2011 Jaguar XJ Supersport

2011 Jaguar XJ Supersport 2011 Jaguar XJ Supersport
Short Take Road Test

With the new XJ, Jaguar has clarified the menu. Once buyers had to choose among XJ8, XJ8 L, Vanden Plas, XJR, Super V-8, and Super V-8 Portfolio, but now the car is offered as a standard-length XJ or the supersize-me, long-wheelbase XJL. In the spirit of Jaguar’s Indian ownership, we envision the engine lineup as three levels of spiciness: the mild 385-hp base car, the medium 470-hp Supercharged, and the extra-spicy 510-hp Supersport. We have already sampled the XJ Supercharged, and now we have a chance to taste the extra heat of the Supersport.

The XJ Supersport starts at a base price of $111,075, or $22,500 more than an XJ Supercharged. Nearly everything Jaguar offers is standard on both; the only major options are different wheels; rear-seat entertainment; a heated windshield; and adaptive cruise control, a $2300 upgrade on the Supercharged that is included on the Supersport. The flagship also adds little bits of garnish throughout the interior, and as if the XJ’s leather-and-wood trappings weren’t enough, the Supersport goes whole cow and adds a leather headliner. Otherwise, it appears to be exactly like the lesser car. In other words, you don’t get a lot more for your money.

You do, however, get 40 more hp and an extra 37 lb-ft of torque. We weren’t exactly complaining about the performance of the XJ Supercharged, but if you’re one of those more-is-better types, then the Supersport will please you mightily. The 0-to-60-mph sprint takes 4.1 seconds, a 0.3-second improvement; the quarter-mile time drops 0.4 second, to 12.4 at 115 mph. The brakes are excellent as well, stopping the XJ from 70 to 0 mph in 156 feet and showing no performance degradation after repeated panic stops. Skidpad grip, at 0.87 g, is perhaps the only performance figure that suggests the XJ Supersport is a 4316-pound luxury sedan and not an all-out sports car.

Have We Met?

Driving the Supersport is, well, nearly exactly like driving the XJ Supercharged—this is, after all, the same dish with a little more seasoning. In our previous XJ review, we said the car feels like the “most rigid, untwistable, and confidence-inspiring platform in Jaguar’s history.” This is still true. The Supersport simply makes the scenery blur a little more quickly on the way to its governed 161-mph top speed.

Our previous quibbles remain. The all-LCD instrumentation does not convey the luxury message that the rest of the XJ subtly croons, and the touchscreen infotainment system is fussy and slow, although once you get it turned on, the Bowers & Wilkins stereo is excellent. Plus, the XJ transmits more tire and wind noise into the cabin than we’ve come to expect from a luxury car, but this isn’t reflected in the 67-dBA noise level we recorded at a steady 70 mph.

For most people, the Supersport is probably not worth the extra money. The XJ Supercharged is more than enough car for almost every driving scenario and shares the dynamic qualities of the more expensive flagship. But BMW, Mercedes-Benz, and Porsche have big sedans with at least 500 hp, and Audi is sure to surpass that mark when an S variant of the new A8 joins its lineup. So Jaguar needs to offer a car with similar bragging rights for the country-club, locker-room crowd. If you don’t care what your friends think, skip the extra spice and save some money. You can buy a Mini Cooper as a side dish with the cash you’ll save.