Strengths and weaknesses:
- Roomy and refined interior
- high-tech features
- killer monthly payments
- burns premium fuel
"Its extra 12.6 cm of wheelbase translates into a rear seat that’s so comfy and well equipped, passengers will be hoping for traffic jams."
Riding in the luxurious rear compartment of the new 2012 Jaguar XJL is better than being in the driver’s seat. Well … almost.
But it would be if the big stretched sedan wasn’t such a blast to drive.
The XJL is an extended version of the XJ sedan and its extra 12.6 cm of wheelbase translates into a rear seat that’s so comfy and well equipped that passengers will be hoping for traffic jams to extend their ride time.
There’s so much room that even the tallest adult passengers can stretch out, or pull up the privacy screens and do whatever adults do in the back seat (driver permitting).
Although there’s a middle head rest and seatbelt, the rear is best for two passengers and both outboard positions are heated and have individual climate controls. With the console flipped down between them each also has access to the detachable touch-screen remote which controls the DVD-based entertainment system, including dual eight-inch screens mounted in the back of the front seat headrests and two wireless headphones.
The front seatbacks even have fold-out trays that can accommodate a laptop computer, or - if you’re old-fashioned - can be used as a writing surface.
But the XJL is also great to drive, surprisingly quick and nimble for a car in this class thanks to its 51/49 front/rear weight distribution and extensive use of aluminum in the chassis and body panels. Think of it as a slimmer, trimmer version of its (mostly German) rear-wheel drive rivals.
The only thing at all dated about the XJL is its six-speed automatic, which isn’t as smooth as its competitors’ seven- and eight-speed transmissions but does have the standard paddle shifters that are pretty much mandatory in this segment (and which hardly anyone uses).
Naturally, you get your choice of two-tone leather and real wood veneers in several pleasing combinations. Our test car’s interior is tan and navy with dark oak trim that perfectly complements the dark metallic blue paint of the exterior.
But let’s slip into the 20-way power driver’s seat (heated AND cooled) because that’s where enthusiasts will want to be.
The V8 fires up via push-button ignition and the shift knob then rises from the centre console. Unlike Mercedes’ dinky little shift lever, the big, chromed knob has some heft, and lets you dial in the chosen gear. It’s cool, but not when the sun heats all that shiny chrome.
The base engine in the XJL series is a 385 hp naturally aspirated 5.0-litre V8. Supercharged, as in our test car, this engine produces 470 hp and is capable of taking the car from 0-100 km/h in 5.2 seconds. On two-lane highways, passing slower traffic poses no problem, even at half throttle. Given the smallest window of opportunity, the XJL can rocket from 80 to lose-your-licence in a couple of heartbeats.
Want even more performance? XJL Supersport comes with a 510-hp version of the supercharged V8.
The only time you’ll notice the XJL’s extra length is when parallel parking. Otherwise, this drives like a much smaller car with quick, precise steering and near zero body roll in hard cornering. Braking is superb, although a little too abrupt when you’re using the optional adaptive cruise control and quickly come up to slower traffic. Recovering your set speed also seems to take longer than necessary in this mode.
Nice touches abound, such as blind spot monitors, a glove box that opens at the slightest touch, a 1200-watt sound system with iPod connectivity and power mirrors that fold in to prevent damage - either accidentally or on purpose - when the car is parked and the doors locked.
Of course, all this luxury and performance has a price. And I’ve left it for last because if you have to ask “How much?” you probably can’t afford it.
Our XJL Supercharged has a base MSRP of $108,500 and is $116,600 as tested. And that’s before taxes.
For the economy minded (everything is relative, even in this price range) the base XJL Portfolio starts at $95,500 and the regular length XJ sedan at $88,000.