Jaguar has landed a light but important punch on the nose of Audi and other premium rivals with the launch of all-wheel drive versions of the XF and XJ. We’ll have to applaud from afar however, because the cars, with their subtle 3.0 AWD badging, aren’t coming to the UK.
AWD system paired with blown V6
The reason, Jag says, is that AWD accounts for just five per cent of the UK luxury saloon market. That’s compared to about a third of the US market, where 80 per cent of these are heading. The rest will be split between Russia and continental Europe.
As if to make that point, the only engine variant to get the AWD set-up the 340hp supercharged 3.0-litre V6 petrol. So for us, the X-type remains the only all-wheel-drive Jaguar (there’s a statement begging to be disproved).
Of course this system is a lot more sophisticated than the permanent ‘Traction 4’ system on X-Type.
The eight-speed auto box has been fitted with a transfer case with an electronically operated coupling that can direct up to 50 per cent of the torque to the front wheels if slip is detected.
Half the torque can be sent to the front
That detection is the work of sensors on everything from the wheels to the steering wheel and is long way from the old viscous coupling on the original X-Types (even that got binned for later AWD models). Jaguar reckons there is no penalty in terms of ride quality, agility or driver enjoyment and has given the AWD cars new springs, dampers and anti-roll bars up front. There’s also a new steering knuckle to better replicate the feedback of rear-wheel-drive cars. It doesn’t impact on fuel economy too much: 29mpg versus 30mpg on the XF.
We spoke to Theo Gassmann, director of advanced engineering at globally renowned (and British) driveshaft and transmission makers GKN to ask exactly what good AWD systems do. “You can reduce oversteering tendency in slippery conditions,” he tells us. “It means less brake intervention to stabilise the car.”
Most AWD versions will be sold in US
Essentially, he says, there’s less lift-off oversteer coming into a corner and less power oversteer coming out. Not great for the likes of Harris, but then these are luxury barges. Audi of course is the master at this, offering Quattro on four engines for the A6 and every engine on the A8 in the UK, among others. BMW is expected to add xDrive versions (operating a very similar system to Jaguar) on its 3 Series in the autumn and maybe the 5 Series next year.
Currently Mercedes doesn’t offer any 4matic saloons or estates either – okay, the R-Class – but the forthcoming AMG A-Class will be AWD.
So, good news if you root for Jaguar as a company, less exciting if you’re in the market for a less scrabbly luxury saloon this winter.