First Drives

05 December 2012

First drive: Jaguar XJ 3.0 AWD

It’s just like an XJ, but you can take it out in the snow. Not coming anytime soon, though...

TopGear.com
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A four-wheel drive XJ? How curious.

Yep, available only with the lovely supercharged 335bhp 3.0-litre petrol V6 (due for fitment in the F-Type) and eight-speed auto ‘box. And it's been built under the watchful eye of those muddy folk at Land Rover.

So the drive system is a parts bin job?

Apparently not. Jag's at pains to stress that this is a bespoke setup (we asked, and there's not one single Land Rover component on it), conceived to replicate the feel of a rear-wheel drive car. It can feed as much as 100 per cent of the power to the back wheels when grip levels allow. In Winter mode (one of three - the others are Normal and Dynamic) it pulls away in second gear to minimise wheel spin, and sends 30 per cent of the power to the front wheels by default. By constantly measuring speed, steering angle, and brake pressure, it works out where to put the torque, with the capability of running 100 per cent of it through the front wheels.

How does that work, then?

Seeing as it wasn't ever intended to be a four-wheel driver, Jag engineers had to completely re-engineer its undercrackers. There's a new front sub frame, revised steering rack, a special exhaust system that snakes around the new front diff and driveshafts, meatier engine mounts, repositioned damper mounts, a re-geared rear differential, and an acoustic heat shield to limit the noise from the transfer case.

Crikey. But does it still feel all wafty and lovely like a normal XJ?

It really, really does. Jag's managed to conjoin two extraordinary twins here: a real world-repelling luxo-cave, and a slalom ski. This is a car that will massage your buttocks while you're driving at 70kph down a snow-covered B-road. It'll lunge up sheet-ice hills and wriggle through the sort of quick lane changes that'd trouble some SUVs, and you have to look for the limit to find out that the AWD and clever stability systems are doing most of the work.

Gimme gimme gimme!

Not so fast, slick. It's only going to America, China, Russia and Continental Europe.

Eh?

Rubbish, isn't it? Jag says the XJ was costly to build (on account of its not-designed-for-AWDness), but it was a necessary task considering AWD models account for almost 50 per cent of the US market for big saloons, and up to around 80 per cent in the Snow Belt states and Canada.

Surely there are enough people otherwise that'd want one?

Apparently not. It's only worth around five per cent of the luxo-barge market, even despite the rear-thrusting XJ's, erm, "bracing" proclivities on ice. Terrible shame. Especially considering the AWD system's getting fitted to the XF, too.

Numbers

2995cc, 6-cyl, 4WD, 335bhp, 450Nm, 8kpl, 234g/km C02, 0-100kph in 6.1secs, 250kph (limited).

Rating

8/10

Tags: jaguar, xj awd, xj

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