2014 Jaguar XJ-L V6 Supercharged
– Powerful engine matches styling
– Cabin space and features
– Pretty good ride and handling
– Parking takes planning
– Some wind noise noticeable
– Rear seats don’t fold flat
It’s hard to believe that the current Jaguar XJ has been around since late 2009. At the time, it was the latest salvo in the revamping of the carmaker’s aging retro-chic product line-up, while being the first XJ to share absolutely no design cues with past models. And it’s all the better for it.
The Jaguar XJ is styled like no other full-size sedan. Penned by a former Aston Martin designer, it looks like an extended-length coupe, stretched even further here since our tester is a long-wheelbase XJ L model. Unlike a cookie-cutter Audi A8, you’ll never mistake this for anything else. A sleekly-done piece with unique touches such as aggressive headlights and black-out rear pillars, it still looks a bit bulky over its rear haunches, but we soon found out the dividends in interior space.
The well-built XJ feels a bit cosy from the driver’s seat, as the wraparound dash and the rakish windshield give off a sports-car vibe, although there’s still plenty of space. The dash and doors are generously spruced up with soft-touch leather surfaces and real wood. There’s also tasteful amounts of chrome trimmings, especially around the rotary gear-selector that rises from the center console when the car is started. Aside from the metal shift-knob that gets hot in the sun, other interesting touches include circular chrome a/c vents with blue lighting elements in them.
The powered front seats are moderately bolstered and very adjustable. In the rear, the rear bench can even recline slightly in two individual sections, while offering a massage feature as well. There’s massive legroom back there, enough for even the tallest passengers to stretch out their legs. Oddly enough, the boot isn’t big as the car’s outer size suggests, probably because space is taken up by the mechanisms supporting those reclining-massage chairs. The rear seatbacks do not even fold down. Still, there’s about as much useable boot volume as a midsize sedan with the seats up.
The XJ has more than enough tech to keep us satisfied. There’s a central 7-inch touchscreen for multimedia, telecom and navigation functions, as well as Bluetooth phone and streaming music, 14 speakers, USB/AUX ports, smart keyless entry and start, power boot lid, HID headlights, panoramic glass roof, adaptive cruise control, blind-spot monitors, rear DVD screens with wireless headphones, and more than enough airbags. Unique features include a gauge cluster that’s actually just a big LCD screen showing instrumentation graphics and other data, while the glovebox-release and overhead lights are both operated by touch. Considering our car is a mid-range model, the higher-spec versions probably get even more fancy features.
But the real kicker is that moving up to the bigger-engined versions is overkill. The 3.0-litre supercharged V6 version is already quicker than all sorts of sports cars. With 340 hp at 6500 rpm and 450 Nm of torque at 3500 rpm fed to the rear wheels via an 8-speed automatic, our aluminium-bodied XJ weighs in at 1761 kg, lighter than the average full-size luxo-barge. With a clean launch in sport mode, the XJ doled out a 0-100 kph time of 5.9 seconds during our October test, making it quicker than any Chevy Camaro SS we’ve tested before. The smooth new motor builds up motive force linearly, with good low-end kick and abundant top-end power. As a bonus, we even managed a fuel consumption figure of 12.6 litres/100 km, which is a lot lower than V8s with similar power.
For a big car, the long-wheelbase XJ drives really well. Around corners, the adaptive suspension does well in keeping body roll in check to a good extent, while banishing any floatiness or untoward rebounds. It is possible to hustle this limo-sized car on the curves as quickly as, say, a smaller “sporty” midsize sedan. Grip is good from the tyres — 245/45 front and 275/40 rear — wrapping the 19-inch alloys, but with enough aggression, it is possible to reach their understeering limits predictably. In keeping with the XJ-L’s intentions, the ESP is tuned for a safe drive, so it is impossible to let the tail loose even in sport mode, unlike Jaguar’s sportier offerings that love to swing it by a bit even with all the nannies on.
And yet it is, dare we say it, “fun” to a certain extent, with its mildly-weighted steering that offers at least some semblance of feedback, quick paddle-shiftable automatic, and linearly-responsive brakes that make for quick stops when needed. The throttle response is fairly good, and gets even sharper in sport mode. The XJ is clearly on a plain above the similarly-priced Lexus LS 460 when it comes to driving satisfaction.
The XJ rides pretty well too, if a smidge on the firm side. It’s at least as smooth as the aforementioned Lexus, and whatever slight undulations that can be felt due to the low-profile tyres is on par with every other top-end luxury car with big wheels. Road noise is unnoticeable, but the cabin does let in a certain amount of wind noise at highway speeds, so while we’d still call it quiet enough, it’s not as silent inside as some of its rivals. The rear visibility is limited and the side-mirrors are small, so blind-spot monitors are well worth paying attention to. It’s very long, so choose your parking spaces carefully, and it should slip in with ease aided by the rear camera.
When we think of full-size luxury sedans, the XJ never really comes to mind as easily as Mercedes-Benz or Lexus, and as such we never really bothered looking into this car in detail before. In fact, our test car is technically a 2013 model that’s been around for a year, but we only asked for it now. It’s a shame that this car’s qualities aren’t known that well. Because Jaguar’s flagship sedan is immensely good, even with an engine that’s only one step up from the base model and three whole steps below the top V8 Supersport model. Personally, we’d prefer the regular-wheelbase XJ, since we do our own driving. If you’re looking for a big Jaguar with a sporting streak, simply put, you don’t need anything more than this supercharged V6 version.
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