2013 Jaguar XJ 3.0 AWD: All-wheel-drive Jag built for all seasons
MONT TREMBLANT, QUE.—The off-road course at Mecaglisse, a racetrack located about an hour north of Montreal, is laid out in a configuration I’d normally associate with motocross bikes. It has tight turns, berms and hills, and the surface is comprised entirely of deep, loose sand.
Negotiating the course would have been a minor challenge on my Kawasaki, yet here I am lapping in a 2013 Jaguar XJ, of the long-wheelbase variety, no less.
My instructor advises me to stop in the middle of a steep incline, in deep sand, and then get going again, which the XJ does without hesitation. This off-road exercise is designed to demonstrate the efficiency of Jaguar’s all-new all-wheel-drive system, available in 2013 in the $61,500 XF AWD and the $89,000 XJ AWD.
I’m sure no one in their right minds will take a Jaguar off-roading, unless it’s for a short hop across the unpaved driveway at the cottage in Muskoka, and it’s not the reason Jaguar product planners have added power to the front wheels on this premium sedan. They did it to sell cars.
According to Jaguar’s marketing folks, more than 80 per cent of premium luxury sedans sold in the northern United States are all-wheel-drive models. Cross the border into Canada and that number is higher still. Considering the winter we experience, it’s understandable that a large, rear-drive-only platform might not be a popular choice.
All-wheel-drive is part of a new powertrain that includes a 335-hp, supercharged 3 L V6 mated to an eight-speed automatic. The engine and transmission are new to the North American market, having been introduced in Europe earlier this year. The eight-speed replaces the six-speed automatic on all XF and XJ models.
The 5.0 L, naturally aspirated, 385-hp V8 is gone, while the more-powerful and more-expensive supercharged V8 models are available only in rear-drive versions.
Proponents of the V8 engine won’t be disappointed by the new supercharged V6; it’s powerful and, combined with the new transmission, is very smooth. It’s only marginally slower than the V8, doing the 0-100-km/h dash in 6.4 seconds (compared to 5.7 for the V8).
As expected, it’s also easier on fuel, with consumption now rated at 9.8 L/100 km combined (a 1.2 L/100 km reduction from the V8). Contributing to the improved fuel economy is a start/stop function.
It’s not Jaguar’s first foray into all-wheel-drive (remember the X-Type?), but incorporating the system into the XJ and XF posed a few challenges, since those cars were originally designed as rear drivers. A transfer case (the same Magna unit that can be found on 7-Series BMWs) has been added to the rear of the transmission, and it splits power front-to-rear using a multi-plate wet clutch.
The system is somewhat similar to the one in the Nissan GT-R, in that it is a rear-drive-biased system. The GT-R and AWD Jags are the only cars I know of that have front half-shafts that pass through the oil sump to keep the engine low in the chassis. In the future, rear-drive Jaguar sedans will be designed with AWD in mind so it will be easier to incorporate.
Unique to the Jaguar system is the capability to transfer 100 per cent of the torque to either the front or rear wheels, as dictated by traction conditions. When driving on a dry road, for example, all of the torque goes to the rear, which helps reduce fuel consumption. It also gives the car a rear-drive feel, with the advantage of being able to transfer more power to the ground than a rear-driver when conditions get slippery.
There are three drive modes, Normal, Dynamic and Winter. With early-season snow falling and covering the roads on the way to Mecaglisse, Winter is the mode of choice.
In this mode, the front wheels receive 30 per cent of the torque when starting from a stop (which is also done in second gear) and throttle response is softened. This helps me drive the long-wheelbase XJL on slick and slushy roads as if it were on dry pavement. It doesn’t hurt that the car is also equipped with Pirelli Sottozero winter tires.
In Normal and Dynamic modes, only 5 per cent of the engine’s torque transfers to the front wheels when accelerating from a stop. In dry conditions, Dynamic would be my preferred mode, as it firms up steering and suspension settings and provides livelier throttle response.
Adding all-wheel-drive hasn’t infringed upon the XJ’s luxurious ride quality, and the system is almost completely invisible, transferring power seamlessly between the front and rear wheels. In keeping with the off-road theme, Jaguar planned much of our test route along unpaved roads, some of them quite rough, all of them wet and muddy.
An odd pairing perhaps, but driving the XJ along these roads only serves to emphasize its exemplary soundproofing, rigid chassis and finely tuned suspension. Except for a few deep potholes that send an occasional joggle through the cabin, it carries along with nary a commotion, especially notable considering my full load of passengers.
Road noise is not much more noticeable here than when driving on pavement, and the clatter of pebbles thrown up by the tires is subdued enough that it sounds as if the inner fenders are made of foam rubber.
About the only thing I didn’t like was the high-definition “virtual” gauge cluster, with a two-dimensional speedometer and tachometer. The faux-analogue gauge faces turn from blue in normal and winter mode, to red in dynamic mode, and the whole thing comes across as unnecessary techno-wizardry in an otherwise lavishly equipped interior.
I would have preferred proper, three-dimensional gauges for the speedometer and tachometer, with a smaller high-def screen for the other stuff.
The XJ AWD becomes the base model (if you can say that about a car that costs $90,000).
Although Canadian premium luxury sedan buyers might have overlooked the XJ in the past, due to its unfavourable drive train for winter, there’s no reason to pass it by now.
2013 Jaguar XJ 3.0 AWD
PRICE: $89,000; $96,000 (long wheelbase model)
ENGINE: 3.0 L supercharged V6
POWER/TORQUE: 335 hp/332 lb.-ft.
FUEL ECONOMY (L/100 km): 9.8
COMPETITION: Audi A8, BMW 740Li xDrive, Lexus LS 460 AWD, Mercedes-Benz S 550 4Matic
WHAT’S BEST: AWD system is well integrated into the rear-drive platform, quiet interior.
WHAT’S WORST: “virtual” instrument panel tacky in a high-end car.
WHAT’S INTERESTING: Front half-shaft is routed through oil pan.
Used Jaguar XJ All Used Vehicles
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