Buyers looking at the 2013 Jaguar XJ luxury sedan have two more options to consider. Alternatively, premium buyers living in areas that get their fair share of inclement weather have another brand to consider. An all-wheel drive system is available and it comes with a new 3.0-liter supercharged V6 engine.

Four instead of two

All-wheel drive is a sort of first for Jaguar (providing we ignore the X-Type from a few years back; most people did). Given that Jaguar and Land Rover are the same company, and the latter brand has forged a considerable reputation with its 4-wheeling hardware, one might be forgiven for thinking that all the engineers had to do was grab a drivetrain from a Range Rover or something and bolt it to an XJ body.

But no, that wouldn't have worked. Such fundamentally different vehicles need their own systems. Jaguar's technicians have created a setup tailored specifically to the Leaping Cat marque. This means more of a rear-drive feel in normal conditions, while torque is sent to whichever wheels have the most traction when grip becomes tricky. It also had to be light enough to complement the XJ's luxurious-yet-lithe nature.

Even on snow and ice, an XJ with all-wheel drive is utterly reassuring (a decent set of winter tires always helps). Electronic assistance brakes a wheel here and there. In Winter Mode, the car sets off from standstill in second gear, not first -- less chance of spinning the wheels. It also sends 30 percent of engine power to the front axle for a composed launch. But then more power can be directed to either end in a split second, as the system's brain thinks fit.

Dynamic Mode allows a little more leeway before any traction management kicks in. It also sharpens the steering and throttle responses. Best explored in less wintry conditions, this mode is still fun and sure-footed at the same time.

Six instead of eight

Up until now, the XJ has only offered V8 engines. The V6 here is based on its 8-cylinder sibling, just smaller and lighter. Two fewer cylinders means having enough space up front for the all-wheel drive paraphernalia. But it doesn't mean disappointment for the driver.

Output is rated at 340 horsepower and 332 lb-ft of torque, which is more than up to the task of propelling a large sedan at an enthusiastic rate. And missing the distinctive bark of a V8 is a nonissue, anyway. The cosseting cabin is far too well insulated to let in any such noise.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) rates an all-wheel drive 2013 XJ 3.0 at 16 miles per gallon in the city, 24 mpg on the highway and 19 mpg combined (using premium gas). Not much of a penalty over the 18 mpg city/27 mpg hwy and 21 mpg combined figures of a rear-drive equivalent. Gears are selected courtesy of a slick 8-speed automatic.

Apologies if you already know this, but a supercharger is a kind of air compressor. It forces denser air into the cylinder. Mixed with the injected gasoline, a more efficient, more powerful combustion occurs. The result is greater energy. It's a method known as forced induction; a turbocharger is similar.

This arrangement of all-wheel drive and supercharged V6 will be available in the smaller 2013 Jaguar XF sedan come February. Bear in mind that the aluminum-bodied XJ is the same weight as the XF and therefore not too much mass for a smaller engine to move around.

Virtually every other player in this segment offers all-wheel drive. The 2013 Audi A8 Quattro (which can come with a turbocharged 3.0-liter V6), 2013 Mercedes-Benz S550 4Matic and 2013 Porsche Panamera 4 are just a few tempting choices.

The 2013 Jaguar XJ starts at $73,200 with the 3.0-liter V6. All-wheel drive adds another $3,500, or $2,500 in long-wheelbase variants.

author photo

Colin Ryan has driven hundreds of cars thousands of miles while writing for BBC Top Gear magazine, Popular Mechanics, the Los Angeles Times, European Car, Import Tuner and many other publications, websites, TV shows, etc.

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