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December 23, 2010

News & Features

Auto review: Jaguar XJ Supersport is powerful, decadent

The Associated Press

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(AP Photo / Jaguar)

The 2011 Jaguar XJ Supersport sedans are powerful, decadent -- and get the kind of gasoline mileage expected from a pickup truck. A very big pickup truck.

In fact, at today's fuel prices, it can cost upwards of $75 to fill the tank of a new, four-door, four-passenger, supercharged Jag XJ. Evidently, pampered luxury, supercharged V-8 power and heady oil consumption remain in style even in troubled economic times.
Starting manufacturer's suggested retail price, including destination charge, is $73,575 for a base, 2011 XJ sedan with naturally aspirated, 385-horsepower V-8.

But the supercharged models are the stars of the line, and they cost more. A 2011 XJ with supercharged V-8 starts at $88,575 with 470 horsepower. The top supercharged XJ generates 510 horses from its V-8 and starts at $111,075.

2011 2011 Jaguar XJ Supersport
  • BASE PRICE: $72,700 for base XJ; $87,700 for base supercharged XJ; $110,200 for top supercharged XJ.
  • AS TESTED: $111,075.
  • TYPE: Front-engine, rear-wheel-drive, four-passenger, large, luxury sedan.
  • ENGINE: 5-liter, double overhead cam, supercharged V-8.
  • MILEAGE: 15 mpg (city), 21 mpg (highway).
  • TOP SPEED: 155 mph.
  • LENGTH: 201.7 inches.
  • WHEELBASE: 119.4 inches.
  • CURB WEIGHT: 4,281 pounds.
  • BUILT AT: United Kingdom.
  • OPTIONS: None.
  • DESTINATION CHARGE: $875.

For buyers looking for more room in the back seat, the XJ is sold in long-wheelbase trim as XJL models with the same engine choices. Starting retail price for a 2011 XJL, which is some 5 inches longer than a regular-wheelbase XJ, is $80,575.

Competitors include other European, large, luxury sedans such as the 2011 Audi A8, which has a starting retail price of $78,925 with naturally aspirated, 372-horsepower V-8, and the 2011 Mercedes-Benz S550, which starts at $94,525 with naturally aspirated 382-horsepower V-8.

Newly restyled, the 2011 XJ sedans move away from the somewhat stodgy appearance of their predecessors. And the look is garnering awards and attention. Bloomberg News named the XJ the Executive Sedan of the Year, while Automobile magazine noted it as a Design of the Year.

Still, I wasn't impressed by the mesh silver-colored grille on the test car -- a regular-wheelbase XJ Supersport with 510-horsepower V-8.It made the front end look a little too much like the much cheaper Chrysler 300 sedans with mesh grilles that car customizers install.

The XJ sedan's rear end was more distinctive. It's not a boattail, but the way the trunk metal is tucked down between the bright, light-emitting diode tail lamps is intriguing.

Sitting low to the pavement, the test Jaguar XJ conveyed power and strength, right down to its big, 20-inch wheels and tires. And the visual cues were backed up by the performance of the 5-liter, double overhead cam, supercharged V-8 under the long hood.

One push of the accelerator pedal, and my body was pressed into the seatback. The car seemed to jet forward with noticeable ease.

The car's throttle was touchy, so much so that slight pressure on the accelerator could move the vehicle swiftly out of the garage. I spent days learning how to modulate the power. It just could come on so quickly -- I'd be up over the speed limit in residential areas before I knew it, or riding the rear bumper of a vehicle in front of me.

No wonder. A full 461 foot-pounds of torque comes on by a low 2,500 rpm and continues to 5,500 rpm.

On highways, the power just kept coming. I never had a moment when I thought the XJ was straining or topping out. Note that top speed is electronically limited to 155 miles an hour, and zero-to-60-mph time is less than 5 seconds, which is sports car range.

Gasoline consumption was fierce, too. I managed 16 miles per gallon in the test drive in combined city/highway driving.

The federal government's rating for the XJ Supersport model that I had is 15 mpg in city driving and 21 mpg on the highway -- similar to a Ram pickup truck -- and the government notes that the car uses premium gasoline. With a truck-like 21.7-gallon tank, the cost for a fill-up isn't cheap.

Still, for a car that's almost 17 feet long, the XJ handled well. Body motions were controlled, though passengers felt road vibrations nearly all the time.

Driver and passengers in the test XJ rested easily on leather-trimmed seats. But everyone rode close to the pavement, so views out were mostly blocked by taller vehicles.

The car's interior has luxury touches, include a dashboard swathed in leather. But carpeting didn't seem to be as plush as in older XJs.

I was surprised that the car's key fob was the heaviest in weight that I could recall of any vehicle out there. It weighted 3.5 ounces compared with 1.5 ounces for a key fob for a 2011 Ford Edge sport utility vehicle.

It was bigger in overall size, too, and overall, seemed clunky.

Also surprising was the electronic instrument panel. The area in front of the steering wheel was black and bare at first, then would fill with what appeared to be fake gauges.

They worked fine, though the gauge needles sometimes looked as if they were moving artificially, and they were.

Maybe this was supposed to convey a high-tech image, but wouldn't something more akin to a fine watch fit better?

I even laughed when I saw a graphic pop up on the instrument panel that highlighted which passenger didn't have his seat belt on. The graphic was similar to ones found at airline Internet sites where passengers select their seats. It seemed out of place in this Jaguar.

There's little liftover to get items in the trunk, which has a roomy 18.4 cubic feet of space.

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