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2011 Jaguar XJ Sedan Road Test Review

2011 Jaguar XJ Sedan New Car Review

Dances on Pavement as New Luxury Performance Sedan

by Bob Plunkett

Jaguar XJ Named 2011 International
Luxury Car of the Year
- Most Respected

Sensuously shaped sedans -- Jaguar's flagship XJ series in rakish new fastback style for 2011 with lightweight aluminum structural elements and a powerful engine lurking below the bulging hood -- park side by side on a block of Alta Loma Road just off the Sunset Strip in West Hollywood, Calif.

Bridgesstone sponsors 2011 International Car of the Year AwardsA special thanks to Bridgestone Tire for sponsoring the 2011 International Car of the Year Awards.

With the push-button starter already engaged and the big engine purring, a stretched-wheelbase XJL Supercharged sedan we select for a drive -- wearing high-gloss ebony body paint and the leather-lined cabin trimmed in shades of caramel and sand -- is ready to roll.

So we're under way in seconds, pausing only long enough to adjust contours of the luscious driver's seat and set all mirrors and the leather-bound steering wheel for a custom fit.

Jaguar XJ Named 2011 International Luxury Car of the Year
Courtney Caldwell, Editor-in-Chief, Road & Travel Magazine and ICOTY founder, presents Ian Callum, Design Director for Jaguar, with the International Luxury Car of the Year Award for the 2011 Jaguar XJ. Also on hand from left to right: Denise McCluggage, editor,; Adrian Hallmark, Global Brand Director for Jaguar; Michael Martini, President of Bridgestone OE Americas (ICOTY sponsor); Joe Wiesenfelder, Senior Editor,; and Global Head of Communications for Jaguar Land Rover, Frank Klaas.

We point the new XJL westward on Sunset into Beverly Hills, then hang a right onto Benedict Canyon Road and climb way up to Mulholland Drive, the famous ridge route of the Hollywood Hills high over Tinsel town.

Our XJL behaves itself nicely on this tortuously twisty route, the rear wheels throwing muscle into each turn as 275/40R19 tires claw for traction on the rough pavement.

Twist the console's rotary shifter dial one notch to the right for Sport mode to activate shifter paddles on the steering wheel and you can play the upshift/downshift game when slicing apexes in the curvy stuff at a swift clip.

Or put your foot into the pedal on the rare Mulholland straightaway but watch out -- this extravagantly long vehicle packing a supercharged version of Jaguar's new 5.0-liter V8 can rip to illicit speed in nano-time.

It's quick off the line, capable of charging from a stoplight start to 60 mph in less than five seconds.

And -- if you have sufficient guts and a lead throttle foot -- the maximum potential speed shoots way out to the mark of 155 mph.

For a large car, and a supreme luxury liner at that, such sport-tinged flavor is definitely not what's expected here. However, pleasant surprises and driving excitement seem to come together with extensive luxury features heaped into the 2011 design for XJ.

Jaguar's new V8 -- displacing 5.0 liters off an aluminum block with 32 valves and four-cam configuration -- in the naturally aspirated version makes 385 hp at 6500 rpm and 380 lb-ft of torque at 3500 rpm.

However, with an Eaton blower attached as well as dual air-to-water intercoolers, the supercharged edition gushes to 470 hp at 6000-to-6500 rpm and pushes the torque out to 424 lb-ft at 2500-to-5500 rpm.

All that torque translates through a sophisticated six-speed electronic automatic transmission with the Jaguar sequential shift system which brings the option of one-touch manual gear-change control via those paddles planted on the back side of the steering wheel.

Further, there are three transmission modes -- Normal (comfortable and smooth), Dynamic (more responsive and sporting), and Winter (for increasing tire grip on slippery pavement).

And the clever JaguarDrive Selector amounts to a rotary shift interface. Mounted on the center console, the round knob allows the XJ driver to select a transmission setting -- Park, Reverse, Neutral, Drive, Sport -- by simply twisting the dial.

Speed-sensitive variable-assist power rack and pinion steering and four-wheel disc brakes with computerized anti-lock brake system (ABS) controls plus electronic brake distribution (EBD) improve all motion maneuvers for XJ cars.

Further, a dynamic stability controller (DSC) is aboard. It applies brake and throttle automatically to correct potentially dangerous yaw behavior.

Log some seat time in a new XJ, as one driver manages through a series of tests on twisty roads weaving through the Hollywood Hills of Los Angeles County, and its performance and handling traits will no doubt impress, as will the comforts provided in a passenger compartment pitched toward unabashed luxury.

But this one also dazzles the eye.

A new design language is employed on the XJ, according to Jaguar Design Director Ian Callum, who describes the fluid contemporary styling as bold and clearly provocative.

Callum points to the elongated shape of side windows which fashions the car's sweeping silhouette and becomes the essence of the design.

Long in the prow and low in stance, the almost GT-style machine presents a tightly sculpted body and muscular fender bulges rippling around enormous low-profile tires with a low arching line of the roof drawn over the cockpit.

The unibody structure on 2011 XJ sedans is composed of lightweight aluminum put together with self-piercing aluminum rivets and heat-cured glues in techniques lifted from the aerospace industry to create an ultra-rigid frame measuring much stiffer than a similar body crafted in steel.

The new structure measures almost two inches narrower than the previous version yet the wheel track width is slightly broader. And Jaguar builds the sedan in two wheelbase lengths -- dubbed XJ and XJL -- with XJL gaining about five more inches of legroom in the rear seat.

For 2011 issues, there are three XJ trim variations riding on the standard-wheelbase platform, then three more for the XJL long-wheelbase platform.

Trim designations with the standard-wheelbase platform are the XJ (stocking the naturally aspirated engine), XJ Supercharged, and XJ Supersport (a custom-order supercharged edition with over-the-top appointments including a leather headliner and semi-aniline leather on seats).

Trim designations using the long-wheelbase platform are the same -- XJL, XJL Supercharged and XJL Supersport.

2011 Jaguar XJ Sedan Interior

The cabin in every version has room for five passengers (two in front bucket seats and three on a broad rear bench).

Appointments include twill-stitched soft leather upholstery, rich hardwood veneer trimming dash and doors, and chrome and piano black dressing switch gear.

The virtual instrument panel amounts to a 12-inch high-definition video screen that changes imagery as the vehicle changes speed.

Premium audio options include a 1200-watt Bowers & Wilkins system and a hard-drive navigation system.

Jaguar establishes the MSRP for 2011 XJ at $71,650, or $78,650 for a stretched XJL.

XJ Supercharged tallies to $86,650, and XJL Supercharged lists for $89,650, while XJL Supersport -- Jaguar's dearest car -- caps the series at $112,150.

See All 2011 International Car of the Year Award Winners!