Do You Have To Use Paddle Shifters In Sport Mode latest 2023

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Road Test: 2011 Jaguar XJ Supercharged

The 2011 Jaguar XJ is the latest derivative of Jaguar’s top of the line touring saloon and recently I was given a fabulous opportunity to road test one of these sensational cats by Jaguar of Harrisburg, located in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. When I say that I “road test” a car, I wish to be clear that it truly is a test drive on public roads and that all performance data, for the most part, has been supplied by the manufacturer or other credible source.

The newest XJ is a car that has much to live up to, as the original XJ saloon first entered service in 1968 as the Series 1 XJ6 powered by the legendary XK engine and sporting 4.2 liters of displacement. Yielding 245hp at 5500rpm, a Series 1 XJ6 equipped with an automatic transmission was capable of sprinting to 60mph in 10.1 seconds and topped out at roughly 120mph. The fact that much of the running gear was carried over from the large Mark X saloon meant that little changed for Jaguar’s newest saloon in terms of technical aspects from the outgoing Mark X which it was meant to replace.

Throughout the 1970s and into the 1980s, the XJ continued to evolve, until finally reaching a terminal point in design during the mid 1980s which then saw the car’s first major cosmetic overhaul in almost 20 years. Technically, the XJ was evolving as well, in that the venerable XK engine gave way to the new series of AJ6 inline six cylinder engines. This new range of XJ saloons became known as the XJ40 series, and though better in terms of aerodynamics and overall style and performance than the outgoing Series 3 it replaced, the XJ40 series of cars were plagued by a complex hydraulic ride level system and Vehicle Condition Monitoring system which was set up to indicate failed bulbs and brake pad wear.

1995’s arrival of the X300 series cars was a welcome sight indeed, complete with yet another new line of six cylinder engines, known internally as AJ16, and displacing 3.6 liters and 4.0 liters. The styling was a bit more traditional and saw a return to four independent headlamps and a fluted bonnet. The X300 series was a huge sales success for Jaguar, which continued to improve on build quality after suffering for a few years during XJ40 production period. Performance was improved as well with this series, as 0-60 in a 4.0 liter XJ6 with an automatic transmission took only 7.8 seconds to achieve.

Parallel to the X300 series cars of 1995-1997, Jaguar decided to try something that they had never done before in the name of even greater performance, and that was to add a supercharger to the AJ16 engine, a feature which continues to be offered to this day. By bolting on an Eaton M90 supercharger and an air to water intercooler, power on the AJ16 six cylinder rose to a healthy 321bhp, and torque rose as well to a whopping 378 pound feet which necessitated a swap to a GM 4L80E transmission to handle the twist that was heading toward the rear axle.

In late 1997, the all new XJ8 arrived with a 4.0 liter dohc V8 mill that pumped out a nice 290bhp in naturally aspirated variants, and an even sweeter 370bhp in cars equipped with a supercharged engine. Known internally as the X308, the XJ8 set the stage for today’s Jaguars by being the first to pack V8 muscle for a power plant, as well as Jaguar’s own adaptive dampening suspension system, then known as CATS.

The X350, which replaced the X308, was a milestone car for the company when it debuted as a 2004 model in that it was the firm’s first all aluminum bodied model, as the car was squarely aiming to take on the best of its contemporary rivals from Germany. To handle the aluminum body production, manufacturing was shifted out of Coventry and over to Castle Bromwich. The car retained the V8 engine configuration of its predecessor, but the mill was popped out to 4.2 liters in size. In some markets, the XJ6 moniker saw a brief return with this series of car, though as a V6 instead of the more traditional inline six cylinder configuration. 2007 saw the arrival of a face lifted variant, known inside the works as X358, though most changes were in the form of aesthetics. The X358 gave way to the current XJ in 2009, known as X351.

This brings us to the version which participated in our recent road test, the 2011 XJ, more precisely the XJ Supercharged. The new car boosts a myriad of changes as designer Ian Callum set a course to take the newest variation of the classic XJ in a path that deviates from all previous XJ design lineage. The results appear to be quite stunning indeed.

Starting at the nose of the new cat, the design teams made a more profound grille styled in wire mesh, which they then float the classic Jaguar badge with “Growler” logo in the center of the mesh field. The Raptor style headlamps add to a low, menacing like look when viewed from the front and from there the car takes on a rather fluid like shape, all while maintaining a low and sleek look. The newest XJ is equipped with two sun roofs, front and rear, the front opening and providing a panoramic view of the sky, while the rear stays fixed. The blackened C-Pillar adds a bit of intrigue to the design as well, and the rear tail lamps were conceived as “cat’s claws” in LED.

Once inside the large saloon and you immediately feel nestled in a cozy cockpit which Jaguar has become known for providing. Despite the outward size of the car, once behind the three spoke, deep dish steering wheel wrapped in wood and leather, the car seemingly shrinks and you are presented with a feeling of driving a vehicle half the size of the XJ. The seats are made up of Italian soft grade leather. Our test car sported Cashew toned leather which was close to a light tan color. The dash is direct and clear to see, with the gauges being an LCD display. The color of the dash was a deeper brown known as Truffle, and offset the Cashew colored seats nicely. Another note of interest with the two front seats is a massage option that can be selected on the information display. This option could be beneficial when in route to or from a high performance track day. Prominent features on the dash that draw attention are the jet style vents which allow you to direct ventilation the way a jet directs thrust, and the information display that houses all the data on subjects like audio equipment and tuning, climate control, navigation, and much more. No mention of a Jaguar interior would be complete without mention of the beautiful wood grain material which is found throughout in sheer abundance.

The rear seats offered a great deal of space, as the author had no issues on ingress and egress of the rear passenger compartment with his six foot frame. Head room was excellent both front and rear, and the rear back light glass comes equipped with a blind to assist in keeping the sun to a minimum. The 2011 XJ sports a four way climate control system, helping keep every occupant in each quadrant of the interior in a comfortable atmosphere. Our test model came with the 1200 watt, 20 speaker, Bowers & Wilkens sound system, which means the XJ has the ability to become one very rapid concert hall on wheels. Boot space was more than adequate, and beneath the boot floor is a space saver spare located next to the car’s battery.

In terms of propulsion, the 2011 XJ is offered with three engine configurations to propel the all aluminum car to some stellar performance figures. The base Generation III AJ V8 engine is rated at 385hp, while the XJ Supercharged engine boosts 470hp, and the bespoke, built to order, XJ Super Sport mill will provide a casual 510hp. All engines are 5.0 liters in displacement and are liquid cooled dohc V8s backed by ZF six speed automatic gearboxes. The XJ Supercharged that I drove comes standard with Active Differential Control and 20 inch Kasuga alloys wrapped in the latest sport rubber to assist in making full use of all 470 ponies.

Like many cars today, there is no key to be used, just a simple fob that performs the same functions as a key but in an electronic manner. Walk up to the XJ Supercharged and simply open the door, as the car recognizes the fob and knows to unlock the doors without hassling you to push a button. Once strapped in, you simply apply the foot brake and press the start/stop button located on the dash to the right of the steering wheel. A few seconds later and that nice 5.0 liter lump is idling with a sweet low tone that’s just deep enough to let you know that there’s indeed a V8 under the bonnet as the console mounted gear selector dial raises to greet you. Across the top of the gear selector dial are the letters P-R-N-D-S. Turn the dial and a red light will illuminate under the appropriate letter to let you know which selection has been made. Select R and the information screen switches to a back up camera allowing you to see directly behind the vehicle. This, along with the side mirrors, is actually quite nice to utilize when reversing, as today’s cars have somewhat limited visibility to the rear.

In routine driving, the engine note is just enough to let you know that there is indeed a powerful mill beneath the bonnet, but start to play with the paddle shifters and you really begin to feel like you’re at the wheel of a highly tuned automobile. What is nice with the XJ Supercharged is that you can snatch an up shift or down shift at any given moment using the paddle shifters while operating the car in D or S modes. Selecting S mode simply adds a bit of sporting feel to the up shifts, all with the ZF transmission continuing to shift itself or, as in D, you may choose a gear at any time with the paddles.

Leaving the dealership, my drive took me on the major Interstates surrounding Central Pennsylvania’s capital city of Harrisburg. Cruising on Interstate roadways is something the XJ Supercharged does with ease. Throttle input is light and the car soaked up irregularities in the road surface with little or no disturbance to the occupant. The Caviar Red Metallic aluminum monocoque is insulated quite well, though some road noise from the massive 20 inch sport radials was ascertained, but nothing like that of some other modern sporting saloons which use similar wheel and tire combinations.

Once across and to the west of the Susquehanna River, I managed to exit the highway and find some suitable back roads that offered nice curves and a low volume of traffic to explore the new XJ’s sporting attributes. The buttons below the gear selector dial are for winter mode, traction stability control, auto speed limiter, and dynamic mode. The latter two are perhaps the most important, as pressing the auto speed limiter button will allow you to set a pre-determined speed limit, thus helping an out of control right foot steer clear of law enforcement intervention. While the polar opposite is the dynamic mode switch, which requires the XJ Supercharged to be in park in order to be selected. Once selected; the engine note changes a bit, the suspension firms up, the gauges outline themselves with a red glow, and there is a nice tug on the restrain belts as if to let you know that you are ready to take off.

Selecting dynamic mode truly transforms the XJ Supercharged from a very high quality luxury car that is quite content with lazily cruising around in style, to an all out British super weapon ready to take on the best the world has to offer in terms of corner carving performance saloons. Acceleration became noticeably crisper, the use of paddle shifters became a necessity, and the 20 inch wheels and tires truly began to speak out on corners of all types. Placing the XJ Supercharged in first gear in dynamic mode and moving your right foot to the floor is similar to riding a tsunami style wave of sheer horsepower and torque. First gear is vanquished rather instantly and the sound of the Gen III AJ V8 at 6,000 rpm is one that lets the driver know with little doubt that a shift needs to occur before things become scattered about. The sound of the direct injected V8 is just incredible, and even more so on the overrun when down shifting as you hear a distinct burble and occasionally a pop or two coming from the exhaust. Though adequate timing equipment was not present, the much spoken of realm of roughly 5 seconds to accelerate from 0-60mph seems quite relevant with the middle of the road XJ Supercharged.

Unlike some electronically shifted sequential gearboxes, the ZF box in the XJ is one of the better ones, especially in dynamic mode where shifts are almost instantaneous, and downshifts are matched quite well with the tranny automatically blipping the throttle to get the revs just right. Under normal and sport mode driving there is, at times, a feeling of lunging upon down shifting, both when using the paddles and when allowing the box to select the gears. This wasn’t really a problem, just something that is noticeable from time to time.

Braking and steering are both excellent, in fact the braking may be a bit over the top, as the brake pedal only needs a light touch to really haul the light weight saloon down in a jiffy. Steering was exceptionally well balanced, with the steering effort always being weighted more in a sporting manner, and never light as you might expect in a large luxury car. Both the outstanding steering and brakes go a long way in helping the big saloon remain balanced in all modes of operation on any type of twisty road, as the XJ always felt composed and exceptionally well balanced, even when the tires began to squeal on hard cornering.

With the test complete, the Jaguar XJ Supercharged was graciously returned to Jaguar of Harrisburg where it will continue on as the dealerships demonstrator until being replaced by the 2012 model. Priced at $87,525, the new XJ Supercharged won’t be a car that fits every enthusiast’s budget. However, it is a car that stands true to Sir William Lyons’ ethos of “Grace, Space, and Pace.” The 2011 XJ Supercharged also serves as the perfect vehicle to continue Jaguar’s heritage of producing the finest sporting saloons on the planet and carries the XJ moniker with pride over 40 years after it first came to light.

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