Jaguar is thinking small as it tries to make a bigger dent in the sales of the German luxury brands.
The British brand has added four- and six-cylinder engines to its XF and XJ sedans that will give them a lower price point and a wider range to compete with in the prestige market. The XF will get both a 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo and a supercharged 3.0-litre V6, while the XJ is expected to only be offered with the V6 in Australia, despite the four being available in Europe.
Two things stood out during our test drive of the supercharged V6 across the English countryside. The first was the smooth power delivery, combined with plenty of mid-range torque. The second was the hint of a trademark supercharger whine that broke through the otherwise quiet and refined cabin, giving the engine plenty of character without spoiling the civility you expect from an XJ.
The new six-cylinder is effectively the company’s existing aluminium supercharged V8 unit minus two cylinders. It replaces the naturally-aspirated V8 engine currently available in the XJ, as Jaguar downsizes in search of better fuel economy.
The V6, with 250kW of power and 450Nm of torque, can’t match the V8 (283kW and 515Nm) on paper. But in real world driving conditions the V6 doesn’t give much away to its bigger brother. More importantly for Jaguar, it cuts fuel consumption from 11.4-litres per 100km to 9.4L/100km.
Fuel efficiency is helped by the eight-speed automatic transmission that is now standard across both of the new engines.
The V6 will also play a starring role with the new F-Type sports car set to be unveiled at the Paris motor show later this month. Given how lively and responsive it felt in the XJ, the early signs are positive for the long-awaited spiritual successor to the legendary E-Type.
Jaguar has also used the 2013 update to make changes to the suspension on the XJ. Taking advantage of the lighter engines it has softened the suspension for a more compliant ride.
Although we weren’t able to test the old and new set-ups back-to-back it’s clear the softer ride hasn’t come at the expense of dynamic ability. The XJ remains a very well balanced car for its size.
As for the 2.0-litre engine, if it sounds familiar that’s because it’s already used in the Range Rover Evoque - and is related to the Ford Falcon EcoBoost engine. They are so close they share almost the same performance 177kW and 340Nm (Ford officially claims the EcoBoost has 179kW and 353Nm).
Not surprisingly, the Jaguar version of the four is quieter and more refined than the Falcon. Engine noise is kept to an absolute minimum and, thanks to the eight-speed auto, the car is able to cruise along at highway speeds with the engine ticking over at just 1500rpm.
Logic says a car as big as the XF powered by such a small engine should be slow, but based on our initial drive it feels anything but. It’s not a performance car, but the 2.0-litre has ample pulling power to provide a comfortable and relaxed driving experience.
Fuel consumption in the XJ is a claimed 9.3L/100km and 8.9L/100km in the XF.
At this stage Jaguar Australia is undecided if it will offer the 2.0-litre in the XJ but could offer it as a special order model if there is enough customer interest. It would be a gamble to offer such a small engine in what is a flagship limousine.
Pricing for the new XJ range won’t be announced until the Sydney motor show in October but Jaguar Australia brand manager Kevin Goult said the four- and six-cylinder petrol versions will be the price leaders in the range.
He indicated that the XF 2.0 would likely start at about $80,000 range while XJ 3.0 petrol would undercut the 3.0-litre turbo diesel V6 and start at about $165,000.
He added the introduction of the 2013 models would allow a repositioning of the XJ range with both the V8 and less powerful version of the supercharged V8 both being dropped - with just the 375kW supercharged V8 remaining to power the Supersport and Ultimate models.
Price TBA: Four-cylinder XF estimated $80,000, V6 XJ about $165,000
Engines: 3.0-litre supercharged V6, 250kW/450Nm; 2.0-litre four-cylinder, 177kW/340Nm
Transmission: Eight-speed automatic
Fuel use: XJ V6, 9.4L/100km, XJ 4-cyl, 9.3L/100km; XF 4-cyl 8.9L/100km