Jaguar gets a grip on winter

For 2013 the Jaguar XJ (shown) and XF sedans are available with a new 3.0-litre engine and all-wheel-drive.

By Jim Robinson
Metroland Media/WheelsTalk.com -

Dashing through the snow in an all-wheel Jag XJ,

Over the hills we go, laughing all the way….

Or that was until my co-driver hit an ice-coated rock lurking below five centimetres of new fallen white stuff cutting a sidewall on a very expensive right front low profile snow tire.

On a completely isolated gravel road somewhere east of Quebec’s Mont Tremblant resort area, I thought of calling for back up from the Jaguar support team which was part of a huge Jaguar/Land Rover global launch of the all-new all-wheel-drive Jaguar XJ and XF sedans and the new LR2 compact SUV in Quebec.

Problem was, we were outside cell coverage. The option was to wait until Jag realized we were stationary or continue on in the disabled vehicle. Each Jag was fitted with a GPS tracking device and they would have dispatched a crew eventually.

I looked at my co-driver, the renown automotive writer Ted West, and he looked at me. And being the tough old gents we are, we decided to continue gingerly along for five kilometres to an indicated highway where I was sure cellphone coverage would be available – and it was.

Not to worry, the Jag voice said, telling us to continue on to the proving ground in Mecaglisse, a very demanding facility where vehicles can be tested literally to the limit.

When we finally arrived, the technicians treated it all as matter of fact.

The all-wheel-drive system is based on a centre transfer case.

Jaguar is very proud of their new AWD system to the point there were some 11 waves of auto writers coming to Quebec to try the Jags and Land Rover LR2s on some of the most challenging surfaces in this continent at least.

The 2013 AWD Jags start with a new engine, a 3.0-litre supercharged V6 which is effectively the current 5.0-litre supercharged V8 with two cylinders lopped off. On the XF sedan fuel numbers are 13.1/7.7/10.7L/100 km city/highway/combined and on the larger XJ sedan it is 13.0/8.1/10.8L/100 km.

In both cases the engine produces 340 hp and 332 lb/ft of torque that sees a top speed of 250 km/h and a 0-100 km/h acceleration time of 6.4 seconds.

Jaguar tried AWD before but they don’t really want to talk about it.

It was the X-Type that was spawned during Ford’s ill-conceived Premiere Auto Group that lumped Jaguar, Volvo, Aston Martin and Lincoln all together sharing the vast banks of Ford engineering and parts.

To flesh out the offerings on the Jag showroom floors someone came up with the idea of taking a Ford Mondeo AWD (sold here as the non AWD Ford Contour and Mercury Mystique) and fitting Jaguar trappings inside and out and palming it off as a baby Jag.

Oh well, that was then and this is now and Ford is out of the picture, with Jaguar/Land Rover now part of the huge Tata group based in India.

At the Jag AWD briefing in Mecaglisse, officials were quite chuffed about sales increases and the emergence of new, exciting models like the Jaguar F-Type sports car I personally can’t wait to get my hands on.

The AWD system is based on a centre transfer case control module (TCCM) with prop shafts going to a front differential with steering angle sensors and brake pressure sensors on each front wheel. The other prop shaft goes to the rear to another differential with a vehicle speed sensor on each rear wheel.

The all-wheel-drive system on the Jaguar XJ and XF sedans operates in three modes – normal, winter and dynamic. To select winter or dynamic, the driver presses one of the two buttons behind the rotary shifter.

For the driver, drive mode selection is simplicity itself. Besides operating in “normal” at startup, there are buttons on the transmission tunnel just behind the rotary shifter for “winter” and “dynamic” modes.

After a mercifully brief overview, we were let loose on a series of challenging, and I mean challenging exercises with tight courses and switchback turns and all under a blanket of snow on top on mud and ice.

Parked on a 30-degree incline with the left side on pavement and the other in show, we were instructed to proceed forward with the left side firmly in control but the right scrabbling for grip. We did make it but not without the engine bellowing in protest.

On “winter”, control was much more even and there was no need to rev the engine because torque transfer was more even.

Later they let us loose on the skid pad and, in the prevailing conditions, “skid” was the appropriate word.

The instructor, who happened to be the son of the owner of the facility, showed us a little track-side hut used by visitors frequently suffering from motion sickness such are the G-forces one can generate at the limit.

Round and round we went, snow flying, the car sideways, sometimes backward but always moving in the right direction.

I can’t remember being so entertained in a car.

But the message Jag wanted imparted and which I definitely got, was confidence in the car is what AWD brings to the owner.

Confidence also leads to a sense of just being that much more safe on the road despite the conditions.

As we were told at the briefing, Land Rover knows a thing or two about all-wheel-drive and now it seems, Jaguar does too.

Pricing will be $89,000 for the AWD XJ and $61,500 for the XF not including a $1,350 shipping fee.

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