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First Review: Jaguar's new XF and XJ all-wheel-drive system

By Zach Vlasuk on December 28, 2012 3:20 PM
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It's no secret that anyone who encounters slippery road surfaces on a regular basis appreciates the sure-footed traction of all-wheel drive. And because not even the well-to-do can buy their way out of bad weather, every luxury automaker has taken to offering all-wheel drive across much of its lineup. Every luxury automaker, that is, except Jaguar.

For nearly five years, in fact, Jaguar's product line consisted exclusively of V8-powered rear-wheel-drive cars. But over 30 percent of the luxury vehicles sold in 2012 were equipped with all-wheel-drive, and Jaguar rightly wanted a piece of that pie going forward.

But none of Jaguar's engine offerings could accommodate the extra components of an all-wheel-drive system, so the British marque was forced to develop an all-new powerplant. With the sale of V8-powered cars on the decline overall, Jaguar seized the opportunity to kill two birds with one stone by producing a new 340-horsepower supercharged 6-cylinder for its 2013 XF and XJ sedans. The engine is matched with an equally new 8-speed automatic transmission driving just the rear wheels, or now, all four.

To preserve the brand's trademark driving dynamics, Jaguar Instinctive All-Wheel Drive, as it's known, underwent 18-months of all-weather, all-surface testing. Under normal driving conditions power distribution is rear-biased to the tune of 90 percent, but the system can seamlessly send up to 50 percent of the power to the front wheels when additional grip is needed.  

On cold, wet roads, the all-wheel-drive XF and XJ both felt just as athletic and composed as their rear-drive counterparts. We were unable to detect even the slightest hint of torque steer during spirited cornering and hard acceleration. Power from the supercharged 6-cylinder was ample and refined, while the new 8-speed automatic gearbox provided quick yet pleasantly smooth shifts. Although the new all-wheel-drive system adds roughly 150 pounds of curb weight, both Jaguar variants can sprint from 0-60 in a very respectable 6.1 seconds (the aluminum-bodied XJ shares a similar curb weight with the smaller XF). As for fuel economy, AWD versions of the XF and XJ carry an EPA-estimated city/highway rating of 16/26 and 16/24, respectively.

To equip these vehicles with all-wheel drive, Jaguar charges an additional $3,000 for the XF (starting at $53,875), $3,500 for the XJ ($77,575), and $2,500 for the long-wheelbase XJL ($84,575). The XJ AWD is on sale now, while the XF AWD will hit showrooms in February. 

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