Jaguar’s image has been polished, tarnished and polished several times, but its history of racing success, generous power and spirited road manners, along with an expectation of gentlemanly comfort, endures.
The restyled XJL does nothing to dispel the legend, with its muscular but trim lines, big chrome grille and vertical tail lamps. But there are some surprises, too.
First, this is a large sedan with mammoth interior that will accommodate five adults with NBA length legs. The XJ’s long-wheelbase model features a limo-like 124.3-inch wheelbase, or somewhere between Chevrolet’s big Tahoe and Suburban SUVs for wheelbase, and they aren’t small. Overall length is sizeable too. In fact, a Tahoe is more than four inches shorter in lengthy. Trust me, this Jag is roomy.
Jaguar’s engine creates 340 horses, which may sound mild for a Jag, but since the car is light for its size, just 4,153 lbs., the car feels relatively nimble. The surprise to long-time Jag devotees may be that there’s no V8 in this model, but the 3.0-liter V6 is supercharged. That gives you quick power when you need it, but doesn’t tax your gas mileage too much in normal stop and go driving.
The XJL, and this one had all-wheel drive (another surprise), is rated at 16 mpg city and 24 highway. I ran it about 60% highway miles and got 20.1 mpg. That’s good for the size and power of the vehicle, plus it being all-wheel drive.
Acceleration is smooth and strong with the Jag’s 8-speed automatic transmission delivering seamless shifts. My only concern with the drivetrain is the gas-saving “intelligent stop-start” feature. Like a hybrid, the Jaguar’s gas engine shuts off at stoplights or nearly anytime you’re stopped in traffic, or at a drive-up window, etc. When you take your foot off the brake, the engine automatically refires. Both on the shutdown and the startup there is a noticeable shudder that seemed less refined than I’ve felt in various hybrids. Several riders commented on it, saying they would be disappointed in that shake after paying roughly $85 grand for such a luxury yacht.
That’s right, the XJL starts at $83,700 and with only a delivery charge, no options, hit $84,595. This, apparently, is the price for merging luxury and notable styling.
But while there was that hiccup when the engine shuts off to save fuel, the powertrain and the interior are incredibly quiet. This may be the quietest car I’ve driven in several years. With the car stationary and running I got 64 decibels on an iPhone app that my friend loaned me. That jumped to only 67 when a friend’s daughter played her French horn just outside the car in a sound test we did for my You Tube video review. Outside, by the horn, the decibels hit a peak of 118.
Handling is another surprise in a car with such a long wheelbase. Steering is moderately heavy, but offers good feedback and the car corners well, like a midsize sports sedan. Again, this is a satisfying blend of sport and luxury that carries over to the ride, which is well controlled without being stiff, firm without being punishing as in some European makes.
There was a bit of slippery light snow and monsoon-like rain under tire for a couple days during the test too, but traction from the Jag’s 19-inch tires was always steady. Stability control comes standard along with the AWD system.
Inside, the dark metallic blue test car features a luxurious and handsome black over saddle brown leather with wide wood inserts in the doors and chrome trim on the doors and armrests. The seats feature dark brown piping around the edges and the carpet floor mats matched the darker brown seat trim, but with a saddle brown trim and Jaguar spelled out on the mats. The XJL’s tan headliner was suede and drew raves from most passengers for its texture.
Maybe all that leather aids the car’s quietness, but this is certainly a hushed interior that allows you to listen to the Meridian sound system in comfort. Plus overhead are twin sunroofs so despite the car’s sizeable interior, which will seat five adults, there’s plenty of light in back if you retract the rear roof’s shade. Manual sun shades are standard for the rear seat’s side windows too and small lighted mirrors fold down out of the roof for back seat passengers, who also have heated and cooled seats, just like the front seats.
Up front there’s also a heated steering wheel to keep the chauffer’s hands warm in winter. A note on the front seat heaters, they must be adjusted through the radio/nav screen and the top level will make you sizzle in just a couple minutes. I found the low setting sufficient.
The Jaguar also comes with paddle shifters on the power tilt/telescope steering wheel. Those are easy to use and control the car’s shift points, if you desire even more power from a standing start. I did notice, as with other paddle shifters though, that it’s hard to use them when turning a tight corner, so you may want to upshift just prior to making a tight turn.
Everything is easy to see and find on the dash, or on the steering wheel hub when it comes to controls. The main gauges are projected, which looks fine, but I’d prefer attractive real gauges, especially at this price. Jaguar’s video nav screen is large and most buttons big enough to see and logical enough to figure out quickly. I like the three-setting memory buttons on the door that allows both the driver and front seat passenger to program in three desired seat settings. The driver also has two buttons to adjust the seat’s side bolsters, and both front seats have power-adjusted head rests.
A couple niceties you don’t get in every luxury car?
There’s a motion detector for the glove box, so you can move your hand in front of it and open the compartment. Also the large overhead front seat lights turn on with the slightest brush of your hand, negating the need to find a button to press in the dark. Jaguar also uses several small lights to give passengers some ambient nighttime visibility.
On the safety front there’s a backup camera displayed in the video screen, plus the Jag has a blind-spot warning system.
A few less than charming features include a narrow driver’s seat butt pocket, which a friend who has an older Jag mentioned has been a concern for him in his car too. I’d like to think that would be corrected soon. Jaguar, which now is owned by Tata Motors in India, also loads up the console with chrome, including its fancy rotary gear shift knob that powers up out of the console. Yet on sunny days, all that chrome becomes distractingly reflective.
Jaguar’s front and rear parking sensors also are overly sensitive, often beeping repeatedly while the car pulls into, or out of, a fairly wide parking space. I suppose you’d get used to it. Also, I’ve got to mention this or get razzed at the office all week, the sun visors do not slide or have extenders. That said, they do pretty much fill the side window when folded to the side, so not much sun can creep in.
Trunk space is a reasonable 15.2 cu.ft., large enough for a set, or two, of golf clubs, and certainly several suitcases. But the car is primarily a sedan for hauling four people in luxury and with loads of legroom front and rear.
Jaguar continues to offer stylish cars with all the amenities, plus sporty performance. Many luxury models now have all that, except for the style, and the pedigree.
FAST Stats: 2014 Jaguar XJL Portfolio AWD
Hits: Quiet, luxurious, plenty of power, good handling and well-controlled ride without being stiff. Spacious, well-appointed leather interior, heated/cooled front and rear seats, heated wheel, side window shades. Two sunroofs and blind-spot warning system.
Misses: Narrow driver’s seat butt pocket and automatic engine idle on/off system not as refined as you’d expect at this price. Also chrome-laden console reflects a lot on sunny days and the parking sensors are too sensitive.
Made in: Castle Bromwich, England
Engine: 3.0-liter supercharged V6, 340 hp
Transmission: 8-speed automatic w/shift paddles
Weight: 4,153 lbs.
Wheelbase: 124.3 in.
Length: 206.8 in.
Cargo: 15.2 cu.ft.
MPG: 16/24 (EPA)
MPG: 20.1 (tested)
Base Price: $83,700
Dealer’s Price: $78,819
Major Options: None
Test vehicle: $84,595
Sources: Jaguar, http://www.kbb.com