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2011 Jaguar XJL Supercharged Review


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JAGUAR XJL SUPERCHARGED
By Steve Purdy
TheAutoChannel.com
Detroit Bureau

What does this $92,000 Jaguar XJL (long wheelbase) sedan have in common with the littlest, cheapest car in the world, the Tata Nano? Well, they both have four wheels, and Tata Motors of India owns both brands, having bought Jaguar and Land Rover from Ford in 2008. It seems a bit ironic that a company in India, a formerly oppressed British colony, now owns these two classic British brands.


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Some of us worried that the Tata ownership might interfere with the Jaguar ambiance, imposing values that reflect something other than the classically British sense of a sports car or sport sedan. So far our worries have not been realized. While Ford ownership helped solve many of the quality issues that plagued the brand in the old days, Tata’s deep pockets have allowed the development of the Jaguar lineup in the elegant, high-performance style for which we hoped.

Some cars in a reviewer’s life are particularly memorable. This is one. From the first impression seeing it parked in my driveway, to slipping into the rich interior, to firing up the supercharged V8 and hitting the road, this car makes a lasting impression.

That’s what Jaguars have always been about. The company was founded in the early 1920s as a motorcycle sidecar manufacturer called Swallow The first cars to be called Jaguar were the classically British, fast and sporty SS models of the mid 1930s. From that day to this Jaguars were designed and engineered to exude the prowess of a beautiful big cat ready to pounce.

By the way, the correct pronunciation of that name, if you want to say it like the Brits, has three distinct syllables – jag-u-er – though certainly the two-syllable American pronunciation - jag-war – is acceptable. But, please, please don’t adulterate it like our local cowboy Chevy dealer does during his used car commercials by saying Jaig-wire. How crass.

Now, off my soapbox and on to this fun review.


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The big cat in my driveway is all black. Visually, it exudes that predatory feline stance with back arched ready to pounce. A powerful shoulder line extends from the steeply raked A-pillar to the understated, simple rear where vertical taillights integrate smoothly with the rear deck. A distinctive chrome strip surrounds the side windows and the low, sloping top hint at a coupe-like shape. Wheel arches bulge just enough to imply the feline stealth without being garish. This big car really needs those bold, 20-inch wheels with 10-double-spokes.

Inside, we’re greeted by beautiful leather, wood and metal surfaces everywhere including a suede-like cloth headliner. The stitching on the dash, seats and other panels suggests the craftsmanship that has traditionally characterized Jaguar. The power seats adjust in 20 ways. If you can’t find a comfortable position it’s your own fault. Everything we see and touch inside exudes an ambiance of sporting luxury. Most unusual is the shifter, a round knob about 3-inches in diameter that emerges smoothly from the console at the base of the center stack when we start the car. Just twist it one way or the other to electrically shift gears.


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On the downside I found the multifunction screen where we manage audio, navigation, heat, AC and a bunch of other stuff cumbersome and counter-intuitive most of the time. The learning curve was much too high for me. If I owned this car I’d probably miss out on much of its functionality, just like my smart phone. Youngsters will probably have no problem but I wonder how many youngsters will buy this car.

With a big bow to modernity the Jaguar’s analog instrument cluster is virtual, that is, there is no physical instrument display. Rather, a detailed, 12.3-inch high-definition screen comes alive with dials, gauges and information of all sorts. If we select the car’s Dynamic mode the dials turn red with a gear position indicator that also glows red as you approach red line on the tach. How cool is that?


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The rear seat demands a full paragraph of it’s own. We had a few passengers back there and they were feeling like potentates with vast amounts of leg room, a personal executive tray on each side that hinge out from the seat back, a storage compartment of their own, lighted vanity mirrors and even side window screens so they can pretend to be celebs incognito. Because of the low, stylish roofline ingress and egress was not quite as good as some competitors.


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With supercharger the new-for-2010 5.0-liter V8 engine, which replaced the trusty 4.2-liter version, makes 470 horsepower and 424 pound-feet of torque. Mated to a smooth 6-speed automatic transmission with paddle shift the zero-to-60mph time is listed at 4.9 seconds, enough to trigger a good squirt of adrenalin on full throttle. The EPA says we can expect about 15 mpg in the city and 21 on the highway using premium fuel. With a 21.7-gallon tank we have a good cruising range and a big bill each time we fill up.

With lots of aluminum in the substructure the XJL weighs just about 4,300 pounds. We feel no flex in the chassis even on rough roads or railroad crossings.

Suspension geometry and design are conventional with all the chassis dynamics and electronic intervention we expect from this class of car. With thoughtful tuning, impeccable balance and quick steering the ride and handling are superb – everything we would expect from such a sophisticated large sport sedan. But, turn on the Dynamic Mode and things get a bit more entertaining as throttle control gets more sensitive, shift points get more aggressive and suspension stiffens. The cat is in full stride.

The XJL is distinguished from the XJ primarily by 5 inches extra wheelbase which is dedicated to rear seat legroom. The car looks much longer. Both the XJ and XJL can be had with the supercharged engine and prices range from $72,700 for the basic XJ to $97,700 for the XJL Supercharged. You can lease the latter, according to the Jag Website, for just $999/month.

Suggested base price listed on our sticker is $90,700. With the $350 heated windshield and an $875 transportation and handling charge the bottom line is $91,950. That base price includes the panoramic glass sunroof, 8-inch touch screen for navigation and other functions, a 30GB hard drive, voice-activated controls for navigation and HVAC, pushbutton start, 1,200-watt Bowers & Wilkins audio.

That may sound like a lot of money, and it is. But this is a lot of fine automobile.

© Steve Purdy, Shunpiker Productions, All Rights Reserved


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