Jaguar XJ 2011 5.0 sc v8 supersport swb

Jaguar XJ Supersport Review

$90,650 $107,800 Dealer
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Model tested:
Jaguar XJ Supersport LWB (Long Wheelbase), 5.0 Litre Supercharged V8: $367,800

I’ve got my right foot buried deep into the footwell of the Jaguar XJ Supersport and the acceleration from a lazy 60km/h is huge. Pity we’re not in Germany for this test, on an unrestricted German Autobahn mixing it up with the German V12 club for some proper high-speed testing.

At more than five metres long with its gleaming Ultimate Black Metallic coat, Jaguar’s heavily armed XJ flagship unmistakably looks the business. All those classic Jaguar hallmarks are there, ‘pace, space and grace', but in a thoroughly contemporary form.

You’d be right in calling it beauty and the beast too, but in the nicest possible way. Jaguar’s XJ Supersport is a stunningly beautiful car from almost any angle, but then again, Ian Callum, Jaguar’s Director of Design, has been getting it right for some time.

The beast, of course, is under the bonnet. By that I mean a potent 5.0-litre supercharged V8 putting out a neck snapping 375kW and 625Nm. Not bad for what could easily pass as a luxury Limo at the Dorchester.

As gorgeous as the Supersport is though, there’s also something sinister about this car. It could easily pass for Darth Vader’s Limo, except for one thing: this Jag, like all Jaguars of past and present, is a driver’s car.

When William Lyons, the founder of Jaguar unveiled the magnificent E-type in Geneva in 1961, the car wasn’t secretly trucked into the show, but rather, it was driven from Coventry in the UK, to the Parc des Eaux-Vives in Switzerland for Sir William Lyons to unveil. The story gets better. Demand for test drives from the press corps were so high that Jaguar’s development driver, Norman Dewis, was told to ‘drop everything’ and drive another E-type from England down to the show.

From the very first moment you lay eyes on the XJ you’re already aware that Callum has a winner on his hands. This car turns a lot of heads, and for all the right reasons. The XJ Supersport just takes the eye candy appeal to a whole new level.

It’s always been that way with Jaguar’s XJ model – a thing of beauty right from the Series 1 model. This was a car that was born with equal talent for luxury cruising, and dynamic sports car-like handling. It was in fact the Jaguar XJ that single-handedly created the sports sedan segment.

Callum himself owes his life as a designer to a 1968 XJ, which as the story goes, he saw in a dealer’s window in Scotland and was the car that inspired him to design some of the most beautiful cars of the modern age. He is also credited will bringing Jaguar back from the brink with the current Jaguar XK and Jaguar XF models.

Interestingly enough, the 1968 XJ is the last Jaguar that properly demonstrated Sir William Lyons design influence. He later spoke about that car in 1971, when he said:

“It comes closer than any other to what I have always had in mind as the ideal car.”

The hallmark of the iconic Jaguar’s of the past, that’s the SS100, XK120 and E-type, was that they were extreme for their time. The XJ Supersport is every bit as distinct and looks fast even when standing still – always a good sign.

Even the Italians called the XJ ‘the most beautiful saloon in the world’.

The pressure for Callum and his design team to include those fundamental design cues from Jaguar’s past DNA, in what simply had to be a fundamentally revolutionary new Jaguar design, would have been immense. They pulled it off with XK and XF, and they have well and truly pulled it off with the XJ.

Callum said of the XJ:

“Any good car design – indeed anything of value should tell a story. The new XJ does that, with a visual hierarchy and clarity of intent. We took inspiration from classic Jaguar’s like the Mk2 and original XJ and created a Jaguar for the 21st century with pure, sensual forms”

It’s not just the long, curved, bonnet that tells the story. It’s the mesh grille and deep front apron with air intakes that exude power and grace, as well as the unique 20-inch Mataiva alloys (gloss grey) and the subtle ‘Supersport’ badge over the side vent that give the game away, but only to the discerning enthusiast.

I can’t help think that if Sir William were alive today, he would be ecstatic about the new XJ, and the Supersport would surely be his daily drive. That is, until such time as the E-type replacement finally emerges.

As the flagship model, the XJ has always been regarded as a powerful car. The original ’68’ car could accelerate from 0-100km/h in less than 9 seconds. The new XJ Supersport maintains that characteristic in the most extreme manner.

The Jaguar XFR is a beautiful fast car. 0-100km/h in just 4.9 seconds is moving along. Surprisingly, and with the same powertrain, that’s exactly what the XJ Supersport can do it in, despite the considerable size and weight advantage of the XFR.

It comes down the aluminium verses steel. The XFR is made with mostly steel panels, while the XJ takes full advantage of the lightweight properties of aluminium.

It makes you think doesn’t it, as to why on earth don’t we have a lightweight XFR made from aluminium? Now that would be quick.

You need to hold the starter button down until the blown vee-eight fires up and settles into a smooth but slightly manic idle, as if to tempt you.

The virtual instrument display also comes to life on a blue background, until you decide that it’s time to up the pace a little and hit that little button I mentioned earlier. Hold it down for a couple of seconds until it all turns red signifying ‘Dynamic mode’. That’s what you want if you fancy a quick blast through a twisty mountain pass, and make no mistake, the Supersport can hold its own, despite its size, and a kerb weight of just over 1900 kilos.

Prospective buyers will have no complaints about the Supersport’s off-the-line acceleration, rather, they will need to get used to moderating the sensitive throttle response, so that they’re not fined for excessive wheel spin, under the so called ‘hoon laws’. More impressive still, is the Jaguar’s ability to sprint from 80km/h to 113km/h in a flat out blistering 1.9 seconds. Overtaking B-Doubles has never been this easy.

While the car’s acceleration could easily be described as brutal, it doesn’t quite convey the fact the power is delivered in a silk smooth manner and that it always feels entirely civilised and never manic.

As fas as automatic transmissions go these days, Jaguar’s enhanced six-speed shifter is about as good as it gets. It’s a fully adaptive unit that ensures the best possible economy and performance, regardless of driving styles. It’s a quick learner too with a rapid shift pattern from the moment you give the big cat some proper stick, to far more laidback shifts once you ease off the throttle and feed in the power gently.

You’ve also got the choice of switching to steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters, which will enhance your driving experience considerably as you tap, tap, down into a tight bend, with the added aural pleasure of the throttle blip, on every downshift. You won’t get tired of this noise, I can assure you.

Speaking of noise, it’s absolutely dead quiet in here too. I was about to hit the Dynamic Mode button (that’s the one with chequered flag image) for a thoroughly more urgent driving experience, and I’ve suddenly realised that there isn’t any traffic noise, none whatsoever. I mean I can’t hear the truck beside me as it pulls away from the lights. Nothing. Zilch. This is extraordinary. The only other car that comes close to this level of noise insulation is the penultimate Rolls Royce Phantom, but I think the XJ might be even quieter.

There’s no question that you can feel the all 1900 plus kilos when you're pushing the car in the bendy bits, that’s just the laws of physics at work. Body roll though is well controlled even in the standard ride mode, but in ‘Dynamic’ it’s less obvious with a firmer damper setting. This is a very well sorted chassis, and you can feel the rigidity through the corners.

There’s a lot of feeling through the steering wheel and the variable ratio power assistance means that there’s plenty of meat from dead-centre when you need it and less when negotiating parallel parking manoeuvres.

Braking is naturally well sorted too on the entire XJ line-up, but the Supersport gets special attention with 380mm front rotors with lightweight twin-piston floating calipers for huge stopping power.

High performance machinery such as the XJ Supersport tends to focus your attention solely on the performance side of things, but inside the cabin of the XJ is a superlative, if not bespoke, interior.

The first thing that caught my eye were the yellow cones inside the Bowers & Wilkins 1200W speakers, of which there are twenty of these positioned throughout the cabin.

The sound from this system will most probably sound better than your high-end sound system at home, no ifs or buts. From the moment you pair your iPhone 4 to the car’s Bluetooth system, music from your iTunes library will stream from your phone (which is in your pocket or briefcase) through all twenty speakers. The word brilliant doesn’t do it justice.

The Jet Semi Aniline leather, which covers the seats and upper fascia is beautifully soft yet feels as though it will wear well too. The front pews themselves, while offering a cosseted feel, are lacking in both side and seat bolster, at least for a car that is as capable as the Supersport. It would be nice to at least have the option of more aggressively bolstered front seats for this variant.

As you would expect in a flagship model, the XJ Supersport is loaded with every conceivable feature that you could ever want. The list of ‘automatic this, automatic that’ is exhaustive, but highlights include: the panoramic glass roof with electric blinds, solar attenuating, hydrophobic and acoustically laminated glass, front and rear camera parking aid with touchscreen visual indicator (exceptional resolution), active ventilated seats – heated/cooled - headlamps with adaptive front lighting, cornering lamps and Intelligent High Beam, phosphor blue halo illumination and interior mood lighting, four-zone automatic climate control with air filtration and humidity sensing. The list goes on and on.

I’m particularly fond of Jaguar’s unique Drive Selector. First used in the XF model, it's not only theatrical when it rises and retreats from the console, but it’s actually very intuitive and quicker than moving a standard shift lever.

Then there’s the cool blue illumination throughout the car (including the doorsills) at night. It’s a beautiful touch, as is the superb inlayed analogue clock.

Easily the most distinctive and graceful luxury sports sedan on sale today, and at $367,800 ($354,800 for the short wheelbase version) Jaguar’s XJ Supersport represents a veritable bargain when compared with similarly powered, same segment offerings from either BMW or Mercedes-Benz.

Fortunately, nothing much has changed at Jaguar in 75 years. It is still building ‘beautiful, fast cars', and the XJ Supersport is the ultimate Jaguar statement.

Jaguar XJ model line-up:

XJ 3.0D SWB Premium Luxury $198,800
XJ 3.0D LWB Premium Luxury $206,800
XJ 5.0 V8 SWB Premium Luxury $251,000
XJ 5.0 V8 LWB Premium Luxury $259,000
XJ 5.0 V8 SWB Portfolio $274,800
XJ 5.0 S/C SWB Portfolio (346kW) $311,000
XJ 5.0 S/C SWB Supersport (375kW) $354,800
XJ 5.0 S/C LWB Supersport (375kW) $367,800