We drove the '16 Jag XJ in Mumbai and didn't die (or kill anyone else)
Jag's XJ luxury lightweight executive sedan gets a midcycle refresh for 2016 aimed at adding tech, gear ratios and comfort, all while leaving what works -- namely the sleek cat's styling -- mostly alone.
If you're balking at "lightweight," it's an accurate descriptor, albeit relative: Whether in short- or long-wheelbase iteration, the XJ is the featherweight of its competitive set, 300 pounds lighter than a BMW 7-Series, 350 pounds lighter than an Audi A8L (even when AWD is added) and a whopping 700 pounds lighter than a comparable S-Class Benz.
Powering the XJ is the now-familiar Jag stable of V6 and V8 powerplants, all supercharged in this case, and ranging from 340-550 hp depending on trim level. An eight-speed ZF automatic is the only transmission, driving either the rear wheels or all four, and electric power steering makes its first XJ appearance.
Extraordinary interior accoutrements are expected in a Jaguar sedan, and the XJ delivers, though it doesn't break new ground. A noteworthy upgrade is the new InControl Touch Pro infotainment system replacing Jag's ancient, clunky touchscreen of yore. Attractive and relatively quick, InControl gets an 8-inch capacitive screen much like that found on a smartphone, allowing the pinch-to-zoom and swipe commands with which most drivers are familiar.
Aside from infotainment improvements, Jaguar's big news for 2016, not just on the XJ but across its lineup, attempts to address the elephant in the room for many potential customers: reliability. To help assuage those buyers, the brand is introducing EliteCare, a warranty and customer-care program covering the first five years or 60,000 miles of ownership. EliteCare includes a limited warranty, free scheduled maintenance and 24/7 roadside assistance, plus the InControl Remote and Connect vehicle connectivity apps.
What's it like to drive?
Ever been to Mumbai, India? It's what sociologists and civil engineers term a "total clusterf&%k," albeit one with an undeniable energy and somewhat deniable beauty. Traffic is bad enough that Jag had us drive the XJ late at night, lest our experiences be relegated to just the stop/start system and pedestrian impact protection.
Add to the already chaotic nighttime streets of Mumbai the fact we were behind the wheel of a long-wheelbase, right-hand-drive car in a country that drives on the, ahem, wrong side of the road, and it's safe to say your experience may vary.
Chaos be damned, though: If the XJ can tackle Mumbai, imagine how it might perform on the relatively uncongested freeways of, say, Atlanta or Los Angeles, and side streets devoid of tuk-tuks, motorcycles carrying unhelmeted infants and the occasional head of cattle. The XJ rose, or in this case shrunk, to the challenge, doing its best impression of a compact sedan when weaving through crowded neighborhoods and around tightly packed roundabouts.
Credit the Jag's lightweight aluminum structure for giving the car impeccable reflexes, but kudos also go to the 3.0-liter supercharged V6 and its instantaneous response. Coupled to the well-tuned ZF eight-speed automatic, this compact powerplant is all the XJ needs to snarl from light to light while delivering long legs for highway cruising. No, it's not the sublime AJ-V8 -- now only offered in supercharged form -- but neither is it as thirsty, and the 5.0-liter V8 is an option-tick (and $15K) away should you require it.
We were also treated to a ride in this particular XJL, sharing the Premium Rear Seat package with an Indian colleague more accustomed to commuting on bicycles and ripe-smelling commuter trains. The reclining, climate-controlled leather seats are complemented by sunshades, a rear moonroof and flip-up video equipment/tray tables integrated into the front seatbacks, ideal for executive transportation. If our new friend preferred it to his customary bike seat, he didn't let on, but he did seem to like being chauffered around Mumbai (more about his unique story in January).
Thanks to the warm, dry December Indian weather, we were unable to test one of Jag's newest innovations, the so-called All-Surface Progress Control. Basically a low-speed cruise control, it helps drivers attack icy, snowy or otherwise low-traction situations by modulating the throttle and brakes up to a preset maximum speed; we'll test it as soon as we get an XJ here in Detroit in, say, February.
Do I want one?
Depends. Are you the kind of person who marries his high-school sweetheart, gets an accounting degree and settles comfortably into the life of a CPA? If so, a nice, safe Lexus LS might better suit your overdeveloped left brain.
The Jag is an outsider choice, the kind of car that'll have said Lexus-driving CPA neighbor asking "what's that?" after which, upon discovering it's a Jaguar, he'll tsk tsk tsk remembering a friend's nightmare Series III XJ6 (conveniently forgetting it was brilliant to drive when it worked properly).
You'll smile. Passion requires risk, you say. Sacrifice for the art of driving! You won't be a sheep, dammit.
Then you can tell him your warranty is better than his, too.