Posted Oct 9th 2012 11:57AM
On one hand, it wasn't all that long ago that Jaguar was building its flagship luxury sedan, the XJ, with 12 cylinders underhood. If we're being honest, there's always been something sort of magical about cars that play the dozen, even if weight distribution and, indeed, performance, haven't always made them terribly sensible. If we're being equally frank, we've also reacted largely with enthusiasm to the trend of downsized forced-induction engines needling their way into ever larger and more premium sheetmetal. So here we are, at the intersection of past and future, and Jaguar has finally responded to the small-is-the-new-big trend by nestling a new 3.0-litre supercharged six-cylinder engine between the fenders of its largest sedan. In fact, it's gone even further, adding a 2.0-litre four-cylinder to the aluminum-bodied luxocrat, but most markets (including ours) won't see that particular model.
The X351-generation XJ has been a known quantity since 2010, and here in Canada, the mould-breaking saloon has only been available with a 5.0-litre V8 in either naturally aspirated or supercharged form. But six-cylinder XJs are hardly new – in fact, Jag has offered the current generation with a 3.0-litre six overseas for some time now, but it's a diesel. And lest we forget, the company offered a six-cylinder XJ in every generation up until this one, stretching back all the way to the original 1968 Series One. Of course, Jaguar won't be resurrecting the XJ6 moniker for this new 3.0 litre, and instead of an inline cylinder configuration as before, this new engine is a V6.
Jag officials at the launch of the 2013 XJ were refreshingly frank in admitting that not having a smaller engine than a V8 anywhere in its North American lineup the past few years has hurt both the brand's consideration and its fleet fuel economy numbers. This 3.0-litre is the first step towards renovating and broadening the brand's powertrain menu as it looks to keep pace with the usual suspects (Audi has just plopped a six in the A8 and BMW did the same last year with its 7 Series. If you want the joy of six in a Mercedes-Benz S-Class, you'll have to go hybrid or diesel). One other Jaguar programming note: A previously confirmed all-wheel-drive system is coming shortly as well, but that's a bit further down the pipe – this V6 is the main event for the moment in both its XJ and XF sedans.
Related Gallery2013 Jaguar XJ V6: First Drive
In the case of the 2013 XJ, Jaguar has essentially lopped a couple of cylinders off the end of its 5.0-litre V8 and nestled a twin-vortex Eaton Roots-style supercharger in the V of the cylinder banks. Thanks in part to direct injection, dual independent variable valve timing and higher compression (10:5:1 vs. 9:5:1), the supercharged six generates 340 horsepower at 6,500 rpm and 332 pound-feet of torque from 1,750 rpm.
0-100 KM/H for the short-wheelbase model still happens in 5.7 seconds, says Jag, which is only .3 seconds slower than the big eight.
For those keeping score, this means the lighter V6 is down 45 horses and 48 lb-ft compared to the 385 hp and 380 lb-ft of the V8. That's not the major loss it might initially seem – 0-60 for the short-wheelbase model still happens in 5.7 seconds, says Jag, which is only .3 seconds slower than the big eight. We drove the XJ on the English countryside roads around Henley-on-Thames in Oxfordshire (about an hour west of London) and found the six cylinder to be pleasingly rapid and quite agreeable overall.
Given the engine's torque curve on paper, we correctly suspected the V6 would have the requisite shove to make for entertaining motoring, even in this long-wheelbase XJL. (Bear in mind, the standard XJ is actually lighter than the smaller XF due to its aluminum chassis). Yet we didn't know what to expect sound-wise. As the engine is also slated to see duty in the forthcoming F-Type sports car, we knew engineers would be able to tune-in a certain bark, but for the statelier detail of the XJ, refinement would be important. And refinement there is.
This engine is also slated to see duty in the forthcoming F-Type sports car.
At tickover, Jag's engineers have done a commendable job of removing the unpleasant clatter that often accompanies direct-injected engines, particularly when heard from the outside, and they've fitted harmonic balancers front and rear to quell any unwanted noises. There's not much in the way of supercharger whine, either, as the windsnail only really makes its presence known under heavy load – and even then, it's unobtrusive. Few passers-by will mistake your Jag's sound signature for the V8, but you'll be too busy luxuriating in the warm embrace of the library's worth of fine leather and wood paneling to care.
For 2013, Jaguar engineers didn't simply throw a new engine up front and head off to the pub to pull some pints; the entire XJ range gets a version of the ZF eight-speed automatic that seems to be fitted to everything but lawnmowers these days. Having the extra couple of cogs over the 2012's six-speed means that the 32-valve V6 always seems to be in the meat of its powerband – provided you wheel the JaguarDrive Selector to S mode to avoid the early change-ups that are programmed in to maximize fuel economy. Speaking of that, EPA ratings are 13 L/100km )18 miles per gallon) in the city, 8.4 L/100km (28 mpg) on the highway and 11.2 L/100km (21 mpg) combined, which is solid work for something as large as this.
The entire XJ range gets a version of the ZF eight-speed automatic that seems to be fitted to everything but lawnmowers these days.
Speaking of work, we didn't feel much was called for on the XJ's exterior, nor with its cabin. The automaker must've agreed, because for the model's first refresh, it hasn't really touched either. By consensus, the Autoblog staff thinks the XJ is perhaps the one of the looking full-size luxury liner today, but we acknowledge still hearing some grumbling about the car's nontraditional rear end and blacked-out D-pillar.
The XJ's interior continues to be class-above stunning, too, with its low dashboard, TFT gauge cluster and complete ring of wood veneers (or carbon, or whatever you'd like) encircling the passenger compartment. It's a gorgeous office, though Jag still hasn't managed to make its infotainment system less grating in this latest go-round (there are some updates, but it's still the same basic architecture, warts and all). Audiophiles take note: You'll no longer find the gold-coned Bang & Olufsen speakers in the doors, as Jaguar has instead shacked up with Meridian for its stereo systems. We know the old B&O system to be top work but didn't have time to listen to the new setup, as we were too busy reacquainting ourselves with the joy of spiriting wide, right-hand-drive cars over narrow country lanes.
You'll no longer find the gold-coned Bang & Olufsen speakers in the doors, as Jaguar has instead shacked up with Meridian for its stereo systems.
One area that you can't see that the company has improved is the suspension. While last year's XJ was a surprisingly sporting steer, it wasn't the last word in sophistication on rough roads at more modest speeds – rivals like the Mercedes-Benz S-Class and Lexus LS delivered posher experiences. The roads we drove on were generally very well kept, but a newly retuned suspension for the lighter V6 seems to have done the car some favors in terms of ride quality.
In Canada, the V6 will become the sole engine choice for the standard-length XJ, even the aforementioned AWD models. If you want a V6 long-wheelbase XJL, you'll need to go with AWD. And if you want V8 power, you'll need to step up to the XJL Portfolio.
We mentioned earlier that these Coventry cats will also be available with a 2.0-litre four-cylinder in other markets, and we had a chance to drive one, too. It's basically the same Ford-sourced four-cylinder found in the Land Rover Range Rover Evoque, and it's a nice enough engine, but it doesn't quite deliver the effortless power and sound characteristics American buyers associate with this segment of vehicle. That's just fine, because it's primarily for China, where there's a massive tax break for smaller engines and most luxury buyers are chauffeured, anyway. That said, we will see this same engine in the engine compartment of the smaller XF, and performance should be outwardly similar since the two models' weights are so similar.
Overall, the new V6-powered XJ is a honey. It gives up very little in performance to its naturally aspirated V8 cousin – so much so that we're not sure we'd pay the extra $3,500 per cylinder premium over the V6's $88,000 asking price (including $1,350 for delivery) just to claim the V8 privileges and better legroom of the XJL. And while $88-grand is a large chunk of change, the XJ's generous standard equipment list – including panoramic roof, navigation, Xenons, blind spot monitoring and fragrant leather upholstery on the heated front and rear seats and steering wheel – really shames the Germans for value.
Like the V12s of the XJ's not-too-distant past, Jaguars remain something of an acquired taste, just outside the norm.
Jaguar sales data suggests that the company has a ways to go before it finds itself on equal footing with its German rivals. Like the V12s of the XJ's not-too-distant past, Jaguars remain something of an acquired taste, just outside the norm. That's both a shame and an opportunity for the marque, and by broadening their portfolio with key new technologies like this V6 and all-wheel drive, Jaguar may soon be too good to remain a secret.