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New Car/Review

1997 Jaguar XJ6L

by John Heilig


SEE ALSO: Jaguar Buyer's Guide


ENGINE:            4.0-liter DOHC inline six
HORSEPOWER/TORQUE: 245 hp @ 4,800 rpm/289 lb ft @ 4,000 rpm
TRANSMISSION:      Four-speed automatic
FUEL ECONOMY:      17 mpg city, 23 mpg highway, 18.5 mpg test
WHEELBASE:         117.9 in. in.
OVERALL LENGTH:    202.8 in. in.
OVERALL HEIGHT:    53.5 in. in.
OVERALL WIDTH:     70.8 in. in.
CURB WEIGHT:       4,110 lbs 
FUEL CAPACITY:     23.1 gal.
LUGGAGE CAPACITY:  11.1 cu. ft.
TIRES:             225/60ZR16 
INSTRUMENTS:       Speedometer, tachometer, fuel level, 
                   water temperature, oil pressure, 
                   battery voltage, digital clock.
EQUIPMENT:         Power windows, power door locks, 
                   power mirrors, power seats, 
                   power sunroof, cruise control, 
                   air conditioner, AM-FM stereo radio 
                   with cassette, anti-lock braking, 
                   dual air bags.
STICKER PRICE:     $62,330

Jaguars have always had a certain style about them. The quality has improved dramatically since Ford bought the company, but even when Jaguar was making less-than-perfect cars, those cars had a sense of style that was unlike any other.

Perhaps it was the combination of leather and real wood in a classic British sedan body that was affordable. Sure, Rolls-Royce and Bentley offer the same amenities, but the price is ridiculous. Granted, $63,000 isn't cheap, but it's more affordable than the Rolls.

Our tester this week is the Jaguar XJ6L. Its nomenclature tells you a lot about the vehicle. First, XJ6 indicates that it's the latest in a long line of Jaguar XJ6 that stretches back to 1968. the "L" indicates that this is the long wheelbase design. The XK6L rides on a wheelbase that is 4.9 inches longer than the standard XJ6, and adds that length in the rear passenger compartment. It's easy to tell a long wheelbase XJ6 from the standard because of the longer doors. They're right on the edge of being too long.

Inside, the extra inches make riding in the rear seat of the Jag a pleasure. Many vehicles today can make the statement that riding in the rear seat isn't too bad; in the Jaguar it's a pleasure. Even the tallest passengers can stretch out and be comfortable, not having to scrunch up with their knees under their chins.

We used the Jaguar to ride to the local fireworks display on July 4, and the rear seat was crowded with three passengers. Even the center passenger, who should have been uncomfortable because of the extended console that reaches about halfway along the floor, was able to sit comfortably. I sat back there myself for a short stretch and they had to drag me out.

Under the hood is the latest version of Jaguar's XK double overhead cam inline six engine. The engine develops 245 horsepower which is enough to move the two-ton sedan along at a brisk clip. There were times when we felt we could drive the XJ6 like a sports car (albeit a long sports car) and the response from the engine was ideal. This engine has as its heritage Jaguar inline sixes of the XK120 and C-type and D-type that won LeMans, so the heritage is there. Modern technology has only made it smoother; it hasn't stolen any of the power.

Hooked to this engine is a four-speed automatic transmission that is smooth as silk. The gearbox has two modes, sport and normal. We drove in sport most of the time because of the higher shift points and slightly more spirited performance. A trip in normal gave us a smoother ride and smoother shifts.

Jaguar's go fast because of their suspensions. The XJ6L uses twin wishbones up front with coil springs and telescopic shocks. In the rear, the fully independent suspension uses lower transverse wishbones with the driveshafts acting as the upper links, coil springs and telescopic shocks. The ride from this combination is smooth when it has to be and sporty when you push the car. It is never too wishy-washy to be driven hard.

It wasn't that many years ago that when you drove a Jaguar you expected a great ride in style, but you also expected something to break. Now, the quality has improved by orders of magnitude, but the ride quality hasn't changed one iota. It's still a classy way to arrive anywhere, but more than half the fun is getting there.