light housings carry two large and two small circular lights, with a strip of LED running lights below. The tail lamps are arranged as three vertical columns to mimic a cat's claws, and cleverly concealed in plain sight at the top of the rear light housing is a clear bump, like an animal's eye, that hides five red LEDs for side marker light duty to meet regulations without spoiling the flowing body lines.

Interior

The Jaguar XJ is a true flagship, filled with fine leather and wood, as much Scandinavian as English it seems. It's stylish, luxurious and sporty, although there are places in the design and materials that make us ask if this is the best Jaguar can do.

The XJ comes standard with leather of course, front seats both heated and cooled, with dual-zone climate control. XJL and supercharged models add piped leather upholstery and massage front seats with 20-way adjustment and four-zone climate control. The five upholstery choices include contrasting cabin trim, stitching and piping; Ivory can be paired with four colors. Some XJs have suede headliners. Supersport models get a unique leather color, four unique woods or piano black trim and a leather headliner.

A 1.5-inch band of wood (we like the walnut) or carbon fiber moves in a sweeping curve from the doors under the windshield like a gunwale on a small cabin cruiser, the outward bend providing an air of spaciousness. It's like a step, separating levels of horizontal leather on the dashboard. There's a hump and visor like a ballcap over the instruments, which are clear enough, but they aren't real, they're a rendition that look not unlike animation. The optional steering wheel is stylish and original, mostly leather with a thin wood band.

There are two fat climate control vents in the center of the dash, and two smaller ones at the edges. They look like the nose of a torpedo sticking out of its tubes, or a WW2 bomber engine without the propeller, and they have plastic chrome rings like a model of Saturn. They'd be perfect in a '58 Buick. There's an analog clock on the dash, with no numbers, just hard-to-read hashmarks, and more cheap chrome plastic. It's neither pretty nor functional. We can only guess that Jaguar thinks it's classy.

With all the seat adjustments, any size driver can get comfortable. Seat contour and bolstering seems appropriate to the car's mission, which is to say it's not too tight or sporty, and the driver's seat adjustable bolstering comes in handy on curvy roads. Rear seats are also comfortable and heated. XJL models add more than five inches to rear accommodation, making an expansive 44.1 inches of rear legroom total. The XJL costs $3000 more, so if you carry passengers or have a family it could be worth it, especially since the XJL weighs less than 100 pounds more. Reading lights, glass overhead, and venting add comfort to the rear.

The instrument panel is a 12.3-inch screen with renditions of analog gauges on it; it looks like animation, or like a decal of a gauge that you might find on a kids' pedal car. The tachometer needle doesn't seem to move as quickly as the engine revs. On the steering wheel, in addition to the cruise and audio control, there's a scroll surrounded by arrows that yields driver information; it's a piece leftover from when Jaguar was owned by Ford, as Fords have the exact same little dial. We found most of what we wanted to know, although we never figured out how to get the tachometer, odometer, and DTE (distance to empty) on the screen at the same time. Let alone the tachometer, which also kept disappearing if we pressed the wrong arrow at the wrong time. And besides DTE could only be accessed by a button on the turn-signal stalk. Jaguar makes it complicated.

The transmission gears are selected with a rotary dial that pops up on the console, except when you manually shift using paddles at the steering wheel. Above the shift dial are the audio and climate controls, and above them is the 8-inch touch-screen that we found to be a bit of a non-intuitive mess. We kept having to refer to the thick manual, and even then it felt like a mess. Naturally iPod other inputs are included, and the hard drive has enough space to rip 10 CDs uncompressed, a good thing as the available Bowers & Wilkins 20-speaker, 1.2-kilowatt sound system will clearly reproduce any fault in your source material.

Outward visibility is fairly good given the expanse of glass, and the bright bi-Xenon headlamps, although the passenger C pillar creates an over-the-shoulder blind spot. On the freeway, the standard blind-spot warning will alert you, although we're not major fans because of all the false alarms. We found the parking sensors so loud as to be distracting; perhaps this can be adjusted.

Trunk space is average for the class and impeccably finished down to the aluminum runners in the floor. Unlike some competitors with run-flat tires the Jaguar carries a spare under the floor (deleting the spare adds 3 cubic feet). The power trunk lid can be programmed for opening height lest you or your garage overhead is petite.

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