2013 Jaguar XJ AWD review: Big Jag pampers driver, terrorizes pedestrians

Passengers noted that the XJ's cabin felt smaller than they'd expected in a car of this size -- no doubt feeling the press of the low ceiling, swathed in the jet-black fabric. Those same passengers also remarked on the plentiful shoulder and elbow room afforded by the XJ's wide ride.

Other visual upgrades include $1,700 for blue illuminated door and trunk sill Jaguar logos and illuminated air vents that look pretty cool at night.

The standard cabin technology package has many of the right features: a hard-drive-based navigation system with traffic, Bluetooth hands-free calling and audio streaming, a standard USB/iPod connection, and a 3.5mm analog auxiliary input. The touch-screen interface is well-organized and does exactly what I expect a modern infotainment system to do. I particularly liked the main menu screen, which puts the entire system's worth of information at the driver's fingertips.

However, the system lags like an old butler, taking longer to do what it does than I'm comfortable with. Each onscreen key press is met with a half-second delay, making searching for a song or destination more time-consuming than it should be. Voice command is also an option, but using this system for address entry makes the driver wade through a half-dozen spoken prompts and confirmations for street name, street number, city, and so on before navigation starts. I'd like to be able to speak the whole address in one go and be done with it.

Meridian premium audio
One of the standout cabin tech options is the Meridian premium audio system, a $2,300 option surround-sound package that boasts 825 watts of amplification, 17 speakers including its powered subwoofer, and fantastic sound. I'm particularly fond of the system's bass response, which was both clean and free of noticeable distortion -- even when playing compressed digital audio -- but also powerful. Crank the volume and this system will fill the Jaguar's quiet cabin with palpable sound.

The system looks good as well, aiming metal speaker grilles with Meridian badges at the passengers from each door panel.

Jaguar XJ cabin
The Meridian surround-sound system filled the cabin with sound, but staged its audio oddly. Antuan Goodwin/CNET

However, the Meridian system isn't perfect. The surround-sound system exhibits odd audio staging. With most good car audio systems, the sound appears to be coming from somewhere in front of the driver, but the Meridian system made the audio appear to be coming from somewhere behind the driver's seat. This was particularly annoying when listening to podcasts, audiobooks, and talk radio, as the speakers sounded like they were in the back seat, rather than the more natural upfront listening position.

No amount of futzing with the fader or the system's various surround modes would move the sound stage any farther forward in the vehicle, which was odd as the system seemed to feature a front-center channel. This oddity isn't really a deal-breaker, but it would make me think twice about checking the box for this very expensive option.

Safety tech
There's not much optional safety technology available on the XJ, but the sedan does come equipped with a pretty good standard loadout.

Driver aid starts with the standard rearview camera, which displays a fairly low-resolution view of the area behind the vehicle when reversing, but gets the job done. The camera is augmented by proximity sensors on both the front and rear bumpers that beep with increasing intensity as the vehicle approaches obstructions, making it easy to squeeze the long sedan into parallel parking spots in downtown San Francisco. The rear camera screen also features dynamic trajectory lines that steer with the wheel to estimate the path the car will take when reversing.

Also standard is a blind-spot monitoring system that illuminates small LEDs in the side mirrors when a vehicle is beside the XJ at highway speeds. However, the LEDs are fairly small and easy to ignore or miss altogether and the system never beeped at me when I activated my turn signal, further limiting its usefulness as an alert for inattentive drivers.

The 2013 XJ is available with adaptive cruise control, but doesn't seem to be available with a precollision alert system. The vehicle also lacks a lane departure warning or lane-keeping assistance system.

Our vehicle was equipped with a Visibility Package that adds adaptive front lights that steer with the front wheels when the vehicle is in motion to bend the light around corners. The package also adds cornering lights, which serve a similar functionality, but at much lower speeds. Finally, the front illumination is upgraded with intelligent high beams that automatically activate when the road ahead is clear and deactivate when a camera detects cars ahead to avoid dazzling other drivers. For $850, the Visibility Package is money well spent.

A $375 line item for a heated front windshield, on the other hand, didn't come in handy much in San Francisco.

In sum
The 2013 Jaguar XJ AWD starts at $76,700. (Drivers who live in climates where Winter Mode is irrelevant can save $3,500 by skipping the AWD system.) Add the aforementioned options to that price and $875 for destination and delivery charges to reach our as-tested price of $87,575.

For that price, you'll have the keys to what feels like an old-fashioned luxury sedan with a number of modern creature comforts sprinkled on top, with varying success. For example, the infotainment system feels dated, but it gets the job done. The audio system boasts great sound and all of the right sources, but doesn't do a great job of properly staging its cabin-filling sound. The XJ's old-luxury ride and beefy power train have a very classic feel to them, but the new-tech stop-start system adds a very rough edge to the otherwise refined experience in the pursuit of a few extra miles per gallon.

2013 Jaguar XJ AWD
The Jaguar XJ feels like an old-fashioned ride that's been updated with new tech. Antuan Goodwin/CNET

None of these complaints is what I'd call a deal-breaker and some, like the stop-start system, can be fixed by pressing a button. Drivers looking for a very classic grand tourer with loads of comfort will find much to like in the 2013 Jaguar XJ, but those looking for more modern cabin technology, power train, and aesthetics may find themselves turned off by the vehicle's many hiccups and will probably gravitate toward something like an Audi A7 or a BMW 5 Series.

Tech specs
Model 2013 Jaguar XJ
Trim AWD
Power train 3.0-liter, supercharged V-6, 8-speed automatic transmission, on-demand all-wheel drive
EPA fuel economy 16 city, 24 highway, 19 combined mpg
Observed fuel economy 16.8 mpg
Navigation 30GB HDD-based with traffic
Bluetooth phone support Standard w/ voice command
Disc player Single-slot CD
MP3 player support Standard analog 3.5mm auxiliary input, USB connection, Bluetooth audio streaming, iPod connection
Other digital audio SiriusXM Satellite Radio
Audio system 17-speaker, 15-channel Meridian surround system, 825 watts
Driver aids Rear camera with proximity detection, blind-spot monitoring
Base price $76,700
Price as tested $87,575

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About The Author

Antuan Goodwin gained most of his automotive knowledge the old fashioned way, by turning wrenches in a driveway and picking up speeding tickets. From drivetrain tech and performance to car audio installs and cabin tech, if it's on wheels, Antuan is knowledgeable. Email Antuan, follow him on Twitter, or like him on Facebook. Antuan