From £54,630
Jaguar's first all-wheel drive XJ is impressive - but not on sale in the UK

Our Verdict

Jaguar XJ
The latest XJ is a big departure from its predecessor, stylistically

The Jaguar XJ is a thoroughly modern luxury saloon, and a brilliantly capable one

2 December 2012

What is it?

Something that can’t come a moment too soon for Jaguar in colder climates. All-wheel drive models account for almost 50 per cent of the US market for larger saloon cars (even higher, at around 80 per cent, in the Snow Belt states and in Canada), and it’s something Jaguar has always been without in its current line-up until now.

That ‘now’ is a new Jaguar-developed all-wheel drive system being offered on the Jaguar XJ and Jaguar XF saloons for the 2013 model year in Jaguar’s left-hand drive markets, but sadly not for the UK. The system is available exclusively with the firm’s new supercharged 3.0-litre V6 petrol engine.

To fit the new system, which uses sister firm Land Rover’s expertise rather than technology, into the XJ tested here required a thorough re-engineering of the luxury saloon’s underpinnings.

A new front sub frame has been fitted, along with a revised steering rack, a new exhaust system, new engine mounts, new front knuckles, new damper mounts, new front and rear differentials, a new prop shaft, new cross members, a new undertray, and acoustic heat shields to hide the noise from the transfer case.

On the dynamic front, all-wheel drive XJs get unique tuning for the suspension bushes and dampers, a unique steering set-up and a re-calibrated V6 engine, which is the only engine that can be equipped with the new all-wheel drive system as it was developed with the technology specifically in mind, the sump designed specifically to work with the driveshaft.

The all-wheel drive system features a transfer case control module mounted on the back of the revised eight-speed automatic gearbox. It’s a continuously variable system, which can split the torque 100/0 per cent front or rear, and any combination in between, depending on the situation.

What's it like?

A revelation. Ignoring just how well the system works and how much confidence it inspires, the sight of a big long-wheelbase XJ being able to even move at all in such treacherous conditions requires a double take.

So used to we of the sight of big rear-wheel drive Jaguars being as close to useless as it can get when we get a dumping of the white stuff, that it doesn’t even require getting out of first gear to understand that this is an XJ like no other.

Jaguar has engineered the system to retain the feel of a rear-wheel drive car in its performance. Drive it in Normal or Dynamic modes, and 95 per cent of the torque will be sent rearwards as default, so it’ll still slip and slide around when pushed, but the system will send torque forwards to get you out of trouble when the rear wheels spin. That said, the winter tyres fitted to our test car also helped.

The third driving mode is Winter, which when selected turns the XJ into a true all-weather machine. The feeling of a rear-drive car is retained with 70 per cent of the torque heading backwards, but it felt much more confidence-inspiring and sure-footed on the snow and ice-covered roads on our test route in Canada. In Winter mode, the car will always pull away in second, which all but eliminates any wheel spin.

Hill-starts, quick lane changes, fast B-roads: the all-wheel drive XJ can tackle them all in even the most treacherous of road conditions. Should you turn into a Finnish world rally champion on you snowy commute, the all-wheel drive XJ is also a real drift machine, and nimble enough to belie its size. And the engine is a smooth, refined and, when needed, a potent tool, particularly at low speeds, although economy is predictably harmed by the four-wheel drive system.

That all-weather performance does come with some downsides, which would expose themselves more in warmer months. The ride of the all-wheel XJ remains firm next to its rivals, although the trade-off is a level of engagement Germany’s finest limos can only dream of. There’s also a fair amount of tyre roar from the winter rubber, and listen closely with the radio off and you can hear the transfer case in action.

Should I buy one?

It’s definitely a shame you can’t in the UK. The Jaguar XJ 3.0 V6 AWD is a very competent all-weather dynamic tool, and proof that Jaguar’s first foray into all-wheel drive is a success.

Should you live in snowier parts of Europe, Russia, the US or Canada, then we’d wholeheartedly recommend the all-wheel drive XJ as a way of getting off your snow-covered drive in the winter months.

While the all-wheel drive XJ, and the XF that will follow it in three months’ time, might not be destined for the UK, Jaguar has committed to developing all its future models to be able to be equipped with all-wheel drive should the market demand it.

Should the big freezes of Britain in recent years continue, all-wheel drive Jaguars should be with us by the middle of the decade in the next-generation of models. So, altogether now: ‘Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow’.

Jaguar XJ 3.0 V6 AWD

Price: TBC; 0-60mph: 6.1sec; Top speed: 155mph (limited); Power: 335bhp at 6500rpm; Torque: 332lb ft at 3500-5000rpm; Engine: V6, 2995cc, supercharged petrol; Installation: front, longitudinal, all-wheel drive; Economy: 19mpg (US cycle); CO2: 234g/km; Gearbox: 8spd auto.

Join the debate


2 December 2012

How is it tha a small Japanese manufacturer (Subaru) manages to make all its vehicles available with AWD, irespective of what colour pump it fills up with or whatever side the steering wheel is, but so called "Prestige" marques can not, and Subaru manage to make them bloody reliable...

2 December 2012

In the late 1980s/early 1990s, when harsh winters were also experienced, Ford, Vauxhall, Peugeot, Renault, Mazda, Volkswagen (and I think Citroen) all used to sell 4x4 versions of their large cars in the UK, yet the amount sold compared to the 2wd versions was miniscule. Even the 4wd Passat VW use to sell in the mid to late 1990s was minimal. And remember Mercedes use to sell 4Matic E-Classes which were also rare in the UK. So I can see Jaguar's reluctance to produce RHD versions of their all wheel drive models specifically for the UK, more so when other RHD countries with millions of cars tend to have much warmer climates which probably means the demand for all wheel drive variants is even less.

3 December 2012

Not gonna catch on here, mate

Aussie Rob - a view from down under


3 December 2012

Considering how new the XJ is, it makes you wonder just who they were courting at their customer clinics when they were determining just what features needed to be included in the design, especially considering how Jaguar have pandered to the US customer base for the last 20+ years......

3 December 2012

If I was living in colder climes I'd wait for next generation models to come out. As mentioned in the review, refinement can't match current rivals. A major failing for a Jag I think. If I was buying now I'd stick with Merc or BMW. 


3 December 2012

Cyborg wrote:

If I was living in colder climes I'd wait for next generation models to come out. As mentioned in the review, refinement can't match current rivals. A major failing for a Jag I think. If I was buying now I'd stick with Merc or BMW. 

Comfort, ride and refinement were the main requirements in this class, ahead of sporting handling. Until the current XJ came along, so Autocar moved the goalposts to enable the Jag to top the class, even though its comfort, ride and refinement are behind the current 7 year old S-Class. I can't seen the next S-Class knocking the XJ off its perch.

3 December 2012

Surprised we haven't seen a comment here from @benzpassionslob!

3 December 2012

BenC30 wrote:

Surprised we haven't seen a comment here from @benzpassionslob!


With any hope and a quick prayer he has been banned yet again

7 December 2012

The UK has more than one climate zone, and the decisions about what cars to offer here, seem to be made in London and the Midlands where a slight snowfall is a major news item. Up in the North of England and in Scotland and much of Wales snow is a regular feature of every winter. 

I had an AWD X-Type 2.5 Sport (which Autocar then described as handling like a junior league super car in the wet though they all seem to deny that now) and it is very much missed. Its RWD replacement, a 5 series is fabulous much of the time, but the back-end is tricky on damp roads, and is hopeless in snow and ice. Living on a steep road on the Derbyshire borders it spends days on end stuck in the garage in winter while we go about business in a winter tyre equiped hatchback.

Its replacement will be AWD and have winter tyres, but sadly obviously will not be an XF. A great shame. I hope Jaguar reconsiders at least for the XF.

Jeremy R


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