The biggest kitty of them all.
Review and photos by Tom Sedens
Click on any picture to see a larger version.
So if you want a car that gets a lot of looks, this one will do that for you. It didn’t matter from what angle people were looking at it, they always did a double-take. Parked in front of a hotel, silently gliding down a residential street or sailing down the highway, this car gets eyeballs. People would actually take pictures of it. It’s likely a combination of the slick, distinctive styling and the monstrous, impossibly long profile. Its smooth curves, the unique take on the rear pillar/window accents and massive rear end are bookended by a handsome, aggressive grille, integrated, muscular exhaust tips and waterfall LEDs in the tail lights. It all comes together to make up a memorable package. Whether it’s your cup of tea or not, you’ll certainly look twice as it drives by and the big Jag is likely to make a lasting impression. My review car also had the very nice 19-inch Toba wheels, shod with 245/45s up front and massive 275/40s in the back.
Impressions continue to be made the moment you get in. The interior is sumptuous, and most everything looks and feels opulent. As huge as the car is, I found the head room to be somewhat limited – there was enough for me (at 5’10”) and my big hair, but not much more. The materials are world-class. A beautifully sculpted dash, with hoods for the instruments (which are actually an LCD screen) and air vents, is wrapped in leather. The curve that extends from the tops of the door panels all the way around under the windshield delights the eye and is accented in a gorgeous wood. The pillars and headliner are upholstered in Alcantara. Luxurious touches abound, like a gorgeous wood-trimmed and heated steering wheel and an analog clock. There are also nifty things like a little round metal button on the dash – it’s touch-sensitive and electronically unlatches the glove compartment door – although that’s just one more thing that could go wrong in the future.
The beautiful leather seats – with their perforated panels and contrasting piping – are highly adjustable and equally comfortable. They are heated, cooled and have massaging functions for good measure. Smack dab in the middle of the centre stack is Jaguar’s touch screen which looks after your sound system (a spectacular-sounding Meridian one), phone functions and navigation. Sadly, there’s little to like about it as the screen isn’t particular sharp, the user interface is clumsy, over-compartmentalized and slow to respond to touch inputs. The system is also very laggy while doing things like recalculating navigation routes – such that you’ll be past the next ideal turn-off before the system notifies you about it. A high and wide centre console is home to the now-familiar rotary gear selector that silently rises when you fire up the car, as well as cupholders that can be hidden. Overall, the interior didn’t strike me as the most modern of cabins – and I liked that very much.
Obviously that extended wheelbase translates into a cavernous back seat and results in an unbelievable amount of leg room – sitting behind myself (with the driver’s seat quite far back), I had about 12 inches of room between my knees and the front seat – yes, you can definitely stretch out. The rear passengers are accommodated in extremely comfortable, heated and cooled seats and will enjoy very luxurious surroundings. Special touches like a middle seatback that folds down to be come a lovely console/armrest with cupholders and storage compartments, lit vanity mirrors for each side (yes, in the back!) and sunshades for the side windows would easily let the XJ L pass for an executive limo. I don’t think it would be a stretch if Jaguar would add some nice seat-back trays for using a laptop or doing some paperwork. Regardless, this is one heck of a rear seating area to take a road trip in – whether its from home to work or across the country.
I found a couple of additional details that take things up a notch for rear passengers. The Jag has dual sunroofs – they both have powered, independently-controlled sunshades. However the rear passengers get their own switch to open and close theirs. Pretty cool. And there is a quad-zone climate control system – each of the four corners gets some say when it comes to their comfort.
We loved accessing the trunk because of the power trunk opener and closer. Looking at this behemoth from the outside, you’d think the 520 litre trunk would fit a small island but its useful capacity is seriously limited thanks to the rear wheel wells that intrude into the space. As a matter of fact, we were thanking our lucky stars that we were traveling with other family for part of our trip as we were unable to get two of our suitcases into the trunk and they had to put them in the back of their vehicle.
Under the Hood
As its “entry level” engine for the XJ line, Jaguar offers its excellent supercharged 3.0-litre V6 with 340 HP and 332 lb.ft of torque on tap, and it gets paired with an 8-speed automatic. The V6 models are all-wheel drive. The XJ L’s rated fuel economy, as one would expect, is nothing to write home about – 14.7 L/100 km (16 US mpg) in town and 9.6 L/100 km (25 US mpg) on the highway. However, during my time in the XJ L (about 80% highway driving, and the rest slow trundling around town), I averaged an impressive 8.9 L/100 km (26 US mpg), easily besting the ratings. I was very happy with that.
While the XJ L in this trim is not a super powerful car (the 470 or 550 HP supercharged 5.0-litre V8s are available if you want to head down that road), the blown V6 provides surprising pull for an land yacht of these dimensions. It doesn’t hurt that the XJ L is surprisingly light at 1883 kg (4151 lb) thanks to its aluminum construction. I felt that it had plenty of power, especially off the line where it launches with startling gusto and little drama – it will do the 0-100 km/h sprint in 6.4 seconds. While it has enough power in every driving situation, it feels like it works harder once you’re on the go – passing on the highway is a good example. It’s not slow, but it takes a moment for the momentum to build.
I like the sound of this engine, particularly in other applications like the Range Rover Sport, but here it sounds perhaps a little less refined than you’d expect in a huge, stately Jaguar. To be clear, you won’t hear it unless you’re really on the throttle, and noises aside, the V6 is wonderfully smooth. And come to think of it, the crackling supercharged V8s sound decidedly uncouth in their own special and completely delightful way.
This thing rides beautifully in town and on the open road, isolating the driver and passengers from nearly all road imperfections. Of course, you can put the XJ L into Dynamic drive mode (yes, it has a checkered flag for this, just like the Jaguar sports cars have) which immediately tightens up the car’s suspension. It makes things noticeably firmer, and while still remaining comfortable, it allows the driver to throw this leviathan into corners with more enthusiasm than you might expect. It’s not a track car, obviously, but it handles better than I ever thought it would.
Visibility of the road is fantastic. While that massive rear window might imply a good view out of the back, its extreme angle really makes that view a very restricted one. Shoulder-checking wasn’t bad at all – surprising, with those huge rear pillars – and you do get blind-spot monitoring as well. Parking the XJ L seems like it will be a daunting task, due to the sheer size of it, but the turning circle is respectable, all things considered, and you have a back-up camera and front and rear parking sensors to help you out. Oh, and folding mirrors to squeeze into tighter spots.
How do I sum up a car that is the size of Manhattan, costs a hundred grand and can’t quite fit a family’s road trip luggage into the trunk? Well, there is plenty that the XJ L gets right. Starting with first impressions. It makes one, and it’s a big one. It says you’ve arrived, and you’ve done so in style. Nobody will miss your entrance in this thing. And you’ll have arrived in supreme comfort. Sitting in the front or the back, it makes no difference. You’ll have been coddled on your journey and you’ll have enjoyed your trip. It’s nice to drive and it’s very nice to get a ride in. There’s enough power to do most anything, and you won’t want for anything during the journey, whether it’s a half-hour commute or a couple of weeks on the open road.
WAF (Wife Acceptance Factor) was high. She didn’t drive it but she loved the swanky looks and how comfortable it was on our road trip. She said she couldn’t stop turning around to look at it one more time when we’d walk away from it. I wish Jaguar would kick this awful ICE system to the curb (why don’t they put the much-improved new Land Rover one in?) and if it was my money, I’d upgrade to the mid-level supercharged V8 trim. Yes, it might feel a little old when stacked up against the new S-class or 7-series, but a slightly lower-tech, slightly more old-world feeling car is exactly what some buyers are after. If you’ve got a hundred grand and the XJ L checks off all the boxes on your needs-and-wants list, this luxo-cruiser actually seems like a good value compared to zee German competition.
Disclosure: Vehicle was provided by Jaguar Canada.
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Pricing: 2015 Jaguar XJ L
Base price (XJ LWB AWD Portfolio): $96,490
Options: $550 19″ Toba wheels; $850 visibility package; $300 heated front windscreen
A/C tax: $100
Price as tested: $99,665
Competitors: Audi A8, BMW 7-series, Mercedes-Benz S-class