Updated Oct 10, 2012
Luxury That’s Ready for the Track
- Supercharged V8 power
- Surprisingly capable handling
- Yacht-like interior luxury
- Outdated 6-speed transmission
- Interior not quite as roomy as you’d expect
- Electronics need an update
Buying a large luxury sedan used to mean lots of cushy, roomy opulence, but also barge-like performance and handling. Now, your average luxury land-yacht comes with 400 horsepower under the hood and huge, sticky sports car tires at the corners, making for almost no performance trade-off. The Jaguar XJL Supercharged is no exception, offering an almost astonishing level of performance for a truly large and luxurious automobile.
Despite what many people may think of big British luxury sedans, the Jaguar XJL is a legitimate speed demon, especially in supercharged trim. With 470 hp available from the boosted 5.0L V8 engine there is plenty of power on tap, and courtesy of an all-aluminum body there is also surprisingly little weight (only 4,300 pounds).
This adds up to seriously impressive acceleration: 0-60 takes place in well under 5 seconds. It also invites the kind of immature behavior that is surely unbecoming of such an otherwise stately automobile. Feel like drag racing the kids in the hot hatch lined up next to you on the on-ramp? Just hit the gas and smile as you leave them in the dust.
Handling is also a far cry from the lazy road manners of Jaguars of yore. The steering rack in the XJL Supercharged is the same as the one in the smaller XFR, which makes for very responsive steering, to the point that it almost feels too quick. Point and shoot handling may be fun, but it gets a bit dicey when you’re throwing around a car that’s as long as a full-size SUV.
Luckily the rest of the handling goods are up to the task. The suspension is exceptionally well executed, with a perfect balance between handling and ride quality. Securing the XJL to the ground is a set of extremely wide, ultra low profile summer tires, similar to what you’d find on a Porsche or Corvette. Needless to say, the amount of grip available is more than you’d ever really need on public roads.
There is something bizarrely cool about a truly large and luxurious automobile that can also keep up with all but the fastest sports cars. It would be the rare person who buys an XJL Supercharged purely for the performance, but the fact that you could really give it a go on the track is really quite remarkable.
About the only let down from a driver’s perspective is a transmission that is short a few gears. With all the 7 and 8 speed automatic transmissions available these days, having just 6 forward gears makes the XJL seem a bit out of date. Rumor has it that an 8-speed automatic is on the way for 2013, as well as a supercharged V6 base engine, which should help satisfy folks more concerned about efficiency than all-out performance.
Luckily performance isn’t the only realm where the big Jag shines. The interior is very much in keeping with the tradition of big, plush sedans of the past. There is even a distinct nautical feel to the interior design, from the large circular air vents to the sweeping arch of the dash that will remind you of the curve of a ship’s bow. Interior materials are of the highest quality, with luxurious leather upholstery and rich wood trim adorning the dash and door panels.
The XJL Supercharged comes standard with a host of interior luxury features, including heated and cooled seats for both front and rear, massaging seats for the driver and front passenger, quad zone climate control, and a panoramic glass roof. In terms of comfort, the only real disappointment is the fact that the XJL just doesn’t seem that roomy, especially for a long wheelbase version of a full-size luxury sedan. Rear legroom is generous, but not excessively so, and headroom is less than ample, especially for taller passengers.
As you would expect, the XJL comes with some of the latest technology, but unfortunately the execution of the electronics comes up short. The touch screen display, for example, is lazy to respond to your inputs and the user interface could be better. On the plus side, the 1200 watt B&W premium sound system is simply fantastic. Load up your favorite jazz or classical music on the built-in hard disk and you’ll swear your listening to a live performance.
Surprisingly, the XJL Supercharged is actually a very good value. You might be wondering how anything that costs close to $100k is a good deal, but given the level of performance and luxury, there is nothing that really comes close for the money. An equivalently optioned Audi A8 or BMW 7 series will set you back well over $100k, and given the superior performance and design, the XJL is arguably the more compelling vehicle. Now if only we had the money to be making that kind of shopping decision.
[UPDATE 10/10/2012] Jaguar has informed us that an 8-speed automatic will be standard equipment and the XJ will also receive an electronics upgrade for the 2013 model year.