There is something about sitting inside the leather-covered interior of the newly redesigned 2011 Jaguar XJ that makes one want to use words such as pip pip, cheerio and all that rot. (Although finding some words in Hindi might be more appropriate, because Jaguar was sold to India's Tata Motors by Ford Motor Co.)
The appeal of the redesigned exterior of this flagship sedan is open to debate. What will matter, however, is the opinion of people who can afford to buy it. This fourth-generation XJ sedan is definitely an elegant way to get around for those who can afford the price tag.
Prices start at $72,700 for the short wheelbase XJ and range up to $113,200 for the long wheelbase Supersport. There are short- and long-wheelbase versions of all three trim levels, and the longer version costs $3,000 more than the shorter.
My XJL ("L" for long wheelbase) started at $79,700. That included Xenon front and LED rear lights, active head restraints and six airbags, and navigation and rear backup systems.
With the long wheelbase comes an extra 5 inches of rear legroom, so the backseat is plenty spacious.
With three option packages, the price came to $87,000 and included features such as adaptive front headlights, a fancier 1,200-watt audio system upgrade and 20-inch wheels.
The new XJ is available in the U.S. with three engines. Mine was the 5-liter, naturally aspirated V-8 with 385 horsepower and 380 foot-pounds of torque. Others are 5-liter supercharged V-8s with either 470 or 510 horsepower.
Although the 6-speed automatic with manual shifting with paddle shifters on the steering wheel works quite well, 7- and 8-speed transmissions are becoming the norm in this class.
When sliding in behind the wheel, the first thing you notice is the lack of gauges. Press the Start button and, magically, three "virtual" gauges appear in a 12.3-inch, high-definition screen: the speedometer, tachometer and fuel and temperature gauges. While this is happening, the JaguarDrive Selector, an aluminum knob in the center console, slowly rises. A smaller touch screen in the center cluster displays audio, navigation and climate-control functions, among others.
In Normal mode, the XJ cruises along in a comfortable, dignified manner without imparting too much excitement. Steering is very precise and responsive, but there is absolutely no feel to it.
But there's also a button with a checkered flag for the Dynamic mode, which is advertised as allowing the vehicle's full potential to be exploited. It firms up the suspension, gives a quicker response to the throttle, holds the gears longer and, I thought, improved the steering feel. Bottom line is that it feels sportier.
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