If full-size luxury cars were judged on looks alone, the 2014 Jaguar XJ would be the champion by a mile. Whereas most cars in this segment are conservative to a fault, the XJ is a feast for the eyes. With its deep chrome-ringed grille, low-and-long proportions and plenty of body bling, the XJ is a power sedan for folks who want to announce their status with a megaphone, not a whisper.
Inside, however, the XJ technology team took risks that didn't quite pay off. The chrome shifter disc that rises from the console upon starting up draws oohs and ahhs, but it feels chintzy. The virtual gauges change color depending on drive mode, but the tachometer needle lags behind during rapid acceleration. The XJ's aging touchscreen interface is also a risk in this segment, as practically every competitor has a newer, more capable infotainment system.
But here's the bottom line: The XJ is an awesome car to drive, particularly if you choose one of the righteous V8-powered models. The most righteous of them all, the new-for-2014 and dumbfoundingly fast 550-horsepower XJR super sedan, is possibly the most engaging executive sedan we've ever tested. If you value the time you spend behind the wheel, the 2014 Jaguar XJ is a must-drive. This big cat has sharp claws and swagger to spare.
What's New for 2014?
The big deal this year is the arrival of the ultra-high-performance XJR. In other news, the supercharged V6 has replaced the naturally aspirated V8 across the lineup, and power-closing doors are standard on every XJ.
What We Like
Unique styling; awesome V8 engines; engaging handling; premium interior vibe
What We Don't
Outdated touchscreen system; forgettable V8 fuel economy
The base XJ and the XJL Portfolio feature a supercharged 3.0-liter V6 that cranks out 340 hp and 332 lb-ft of torque. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) rates this engine at 18 miles per gallon city/27 mpg hwy with rear-wheel drive. All-wheel drive is available, but it'll cost you at the pump, dropping those ratings to 16 mpg city/24 mpg hwy.
The XJ Supercharged boasts a (you guessed it) supercharged 5.0-liter V8 that generates 470 hp and 424 lb-ft. Fuel economy drops to 15 mpg city/23 mpg hwy. Rear-wheel drive is the only available configuration.
The XJR gets a massaged version of the XJ Supercharged's V8 that makes a whopping 550 hp and 502 lb-ft. EPA has not rated fuel economy separately. Rear-wheel drive is again mandatory.
All XJ models employ an 8-speed automatic transmission.
Standard Features & Options
The 2014 Jaguar XJ sedan is offered in three main trim levels: base XJ, XJ Supercharged and XJR. All three are available in long-wheelbase form (denoted by a trailing "L").
Standard features on the base XJ ($75,095) include the supercharged V6, 19-inch alloy wheels, xenon headlights with LED accents, adaptive dampers, a panoramic sunroof, burl walnut veneers, a power-closing trunk, power-closing doors, keyless entry/ignition, dual-zone automatic climate control, a power tilt-telescopic steering wheel, heated front and rear seats, leather upholstery, Bluetooth, a navigation system with an 8-in touchscreen interface and a 14-speaker 380-watt Meridian audio system with iPod/USB connectivity and both HD and satellite radio.
The long-wheelbase version of the base XJ is called the XJL Portfolio ($82,095), and it gets 5.1 extra inches of rear legroom, heated and cooled front seats with 18-way power adjustability, heated and cooled rear seats, softer leather upholstery, a suede headliner, manual rear sunshades (power sunshades are optional), ebony wood veneer, 4-zone automatic climate control and various fancy interior trim additions.
The XJ Supercharged ($91,495) includes the supercharged 470-hp V8, adaptive xenon headlights, 20-in alloy wheels, bigger brakes, oak wood trim and a 20-speaker 825-watt Meridian audio system, while the XJL Supercharged ($94,495) adds the rear-seat luxuries found on the XJL Portfolio.
The XJR ($116,895) boasts the 550-hp supercharged V8, exclusive 20-in wheels, performance-tuned stability control and electronic differential, sportier steering calibrations and various sport-themed exterior and interior styling flourishes. The XJR-L ($119,895) gets all of that plus the long-wheelbase upgrades.
Options, depending on trim and configuration, include semi-aniline leather trim, a rear-seat entertainment with dual 10.2-in screens and individual reclining rear memory seats with massage and lumbar functions.
Exclusively offered on long-wheelbase models other than the XJR-L is a 26-speaker 1,300-watt Meridian audio system with a new feature called Conversation Assist. Jaguar says that this novel technology "uses microphones to channel passengers' voices through the audio system speakers, mixing music and speech volume accordingly, for more comfortable conversation."
Cargo capacity in the XJ's trunk is a cavernous 18.4 cu ft.
The XJ comes with 4-wheel anti-lock disc brakes (the V8 models get bigger discs), stability control and six airbags (front, front-side, full-length side curtain). A blind spot monitoring system is also standard, as are front and rear parking sensors and a rearview camera.
Like other executive-class sedans, the XJ has not been crash-tested in the U.S.
Behind the Wheel
Interior design is a strong suit for all XJ models. From the prominent, jetlike air vents to the 12.3-in TFT instrument panel, the style of the low-set dashboard is a refreshing departure from the stoic designs in other luxury sedans. Jaguar's distinctive rotary shift knob feels chintzy, but it sure looks slick as it rises out of the center console upon ignition. We'll award further style points for the array of available leathers and woods that can be mixed and matched to suit your creativity.
Front-seat comfort is fine in the XJ, though the chairs lack the range of adjustability and support BMW or Mercedes offers. In back, passengers will have to cope with a bottom cushion that is unusually low by class standards, but legroom is plentiful even in the short wheelbase XJ, extending to limolike generosity in the XJL. Happily, the XJL now offers reclining rear seats with massage functions after years of going without.
On the road, the Jaguar XJ is one of the most engaging full-size luxury sedans on the market. These cars are often driven by chauffeurs, but we've met bigwigs who like to drive themselves, and for them the XJ is a natural choice. Having blasted around a tight road-course circuit in an XJR, the big Jag even feels at home on the track. Note, however, that the short wheelbase makes a real difference from the driver seat, as the long-wheelbase XJL is less agile.
Under normal commuting conditions, the XJ has a tauter ride than some in this class, but it filters out harsh impacts satisfactorily. Similarly, while road and wind noise aren't whisper quiet at speed, few will object to the XJ's sound levels, especially considering the sweet noises emanating from either of the V8 engines. The supercharged V6 is nice enough and gets much better fuel economy (with rear-wheel drive), but the siren call of those V8s would be too much for us to resist. Acceleration in the XJ Supercharged and XJR is astounding in both force and immediacy.
Other Cars to Consider
Audi A8 -- The A8 is lovely to drive and has a peerless sense of interior quality. Check out the hyper-efficient turbodiesel V6 (TDI).
BMW 7 Series -- The big 7 Series isn't the most distinctively styled luxo-liner on the block, but it has a great collection of turbocharged and hybrid powerplants.
Mercedes-Benz S-Class -- Redesigned and richer than ever, the S-Class sets the standard if driver involvement isn't your thing.
Our XJ would have to have a V8 in it. Jaguar's supercharged V8s are exceptionally entertaining. We'd stick with the plenty-powerful XJ Supercharged, though, as the XJR's extra 80 hp probably isn't worth the $25,000 price premium.