Jaguar is known as the epitome of British sporting elegance. What it isn't known for is being the epitome of all-weather performance. If you wanted to be Brittanically elegant in the wintertime, you needed a Land Rover.
But now you can have your sedan tea and crumpets even when the weather gets dodgy: Jaaaag is going all-wheel drive. I just drove it. It's pretty damn good.
(Full Disclosure: Jaguar wanted me to drive the new all-wheel drive XJ and a pre-production XF so bad that they flew me to Montreal where I received maple syrup related treats at nearly every corner along with a friendly Canadian asking if I needed anything. It's a lovely place.)
In 2013, and for the first time ever, you'll be able to get Jaguar's two sedans with an all new all-wheel drive system. The XF and XJ will pair the all-wheel drive with something else brand new: The 3.0 liter supercharged V6 that will also see duty in the upcoming F-Type.
In the XJ and XF, the new V6 makes about 340 horsepower and 330 pound feet of torque, numbers that are just shy of the current base V8. The engine note on the supercharged mill is a tad uninspiring, it sounds less V8 throaty and more high pitched whiny. It is supremely quiet, but it doesn't give me goosebumps like the XKR-S did, or even the regular XJ does.
That all doesn't matter in a straight line. The V6 pulls like a strongman moving a tractor trailer attached to his ears. It's smooth and tractable, and there wasn't any place that I found it lacking. I was told that this is a very important engine for Jaaaag's future product portfolio, and it shows. They've done a swell job with it. They are counting on it so much that the naturally aspirated V8 is only available in the XJ Portfolio for 2013.
But the big story is all-wheel drive. It's an all new system developed specifically for the XF and XJ. It uses a transfer case, wet clutches, and voodoo magic to continuously vary power between the front and rear wheels. There is no set split of power either. When you set off, depending on drive mode, it can have five to 30 percent of the power to the front wheels. But once you accelerate, the system will actively transfer power and might put all of it to the rear wheels. In certain cases, it can even transfer 100 percent of the available power to the front wheels, which is pretty astounding.
On the road, it feels a lot like the rear drive XJ. The all wheel drive is imperceptible as it varies the torque split and handling is not compromised. On very slick surfaces, you can feel the power moving as well as the ABS and stability control react to keep you on the straight and narrow. I've never been a fan of a passive AWD system, but this one works very well.
A point that was proven when we took an XJ up a snowy, sandy dune and through a foot of water with no issues. Yes, we went off roading in a Jaaaag and it worked out pretty nicely.
Jaaaag says that all-wheel drive is a necessary addition to the lineup since they are basically throwing away sales in any state or country that gets snow. But now they join the Germans with well established all-wheel drive systems, especially the behemoth that is Audi. Jaaaag isn't known for all-wheel drive, so they're gonna have a tough time getting the word out and beating the Germans at their own game. But hey, as we've seen with the F-Type and XFR-S, Jaguar is on a roll right now.
All-wheel drive can continue that roll, but they just have to get people to realize that they have it and get them away from herrs quattro and 4matic. It can be done. It just won't be easy.