Traverse City Record-Eagle

Archive: Sunday

December 23, 2012

Jaguars designed for luxury class

New models appeal to upscale customers

Seventy-two.

While I can admire a classic '72 Stingray, muse at a '72 El Camino SS pickup or gaze at the long-nosed '72 Buick Riviera, none of these apply.

Nor is it a palate pleasing Château Climens Sauternes or Coutet Sauternes, each '72 Bordeaux sweet wines. Not anything close to Hurricane Agnes, the '72 hurricane that devastated the East Coast either.

Well, what then?

The answer is not so obvious for anyone counting themselves a James Bond fan and recent patron of the smash hit Skyfall. Speaking of counting, the illusive number, 72, is actually the number of screen shots featuring Jaguar and Land Rover cars.

It would take an avid Bond fan or, as I discovered at a recent media event, a Brit engineer from the Jaguar Land Rover Coventry plant to do the counting.

Movie goers may recall the Jaguar sedan used to chauffer "M," the Bond matriarch and head of British Secret Service, Judi Dench, between harrowing scenes.

Bragging rights on the 2013 model go to a first-ever all wheel drive system available on the XF sport and XJ luxury sedans and two new engines designed for fuel economy and performance.

Jaguar models range from the XF sedan, XK sports coupe and convertible, to the flagship XJ sedan. Ownership of the brand has switched from Ford in 2008 to Tata Motors of India.

Philosophy behind the new all-wheel-drive system is straightforward. With lagging North American sales, the world-class auto manufacturer needs a sedan to run with Mercedes-Benz, E 350, Audi A 6 and BMW 5 Series. They all offer all-wheel drive configurations with fuel-saving engines. For years, Jaguar has been producing luxury, but gas-thirsty V8 sedans with rear-wheel drive.

The XF and XJ models solve both problems and bring to the table a pair of world-class cars starting at under $47,000.

Driving dynamics are enhanced significantly with the AWD system featuring power transfer control technology that shifts power between front and rear wheels, and side to side, in mili-seconds as it detects wheel slippage and applies braking as needed.

Default driving mode remains at 10/90 split, front to rear power ratio, to retain the sporty dynamics of a rear-wheel drive car. A switchable winter mode preloads additional torque to the front wheels at start-up and defaults to a 30/70 torque split to maximize traction on slippery surfaces.

On wintry track conditions with snow and ice, I drove the the XF uphill, downhill, through a cone-lined obstacle course and even a circular ice rink with full grip, power and precision. Impressive.

Two new engines, an inline 4-cylinder and supercharged V6 are available on the XF and XJ. Replacing last year's gearbox is an eight-speed automatic transmission that enhances performance and fuel economy. The zero to 60 sprint is achieved in 7.5 seconds with the 4 cylinder and in 5.7 ticks with the V6 engine.

Luxury appointments abound on the XF model. Standard equipment includes an aluminum dashboard with satin or gloss-wood veneers, tailored instrument and door panels with twin needle-stitching plus Phosphor Blue halo illumination and interior mood lighting. Leather seating and multi-adjustable seats are also standard.

A full cast of option packages are also available and include navigation and HDD music storage, premium audio with up to 17 speakers, rear camera view, blind spot monitor, larger alloy wheels, sport seats with perforated leather and black piano veneer interior trim.

For the performance minded, the 2013 V8 equipped Jaguar XF and XFR will reach 60 miles per hour in 4.7 seconds utilizing its 510 horsepower. Starting at $83,200 the XFR will also accelerate from 50 to 70 mph in just 1.9 seconds. If price is not a limiting factor then the XJL Ultimate, a 5-liter supercharged V8, can be yours for $155,000.

Now that Jaguar has an all-season car to compete with U.S. and other foreign all-wheel drive sedans, all that is needed is a consumer willing to switch brands. Skyfall viewers have plenty of chances to see the car in action. So all that remains is, will it Bond?

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