We’re not in your typical snow drive; we’re taking these roads with style…in a Jaguar. Make that the world’s first all-wheel drive Jaguar.
Compared to the “office/jet” XJ Ultimate Edition our Bunnies launched in Pebble Beach in August, the standard XJ puts forth the same interior standards of taste, comfort and elegance that auto fans have come to expect from the new Jaguar lines but also keeps its heart as a flagship driving sedan.
After over 18 months of development and testing of the proprietary AWD system in Northern Sweden, the XJ appears to handle these oft-dangerous roads with ease as the ultralow-center-of-gravity beast clings to the ground, making the most of the new traction and monitored grip levels while feeling like you’re driving with a RWD system
The Transfer Case Control Module, or TCCM, is the brain behind the operation, electronically monitoring steering, throttle and traction inputs and guiding the delivery of torque from the driveshaft to the four wheels depending on slippery conditions. While the front wheel preloaded torque in Winter Mode was useful in stop-and-go conditions through salted towns, it was when we really got into the wilderness that the AWD’s 30:70 torque split setting (front/back wheels) kept us firmly on the road. We experienced a slight amount of fishtailing around some major hairpin turns, but we’d attribute that mostly to our own speed cockiness; the integrated DSC quickly put us back in line.
To really gauge the worthiness of this vehicle in the most dramatic wintertime situations, our onboard GPS—though sadly lacking the commanding, sexy British voice we were expecting—guided us further north to an off-road winter test facility complete with ice circuit that immediately brought back memories of the 007 Aston-Jaguar XKR ice show from Die Another Day.
First up was the 3.0-liter supercharged V6 XJ on the ice track, where we were paired with a Jaguar test-driving legend: a small, unassuming Finnish woman named Minna Sillankorva, who was shown drifting the Jaguar XKR-S, Playboy’s 2012 Car of the Year. We were keen not to send our Jag flying into the surrounding ring of trees and we caught the drift of it after a few spins discovering the perfect balance of steering and throttle that would keep you going in circles for hours.
Next, we tested how different modes would react to a slippery slalom-style course paired with a last-minute swerve and recover that was challenging once you brought the vehicles up to speed. However, the DSC once again kept us in line—and perhaps saved a few pylons by a fraction of an inch.
The last challenge let us get behind the wheel of Jaguar’s other upcoming AWD model, the sports sedan XF that also contains the supercharged 3.0 V6. Though it’s a few months behind in the development pipeline, we didn’t notice a major difference behind the wheel of the pre-production prototype. The mixed-surface course gave us a chance to get a feel for how the car would perform its winter magic on different angles—most of the time with one half of the car on sheer ice and the other on sand or dirt. The end result was impressive, with the TCCM adjusting the output to give some traction to the slippery side and just enough power on dirt to gently ease us uphill and back on track.
Overall, the AWD Jags were notable, never mind the obscene factor of watching luxury vehicles barrel through the snow at (somewhat) top speed. This cold-weather market has been especially lucrative for the Germans (BMW 7 series and Audi A8, to name a couple), and it’s a natural progression for Jaguar to head in this direction. At a price point starting at $76,700 for the standard 2013 XJ 3.0 AWD ($83,700 for the Portfolio EWB edition) and $53,000 for the 2013 XF 3.0, there’s some serious room for competition from these introductions.
Check out the video above, and for more information visit www.jaguarusa.com