The Jaguar XJL is a big car. It's a take-up-the-whole-parking-space kind of big. It's 5 extra inches of legroom in the backseat big. It's fit a couple golf bags in the boot big. It's ... well, I think you get the idea. It's B-I-G.
So, when I hit my first on ramp for the highway, I was prepared for the lag. But there wasn't any. Acceleration was smooth, seamless and fast. I was even more surprised when I realized that the test car was equipped with a V-6 engine.
So big and beautiful can also be fast and efficient? Yes, please.
The exterior of the XJL is long and lean with a deeply sloped rear window that somehow doesn't affect rear headroom. I loved the squinty, catlike headlamps but I was downright fond of the rear taillights that look as though a cat scraped its nails through red glass. What I really like about the XJL: It doesn't look rigid and austere like its German competitors.
The interior, however, is where the XJL really shines. The touch points are soft and solid in all the right places, and the etched metal surrounding the gearshift dial is quite beautiful. Burn-your-hand-hot on a sunny day, but stunning nonetheless.
The interior of the test vehicle had the London Tan seats with black piping and reverse stitching. Mated to the Dark Sapphire Metallic paint, this was a perfect color pairing.
The seats were both soft and supportive, and it was more like sinking into your favorite chair than a driver's seat. The driver's position was very comfortable, and even as a petite driver, I had excellent visibility out of all the windows.
Tech & Gadgets
I fully appreciated that navigation was standard on the XJL. With a base price of $84,700, it should be. The nav itself was easy to use, but a little outdated in terms of map graphics. I also didn't like the info screen on the center stack controlled pretty much everything.
In terms of tech features, Jaguar also offers Adaptive Cruise Control ($2,300) and two levels of premium audio with the Meridian Surround Sound ($2,300) and the 1300W Meridien Reference Audio System including conversation assist ($4,180).
Other optional technology packages include the Visibility Package ($850) with adaptive front lighting on the lower trim levels (it's standard starting with the Supercharged model) and the Illumination Package ($1,700), which adds phosphor blue illumination on air vents and tread plates.
Other significant options come in the form of a front seat massager or a couple of rear-seat executive packages that add foot rests, massagers, business trays and rear-seat entertainment. The test car didn't have those.
One of the interesting bits of standard technology that Jaguar includes on the XJL is the stop/start system, which shuts down the engine when the car comes to a stop. While this is great for longer red lights, I found that it was a bit of a nuisance on city streets riddled with stop signs or in stop-and-go highway traffic. I found myself disabling this feature more than I used it.
Something missing, however, is a lot of the fun futuristic tech features that are starting to pop up on its competitors, such as around-view monitors, lane keeping assist, night vision assistant, 4G LTE connectivity and Google search.
New for 2014, Jaguar replaces the naturally aspirated 5.0-liter V-8 in the XJL Portfolio model with the 3.0-liter supercharged V-6, which was introduced in the 2013 model year. This engine delivers 340 horsepower and 332 pound-feet of torque. Because this is a difference of 45 horsepower and 48 pound-feet of torque, respectively, this raised some question among my twitter followers about whether the 3.0 was good enough.
Yes. It is.
The 0-to-60 mph time for the XJ with the 3.0-liter engine is 5.7 seconds, versus 5.4 in the outgoing 5.0. For a vehicle of this size, that's negligible. Plus, the supercharged 5.0 still exists, for those who really do crave the extra power.
For a vehicle that's 206.8 inches long and weighs more than 4,000 pounds, the XJL with AWD drives like a much smaller car. I actually had a lot of fun thrilling my passengers on cloverleaf exit ramps and weaving in and out of traffic. In addition to being an extremely luxurious car, the XJL is a surprisingly fun one to drive.
The benefit of the 3.0-liter engine is better fuel efficiency. The test vehicle was an all-wheel drive model, and EPA estimates fuel economy to be 16 mpg in the city and 24 mpg on the highway. If you opt for the rear-wheel drive model, fuel economy jumps to 18/27 mpg.
The 5.0-liter supercharged V-8 model brings in estimates of 15 mpg in the city and 23 mpg on the highway - not far off from the AWD numbers in the 3.0 model.
The Jaguar XJ comes with a bevy of standard features including your basic tire pressure monitoring system, front airbags, active head restraints with front-seat whiplash protection, front and rear side-curtain airbags and seat-mounted front side airbags.
Up-level standard safety features include blind spot monitoring, rear parking camera and front and rear parking aids (especially helpful on the long wheelbase models!).
Optional safety technology includes Adaptive Cruise Control ($2,300) and Adaptive Front Lighting ($850 on base RWD and AWD trims, standard on the Supercharged trims).
The Jaguar XJ comes in four different trim levels: XJ, XJ AWD, XJ Supercharged and the XJR - all of which come with a short- or long-wheelbase option.
Base price for the XJ with the short wheelbase is $74,200. At this level, you'll get standard features like blind spot monitoring, rear camera, front and rear parking aids, heated leather front and rear seats, Panoramic glass roof, keyless entry and start, navigation, Intelligent stop/start, 19-inch Aleutian alloy wheels, Bluetooth connectivity, HD Radio, and Sirius Satellite Radio with a 3-month subscription.
The next level up adds all-wheel drive and $3,500, but the amenities are virtually the same.
When you move up to the Supercharged model, you add a 5.0-liter, V-8 supercharged engine that delivers 470 horsepower as well as 19-inch wheels, adaptive front lighting and supercharged badging. This model also goes back to rear-wheel drive and has a base price of $90,600 for the short-wheel base version.
The top-of-the-line XJ is the XJR which takes the price up to $116,000 for the short wheelbase. It has the same 5.0-liter V-8 supercharged engine but delivers an amazing 550 horsepower and a 0-to-60-mph time of 4.4 seconds. Other additions include: sports exhaust, red-painted brake calipers with Jaguar script, hood louvers with "supercharged" script, R-tuned suspension, rear decklid spoiler, R badging, heated and cooled front and rear seats and 20-inch wheels.
The long wheelbase trims echo the short wheelbase ones in terms of packaging and options, but the pricing jumps to $81,200 for the XJL Portfolio, $84,700 for the XJL Portfoliio AWD, $93,600 for the XJL Supercharged and $119,00 for the XJR LWB.
A few of my favorite things
I appreciated the fact that you get a lot of luxe features included in the base price. Navigation is included, and you get a plethora of paint colors without an upcharge.
The only 2 colors that will cost you extra are British Racing Green Metallic and Italian Racing Red Metallic (both a $1,500 charge).
I also loved the 3.0-liter engine. Who needs a V-8 when you have a V-6 like this one? Seriously. Of course, I didn't quite reap the fuel efficiency rewards because of the all-wheel-drive powertrain and some spirited driving. But still. This is a phenomenal engine.
Stuff I could do without
The reliability rating on the Jaguar XJ is still low. JD Powers gave the XJ its lowest rating of 2 circles in terms of predicted reliability, meaning that it scored 20 percent below the industry standard. The 2014 numbers haven't been released yet, but the XJ can only go up.
I could also do without some of the dated imagery on the info screen and the start/stop feature that was too quick to shut off in stop-and-go traffic. I'd also ditch the weird power down function that comes with the stop/start. If you have this feature engaged and shift into park, the car automatically powers down. Not necessarily a bad idea, but it was randomly completed and often too quick.
The bottom line
I love the unique façade of the XJL, and I love the ride and handling. But, when you compare it to some of its primary competitors, it falls a little short ... or high depending on your perspective.
At $84,700, the Jaguar XJL is the highest-priced, long-wheelbase, AWD luxury car. It costs $3,700 more than the BMW 740li xDrive, $5,900 more than the Audi A8L and $2,775 more than the Lexus LS L AWD.
It is longer than everything except the Audi, and it has better horsepower ratings than everything except the Lexus. Plus, I like the uniqueness of the XJL, but without some of the newer technology available on its competitors, I think the price point is a tad too high.