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2012 Jaguar XJ Sport and Speed [w/video]

Posted Jun 15th 2012 11:57AM

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Burying The Throttle On Germany's Autobahn

2012 Jaguar XJ Sport and Speed

When an automaker tells us its "performance package" raises a vehicle's top speed from 250km/h (155 mph) to an even more astronomical velocity, we often have to take their word for it – public roads don't allow such madness in the Canada. But in Germany, where the Autobahn still remains unlimited in some parts, it is a whole different ball game.

Jaguar brought us over to Germany for track time on the historic Nürburgring circuit in its high-performance XKR-S Coupe. Being proper English gentlemen, rather than make us sit around and wait hours for our private driving slot, they handed us the keys to an XJ L Supersport (L designates the long wheelbase model) fitted with the new Sport and Speed package. Then they pointed us towards the Autobahn.

In the North American market, Jaguar offers its full-size XJ sedan with three different engines in the Canada. The standard XJ is fitted with a naturally-aspirated 5.0-litre V8 rated at 385 horsepower. Step up to the XJ Supercharged, and the blown engine makes 470 horsepower. At the top of the model range is the XJ Supersport, with the same supercharged 5.0-litre V8, but tuned to develop 510 horsepower.

2012 Jaguar XJ Sport and Speed side view2012 Jaguar XJ Sport and Speed front view2012 Jaguar XJ Sport and Speed rear view

Bundled in most markets, the two options tweak the top speed, add some aero improvements and enhance some cosmetics.

The XJ Supercharged and XJ Supersport both sprint to 60 mph (96 km/h) in less than five seconds (4.9 seconds and 4.7 seconds, respectively), but each are electronically limited to a top speed of 249 km/h (155 mph). While 227 feet per second is hardly a snail's pace, it will clog the fast lane in one Western European country. To allow the supercharged XJ a bit more stretching room, Jaguar announced the arrival of the Sport and Speed Packs.

Bundled in most markets, the two options tweak the top speed, add some aero improvements and enhance some cosmetics.

Already one sleek cat, engineers took the XJ sedan to the wind tunnel in an effort to further reduce lift. The four-door emerged with a new aerodynamic splitter beneath the front bumper and a new decklid-mounted lip spoiler to ensure a clean separation of air from the trailing edge of the bodywork (the low .29 drag coefficient remains the same). With the new stability in place, Jaguar has raised the electronic top speed limiter from 249 km/h (155 mph) to 280 km/h (174 mph) – the two supercharged model are now the fastest sedans the company has ever built.

2012 Jaguar XJ Sport and Speed front fascia2012 Jaguar XJ Sport and Speed wheel2012 Jaguar XJ Sport and Speed badge2012 Jaguar XJ Sport and Speed rear wing

But things didn't stop there, as Jaguar also made a few other tweaks to distinguish the faster sedans from their standard siblings. The signature radiator grille mesh, lower air opening and side vents gained a glossy black finish, and the brake calipers are painted red. There are also new 20-inch wheel designs ("Venom" and "Mataiva"), to further alter the appearance.

Lighter than the smaller high-performance XF-R thanks to its all-aluminum construction, the big sedan really knows how to scoot.

Inside the cabin, XJ Supercharged models receive sport seats with 18-way adjustments and active ventilation, premium suede headlining (in Jet or Ivory) and a bright metal stainless steel pedals with rubber grips – the XJ Supersport was already fitted with this equipment in North America. However, both models are offered with Jet Black leather with red contrasting stitching, an exclusive interior color combination. With the exception of the software regulating top speed, the powertrain on both models remains untouched.

Make no mistake about it, we really enjoyed the Jaguar XJL Supersport when we first drove it. Lighter than the smaller high-performance XF-R thanks to its all-aluminum construction, the big sedan really knows how to scoot. We merged onto the autobahn and mashed the throttle. It breezed up to relatively tame North American legal speeds in no time. We pressed a bit harder on the right pedal and it was soon cruising at 160 km/h (100 mph) practically effortlessly, and with a very quiet cabin. Traffic was light, but not favoring a faster pace, so we followed a diesel-powered Audi A6 at a non-threatening distance through the rolling German hills at just over 185 km/h (115 mph) for several minutes looking for an opening.

Autoblog Short Cuts: 2012 Jaguar XJ Sport and Speed

Thankfully, just after we crested a small rise, the left lane opened wide. We pressed closer to the A6, and the driver quickly moved to the right. Our objective was to explore the higher speeds so we buried the throttle. The blown 5.0-litre V8 unleashed its fury and all 510 horsepower pushed us firmly into our seats as the digital tachometer climbed around its virtual dial. Acceleration to 241 km/h, but the pace began to slow as the thick air fought a battle against the engine's power output.

Internal combustion was winning. The speedometer rolled past 257 km/h (160 mph) and then over 265 km/h (165 mph). For the record, there is nothing relaxing about going Mach .22 with four wheels on the ground as wind noise makes normal conversation all but impossible and every ounce of focus must be directed at driving. Our hands gripped the steering wheel firmly and we made mental notes about all traffic down the road, silently praying they stayed in their lanes – driving at these speeds is anything but peaceful.

2012 Jaguar XJ Sport and Speed

We remained on the Autobahn for another half hour or so, repeatedly blasting from 100 mph up to 165 mph over and over again.

The speedometer touched 275 km/h (or just over 170 mph), a few seconds later. The XJ L was still pulling, but traffic ahead was dancing between lanes. We had no choice but to lift off the accelerator and drop 50 mph off our velocity. So close.

We remained on the Autobahn for another half hour or so, repeatedly blasting from 160 km/h (100 mph) up to 265 km/h (165 mph) over and over again when traffic conditions would allow. The XJ L drank fuel at an alarming rate (as expected), and we covered the front with bugs, but it was every bit as stable as the Jaguar engineers had promised.

In the North American market, the Sport & Speed package is an $8,000 option on the XJ Supercharged. As the upgraded XJ Supersport already arrives with most of the interior upgrades from the factory, only the Speed package is offered as a $5,000 option. The XJL Supercharged starts at $108,500 Canadian and the XJL Supersport starts at $135,500. While most of us in the land of the free (but home of restricted highway speeds) will never come close to its top end, trust us when we say the package works exactly as advertised.

Image Credit: Copyright 2012 Michael Harley / AOL

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