Not since the X-Type has Jaguar had a four-wheel-drive model to boast about, but this new XJ (and it’s mechanically very similar XF smaller brother) is an essential part of the company’s big expansion plans and the battle against four-wheel-drive BMW and Audi rivals.
North American markets in particular will be rich pickings for this new model, so we headed to the sub-zero temperatures of Canada to try the XJ on some seriously slippery stuff.
Unlike the BMW xDrive saloons and Audi quattro models, the Jaguar four-wheel-drive system allows 100 per cent of the power to go to the front or rear wheels, depending where the grip is needed most. In normal driving, only around 5 per cent of the drive will go to the front wheels, making the XJ AWD feel much like (and as much fun as) any other model.
In winter mode, that split’s changed to 30 per cent front and 70 per cent rear, but with sensors able to detect slip and channel power wherever it’s needed in 100milliseconds, those power splits are constantly variable. That all means incredibly surefooted handling, allowing the big Jag to go places you wouldn’t normally expect it to reach. Yet all the while, it still feels like a Jag.
As well as the suspension changes made to all 2013 model year XJs to soften off the ride, front suspension and steering tweaks make this car handle better than most other luxury cars, but with an added dose of comfort. You won’t notice the extra 75kg of 4x4 transmission, or hear it thanks to acoustic heat shields in the transmission tunnel.
Under the bonnet is Jaguar’s new super-smooth 335bhp 3.0-litre supercharged V6 petrol engine. With an eight-speed gearbox, changes are slick and performance on any surface is pretty mighty.
The XJ isn’t without its downsides, though. Beautiful though the cabin is, getting into the back means quite a drop down – not ideal in a luxury car – and it’s dark in there, although space is good.
But the biggest issue is that we’re not getting any four-wheel-drive Jags in the UK, at least not in their current iterations. According to Jaguar, the market in the UK is too small for big four-wheel-drive luxury cars. Fair enough, but we’re missing out on another talented new Jag.