Jaguar’s flagship XJ Series was introduced in 1968, descended from the classic S-type Jags of the late 1950s and early 1960s.Today’s XJ is lighter by at least 300 pounds than the steel-body vehicle of the previous generation, thanks to aluminum body technologies, which improve handling, performance and fuel economy without sacrificing safety, strength or refinement.The XJ also is made using 50 percent recycled materials, an added bonus for the environmentally conscious.For 2014, Jaguar introduced the XJR, powered by a 550-horsepower 5.0-liter supercharged V-8 engine, paired with an eight-speed automatic transmission. The XJ line comes in eight models, priced from $74,200 to $119,000. The automatic mode detects the driving style of the operator — acceleration, cornering, braking, etc. — and responds to a more-enthusiastic style with more-aggressive gearshifts. Paddles on the back of the steering wheel allow manual shifting, if desired.For 2014, a 340-horsepower 3.0-liter supercharged V-6 replaces the naturally aspirated 5.0-liter V-8 in certain models.Also new are soft-feel trim on the instrument panel and door tops; optional rear business tray tables with leather center panel; optional rear entertainment system with 10.2-inch screens; standard soft-close doors; optional reclining rear seats with three massage settings and full control of the front passenger seat from the rear passenger seat; optional control of all seats from the touch screen; semi-aniline leather for all models; new trim colors and wheel options; and updated Jaguar badging.For this report, I drove an XJR LWB (Long Wheel Base), with a starting price of $119,000 before options. My XJR was Ultimate Black Metallic with a gloss black front grille and lower intake mesh, accented by chrome surrounds.Exterior colors also include British Racing Green, Italian Racing Red, Rhodium Silver, and several others.The 20-inch alloys wheels were Technical Gray with five split spokes — one of available seven designs. To enhance the vehicle’s grip and agility, the wider rear wheels use lower-profile tires.Inside, my XJR had Jet Black leather with Red Zone inserts on the seats, embossed with the "R" logo. A Jet Black suede cloth headliner is standard; accents are either Carbon Fiber or Piano Black (mine), and wood trim is offered on some models.Not usually an aggressive driver, I did enjoy the power of the XJR where appropriate. Merging was effortless and confident, with no worries about getting up to highway speed. The ride at highway speed was smooth as satin, and braking was quick and sure without a whiplash effect.I used the adaptive cruise control and achieved an average 21.3 mpg with mostly highway driving. EPA estimates for the XJR are 15 mpg in the city and 23 on the highway.The top-of-the-line XJR LWB was both luxurious and comfortable, with heated and cooled front and rear seats, 18-way power front seats (including thigh cushion adjustment), a power rear-window sunblind, manual side window shades, a panoramic sunroof with power sun shades, front and rear climate controls and vents, and a leather-wrapped dash and instrument panel.I also had the amazing 825-watt Meridian Surround Sound audio system with 20 speakers and Audyssey MultEQ sound equalization — for music as it was intended.Other amenities included a heated steering wheel, power trunk lid with adjustable height, power/folding/auto-dimming heated outside mirrors, power-adjustable steering column, rain-sensing wipers, and approach illumination (with Jaguar Smart Key).The standard 380-watt sound system has an AM/FM receiver, single CD/DVD player, MP3 compatibility, radio data system, HD and satellite radio, USB, Bluetooth audio streaming, auxiliary input jack and Gracenote (for artist and track identification). It comes with 14 speakers.With the upgraded system comes Trifield surround mode, creating a sound field in which each occupant is in the center. Cabin Correction and Dynamic Volume Control monitor ambient sound and maintain a consistent volume level. Laminated windshield and door glass, along with a near-perfect body structure and exceptional aerodynamics, endowed the car with a tranquil cabin.XJR’s navigation system was easy to use, with lots of convenient features. Dynamic Zoom magnifies the map image when the vehicle approaches an intersection or on-ramp; Visual Lane Guidance shows additional lane details at intersections; and Road Sign Board displays highway sign information on the split screen.Destination entry was simple, and a dual map view allowed comparison of different possible routes. The navigation system shared the eight-inch touch-screen in the center console with climate control, audio control, and communications — which also utilized the Jaguar Interactive Voice control.My XJR had intelligent stop/start technology to help reduce exhaust emissions and save on fuel. When the vehicle comes to a stop, the engine cuts off, then purrs back to life when the brake is released, ready to go when the accelerator is pressed.Jaguar Drive Control offers three driving modes: Normal, for comfortable, everyday driving (my choice); Dynamic, for a more sporting and responsive feel; and Winter, for greater capability in low-traction conditions.In Dynamic mode, the virtual dials glow red, the gear position indicator brightens as engine speed rises, gearshift points are raised, and suspension damping is firmer.A blind-spot monitoring system and standard front and rear parking sensors, with visual indicators shown on the touch-screen, and a backup camera — along with a loud audible alert — help with lane changes, parking and maneuvering.Automatic high/low headlights respond to oncoming traffic, and adaptive lighting swivels the headlights to follow curves and turns.My XJR came with an Illumination Package for $1,700, which included lighted door and trunk sills and illuminated air vents. A heated front windshield added $375, and wheel locks tacked on $138.Total delivered price of my tester was $122,108, including options and $895 freight.
The automotive columns of Emma Jayne Williams appear weekly in the Star-Telegram. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.