Tempered enthusiasm sunk in quickly when notification arrived that we would be bobsledding Jaguar XJs and XFs in Montreal, Canada opposed to utilizing them for escorting VIPs at the Emmys or Grammys. Newfound technology which converts the British sedans from rear-wheel drive to Instinctive All-Wheel Drive is the specific reasoning for the adventure from the luxury automaker. Better later than never, AWD drivetrains are a proven protocol and a necessity for Jaguar to maintain stride with their competition: Audi, BMW, Mercedes-Benz, Porsche and Lexus.
The aluminum XJ is far from mundane, average or simple. Its long, sleek body creates expression and emotion as it passes by. When news that the XJ was going from nostalgic to contemporary, sentiments were mixed amongst feline lovers. However, Automotive Rhythms believes it is one of the more iconic and visionary luxury touring sedans on the market. Though it has to prove itself laudable in a field that includes Mercedes-Benz S-Class, Audi A8, BMW 7 Series, Porsche Panamera and Lexus LS. For example, the Jaguar touchscreen navigation and telematics is pretty antiquated in comparison to BMW’s iDrive and Audi’s MMI plus. The smaller screen and multiple-step interface for simple operations becomes quite frustrating after a few rounds. Yet, your XJ can be made to order with a high-end Meridian audio system which makes for a much more pleasant drive experience. We look at multi-media systems as 25% motive for particular vehicles being reasoned over another. It’s why the new Lexus LS falls out of AR’s top five because their system is meant for robots, not humans driving up to 75 mph toggling a finicky and distracting joystick. So to embrace debate, Jaguar took the needed steps to move forward and meet consumer demands — especially in cold weather states — and produce a sedan that turns its super cat prowess into bobcat bravado.
To introduce media from around the globe to the XJ’s (as well as the XF’s) new specialties, Jaguar set up a Winter Wonderland driving school in the ski resort area of Mont Tremblant, Canada. The interesting point is that ice, snow, and hail are the antithesis of where you would intentionally place a Jaguar XJ. Here is where the Range Rover or LR4 belongs more fittingly. However, normalcy to deaf ears and blind eyes is actually true embodiment to those familiar with the new direction. Such as the notion that we were driving hundreds of miles in a V8 powered XJ opposed to its 3-liter supercharged V6. I was flabbergasted when Jaguar technicians explained the power in the XJ’s 4th family powertrain. With 340-horsepower the vehicle didn’t feel like it was expending as much energy as in comparison to its weight and size. The V6 joins the 5-liter V8 which comes in naturally-aspirated 385-horsepower, and supercharged 470-horsepower and 510 horsepower variants; all of which are mated to Jaguar’s new ZF 8-speed automatic transmission for 2013 models.
In fact, Jaguar is so confident in the technology of Instinctive All-Wheel Drive that they have opened their 5th Winter Test Facility in International Falls, Minnesota where weather conditions can become very extreme — down to -55 F to be exact. In partnership with Land Rover, the facility will feature cold testing chambers, snow covered test surfaces, a frozen lake and a concrete test track.
To properly understand the new AWD system Jaguar set up a few courses on both ice and dirt so we could gather empirical data on the technology. More importantly, there is nothing like drifting on frozen water in slow motion. The fully integrated AWD has 3 interchangeable modes: Normal, Winter and Dynamic. Normal begins operation with 10% front torque and 90% rear torque. In Winter Mode the system skips 1st gear and jumps to 2nd gear to allow for optimal traction during initial acceleration. Also, the torque shifts to 30% front and 70% rear in Winter mode. Yet, the system can send up to 50% torque to the front wheels if traction is absolutely needed. Dynamic mode has nothing to do with winter weather and is focused on sporty driving since the throttle becomes sharper. We performed slaloms, skid pad and a small rally course in all modes and came to the conclusion that Instinctive All-Wheel Drive is a necessity for XJ and XF customers living in states where ice and snow are frequent. Without Winter mode the vehicles slid haphazardly.
On sale now, the aforementioned XF 3.0 AWD starts at $53,000 and the XJ AWD begins at $76,700. Jaguar continues to improve its technologies to meet the needs of modern society. It still has some more strides to make, but at least its most prominent vehicle is properly prepared for the unexpected from an impending “Global Warming” affected winter.