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

A quirk of the 2013 Jaguar XJ's fuel-saver system had this big cat snarling at unsuspecting pedestrians.

Antuan Goodwin

Antuan Goodwin

Reviews Editor / Cars

Antuan Goodwin gained 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.

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The 2013 Jaguar XJ is an imposing car, but in Ultimate Black paint, the XJ is also subtle and understated. It's a handsome ride that garners smiles and nods from those whose eye it catches, but largely doesn't attract a lot of attention when prowling the streets. The Jag's stealthy nature is probably why nearby pedestrians were so startled when a weird quirk of the fuel-saver system prodded the big cat into angry snarls.


2013 Jaguar XJ AWD

The Good

The <b>2013 Jaguar XJ</b>'s ride is silky-smooth, soaking up road imperfections and isolating the driver from road and wind noise. The Meridian premium audio system filled the cabin with rich, strong sound. Cabin comfort is top-notch with heated and cooled, massaging seats available.

The Bad

The auto stop-start system was loud, jerky, and unpredictable. The laggy infotainment system is showing its age. Odd sound-staging on the audio system makes it less than ideal for audiobooks or talk radio.

The Bottom Line

The smooth and quiet 2013 Jaguar XJ makes driver comfort its top priority, but an aging cabin technology package and an unrefined fuel-saver system give a rough edge to this refined ride.

The stub-nosed front end features lots of chrome brightwork and a pair of angry feline headlights. When viewed in profile or from certain front angles, the XJ's proportions are similar to those of the Audi A7, with a roofline that flows smoothly from the A-pillars all the way to the rear or the vehicle where it joins with vertical LED taillamps at the deck lid's drop-off. However, the Jag is a proper sedan with a discrete trunk having nothing to do with the Audi's liftback trickery.

Purring supercharged engine
Under the XJ's long hood purrs a 3.0-liter, supercharged V-6 engine that turns its crank to the tune of 340 horsepower and 332 pound-feet of torque. I don't feel like I'm laying the "jaguar" metaphor on too thickly by saying that the engine "purrs" because that's just the right word for the way this engine sounds. The idling engine can be heard and even felt in the XJ's quiet cabin, but it never becomes intrusive or obnoxious, even when making a full-bore 0-to-60 run.

Jaguar XJ engine bay
The supercharged V-6 purrs from beneath the XJ's hood. Antuan Goodwin

That power makes its way through an eight-speed automatic transmission that the user operates with a motorized shift knob that rises and lowers from its position flush with the center console when the vehicle is started or stopped. With the vehicle under way, the XJ's gearbox can also be controlled via steering-wheel-mounted paddle shifters, which I was not a fan of in this vehicle due to their plasticky and hollow feel. Paddle shifters really have no place in a cruiser like this anyway, but there's no excuse for cheaping out on them.

The XJ is based on a rear-drive platform, but our XJ AWD was equipped with an optional Instinctive all-wheel-drive system, which is Jaguar's way of saying "on-demand" all-wheel drive. The system adds a couple hundred pounds to the curb weight, adds a few ticks to the 0-60 time, and widens the turning circle, but it also adds traction. In particular, the XJ AWD's winter mode locks in a baseline 30 percent of available torque to the front axle to make sure that the sedan has the best grip over slippery surfaces.

Jaguar XJ console
The XJ's transmission modes are controlled via this bank of buttons and the large, chrome shifter dial. Antuan Goodwin/CNET

The sedan features multiple performance-modifying modes. On the transmission dial, there are Normal and Sport modes. Below that dial, the driver will find buttons that activate the aforementioned Winter mode and a Dynamic program that further augments the XJ's performance. Make no mistakes, this is not a sports car, so that "Dynamic" mode is largely a "use extra fuel and make more noise" straight-line performance boost.

Fuel-saver system
Speaking of fuel usage, the EPA estimates that the XJ AWD will purr for 19 miles of driving for every gallon of premium gasoline in its tank. That breaks out to 16 mpg city and 24 mpg highway. In order to reach these numbers Jaguar has equipped the XJ with an auto stop-start system that shuts the engine down when the vehicle is stopped to prevent fuel losses due to idling.

I found the XJ's start-stop system to be loud and somewhat unpredictable. A nudge of the steering wheel, a slight change in brake pedal pressure, or the whims of the climate control system would cause the system to shut down and fire up the engine. It lacked smoothness, shaking the vehicle to life whenever it fired the engine up. This system was particularly annoying in stop-and-go traffic, when it would shut the engine down just as I was releasing the brake pedal to go again, resulting in momentary jerkiness. If the system fired up when I didn't have the brake pedal fully depressed -- such as when I'd relax my foot on the pedal while waiting for a long light -- the car might lurch forward slightly.

The XJ also seemed to hate pedestrians. On multiple occasions when I was waiting for a traffic light to change or crawling through a parking lot, the stop-start system would fire up the engine just as a pedestrian was crossing in front of the vehicle, startling them with the sudden snarl of the engine and shake of the vehicle. I was beginning to wonder whether the Jaguar had developed a taste for human flesh when, after a few dozen dirty looks, I simply deactivated the stop-start system with the touch of a button.

The ECO button disables the auto stop-start system. It may be the most important button in the XJ's cabin.

Comfort-tuned suspension
The XJ rides on a fixed suspension, but it's such a comfort-minded vehicle that I'm not sure that it would benefit at all from an adaptive suspension system with a sport program.

The sedan's ride is soft, but also controlled. I wouldn't go as far as to call the XJ "boatlike," but the word does come to mind when behind the XJ's wheel. Particularly as the sedan smoothly glided over the normally brutal expansion joints of the Bay Area's Interstate system with a barely audible thump-thump and a slight bobbing of the cabin as if breaking over waves. Only the harshest of potholes were able to jar the Jag and almost no road or wind noise made it into the sealed and insulated cabin.

The XJ doesn't hide its size and 4,125-pound curb weight when on the road, but it also doesn't really try to. It feels large and substantial -- sort of like an old Cadillac, but in a good way.

The sedan exhibits noticeable amounts of lean and understeer when asked to corner at even moderate speeds and going fast outside of relatively straight freeway blasts is not really in its bag of tricks. But I found it nice that, in a time where luxury marquees are all trying to make sport sedans with firm rides, this nearly base-level XJ would fixate so uncompromisingly on comfort.

Luxurious Portfolio Package
Our XJ's luxurious cabin was easily its best selling point -- and with nearly $10,000 in optional cabin and tech upgrades, it had better be good.

Our example started out with the supercushy $4,000 Portfolio Package, which upgrades the leather trim on the dashboard and seats, adding contrast stitching and piping to the visual mix. Our tester also featured a two-tone interior that pairs London Tan leather seats with a Jet Black leather upper dashboard and suede headliner for an additional $775. The Portfolio Package seats feature massage functionality on the front row and heated and cooled surfaces for all four seating positions. The sedan is also upgraded with four-zone climate controls.

Jaguar XJ seat controls
Our XJ's front seats featured pneumatic massage and heated and cooled surfaces. Antuan Goodwin/CNET

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


2013 Jaguar XJ AWD

Score Breakdown

Cabin tech 5Performance tech 7Design 7


See full specs Trim levels BaseAvailable Engine GasBody style Sedan