2011 Jaguar XJL Supercharged - Road Test
Posted By: Jaguar Plano - 2010-12-29
A powerful full-size statement of style and performance.
Road & Track, By Sam Mitani, photo by Guy Spangenberg
A high level of style: This has distinguished Jaguar from its German competitors ever since the marque was founded in 1922. While the Coventry, England-based company has experienced its share of turbulent times in the past few years, switching owners as often as Angelina Jolie adopts a child, one thing has remained constant: Much like Mrs. Pitt, the cat has always managed to stay beautiful. And the case is no different with the latest XJ.
Our first look at the car came last year in a private unveiling in London. There, global design chief Ian Callum remarked how much effort was put into making the new XJ look original while still keeping traditional Jaguar styling DNA intact.
“Any good car design should tell a story. For the XJ, we took inspiration from classic Jaguars like the Mk2 and the original XJ and created a Jaguar for the 21st century with pure, sensual forms,” he said.
And indeed, the new XJ is stunning…and large. When our long-wheelbase version (the XJL) pulled into the parking lot of the R&T offices, some swear they heard the theme song to Titanic playing in the background. The car stretches 206.6 in. from bumper to bumper, riding on a 124.3-in. wheelbase (the short-wheelbase model measures 201.7 and 119.4 in., respectively). The new XJ is also wide at 74.6 in., and tall at 57.0 in. Callum did a commendable job of giving the large body a classy-yet-sporty shape. The car looks most striking when viewed from the rear, where long, narrow taillights droop over the rear bumpers, while the rear deck is so well blended into the overall shape that the new XJ can be mistaken as a fastback from afar. The black D-pillars give the impression that the rear glass stretches to the outer edges of the car - I, like many others, would have preferred them to be the same color as the rest of the body.
The XJL’s face is stately with a large square grille, la XF, sitting between canted headlights. Traditionalists may grumble at the absence of the leaping-cat ornament on the hood - at first, I felt the car looked incomplete without it - but according to Jaguar, one can be ordered as an option. Callum contends that the ornament was left off because he felt it somewhat disrupted the overall flowing shape of the car.
And speaking of the hood, what’s underneath it is a new supercharged 5.0-liter V-8 that produces 470 bhp from 6000 to 6500 rpm and 424 lb.-ft. of torque from 2500 to 5500. (There’s also a 510-bhp/461-lb.-ft. version of this engine offered.) The all-aluminum powerplant features a centrally mounted direct-injection system that delivers fuel at 150 bar into the center of the combustion chamber via spray-guided technology that improves combustion control. Supplying the forced induction is Jaguar’s twin vortex Roots-type supercharger. The 32-valve engine comes mated to a smooth-shifting 6-speed automatic transmission that continually adapts shift patterns depending on driving style.
The smoothness of the engine is apparent as soon as it’s turned on. It lets out a quick snarl before settling to a hushed idle. The car leaves the line easily, with the rear Dunlop SP Sport tires taking a firm bite of the tarmac. Floor the pedal, and the car will jump to freeway speed as the transmission holds each gear all the way to 6600 rpm. At the test track, the 4350-lb. XJ ran to 60 mph in a blistering 4.4 seconds while covering the quarter mile in 12.8 sec. In NFL football terms, the XJ is the stud linebacker: big, strong and fast.
This linebacker can also switch directions quite capably. The steering feels precise and exhibits good feedback. The suspension has been tuned to provide an ideal balance between comfort and sport. It consists of unequal-length A-arms up front and a multilink setup at the rear. Also assisting in this department is the car’s aluminum body structure that’s more rigid than its predecessor’s. All of this results in crisp turn-in character with near-neutral balance through most corners. On tighter turns, the mass of the car becomes apparent, as it exhibits understeer, but the entire chassis reacts extremely well to left/right transitions, as evidenced by its 64.8-mph slalom run. Its skidpad performance was more indicative of a large luxury car at 0.87g.
In fact, when attacking a twisty road, it’s easy to forget that you’re in a full-size luxury car. But once you get a chance to take in your surroundings, you’ll find that the new XJ has one of the most sumptuous interiors in the world. The dashboard design is attractive and functional, with a large pod on the center dash that houses a video monitor and controls for the ventilation, audio and navigation systems. The stereo is supplied by Bowers & Wilkins, and it’s arguably the best-sounding system in the industry. Although I consider myself only a novice audiophile, I was blown away by its clarity and power.
The instrument cluster is actually a 12.3-in. high-definition monitor that displays conventional-style gauges in a virtual manner. Because it’s a video monitor, it has a number of neat features. For example, when you run low on fuel or are selecting a radio station, the tachometer fades way, temporarily replaced by a warning message or menu. Neat touch, but I prefer real, mechanical gauges. There’s also plenty of head- and leg room for all five occupants here. Engineering Editor Dennis Simanaitis commented that he found ingress and egress of the XJ better than that of the BMW 7 Series or Mercedes-Benz S-Class because of the Jaguar’s higher roofline.
But perhaps the most impressive category where the new full-size Jaguar shines against its primary German competitors is price. Our test car came with a $90,500 sticker (base price of $89,650 plus a destination charge of $850) with items like the panoramic glass roof, the 1200-watt B&W sound system and flashy 20-in. alloy wheels included as standard equipment. The 385-bhp naturally aspirated XJ starts at $72,500. With the new XJ, it’s no longer all about style and elegance; the focus has shifted to its sporty spirit and good value…but just the same, I’ll take mine with the leaping-cat ornament on the hood.
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