2011 Jaguar XJL
Jaguar says you can have your limousine and drive it too.
The instrument is the all-new XJL Supercharged sedan, an elongated version of the new flagship XJ. It’s a luxury car unlike any previous big Jaguar, with styling that 60 years ago was called a torpedo body, where the roofline arcs in a continuous line from the bottom of the windshield to the rear bumper.In short, it is long, low, muscular and sleek as the cat for which it was named. Like an imposing mansion, it has street presence that turns heads, especially when dressed in the test car’s “caviar” paint color—an unusual burgundy brown embedded with gold flecks. The interior, crafted with polished wood and sumptuous leather, bespeaks wealth and vanity.
There are two models, each with three versions: the XJ, which is 16 feet 10 inches long, and the tested XJL, which is 17 feet 3 inches long. That additional five inches of length translates into a limo-like back seat with enough stretch space for a pro basketball center.
The extra 10 cubic feet of passenger room—109 versus the XJ’s 99—also changes the government classification from mid-size for the XJ to large for the XJL.
Standard power emanates from a 385-horsepower, 5-liter V8 engine. In the base XJ, it has the lowest price tag of $73,575. Stepping up from there gets you the 470-horsepower Supercharged version, at $88,575. At the top is the 510-horsepower Supersport, for $111,075.
The lineup is the same in the stretched XJL model with the prices checking in at $80,575, the tested $91,575 and $114,075. Surprisingly, the stretched XJL weighs just 42 pounds more than the XJ and earns the same city/highway fuel consumption rating of 15/21 miles to the gallon.
In all models, the power transfers to the rear wheels via a six-speed automatic transmission with sport and manual-shift modes. Depending on how you use it, the transmission can make the XJL feel anywhere from purring to snarling.The shift knob rises wraith-like from the center console. In “drive,” the transmission changes gears smoothly and unobtrusively. But select the “sport” setting and it turns into an abrupt head snapper. The throttle response is instant and the onboard computer shifts gears at higher engine revolutions, producing a jerking sensation not unlike that of a manual gearbox in the hands of a novice.
The manual-shift mode, controlled by paddles on the steering wheel, is not much different and it does not trust the driver, deciding itself when to shift regardless of the paddle selection. In the “sport” mode, zero to 60 miles an hour acceleration happens in slightly more than four seconds, accompanied by musical V8 exhaust notes. You won’t do any better with the paddles.
There are two suspension settings: normal and dynamic, with the latter engaging firmer shock absorbers and even quicker throttle response. But even in the normal setting, the XJL is more sports sedan than boulevard cruiser. It makes for nicely balanced handling responses on curving roads but also a ride where choppy road surfaces are more felt than perceived.
As a result, if you prefer to be chauffeur driven in serene and soft comfort, look elsewhere. The XJL is meant to be driven hard.
One indication of that characteristic lies in the driver’s seatback, which has substantial bolsters to clamp the torso in place. They’re even power adjustable so you can snug yourself in really tight.
The back seat of the XJL also is comfortable and way more commodious for two people. It includes amenities like fold-down wood-trimmed trays, side screens, climate controls and lighted vanity mirrors. But forget the high hard one that is the center position. The seat bottom is park-bench solid and there’s a giant rectangle of a driveline tunnel where your feet should go.
Because of the sleek torpedo-body styling, vision to the rear is restricted through a small rectangle. Most drivers will only see the tops of approaching cars and the broad side pillars result in big blind spots unless you adjust the outside mirrors properly, which few people do.Fortunately, for those who don’t know how or won’t properly adjust the mirrors, the XJL comes standard with a blind-spot warning system that illuminates lights in the outside mirrors. But on the test car they could have used some adjustment, turning on only when the overtaking car was practically climbing the XJL’s backside and staying on until the car was well abreast and easily seen.
Also standard is a navigation system, controlled by a touch-screen along with the audio and climate controls. The touch-screen was balky and not intuitive, sometimes requiring a long touch or several touches. For some odd reason, the rear-view camera would remain on for anywhere from several seconds to half a minute after shifting out of reverse.
The virtual instruments, though easily read, were out of character with the car, like something you would see on a video game or laptop computer. They contrasted with a costume-jewel-like analog clock in the middle of the dash.