Road Test: Jaguar XJL Supercharged
David Booth's road test on the 2010 Jaguar XJL Supercharged
David Booth, National Post - Friday, Aug. 13, 2010
Jaguar has long traded on its sexy feline nature. From the obvious a hood ornament depicting a muscular jungle cat leaping to, well I actually don't know where it's leaping, but I'm sure it's up to no good to leather so soft you want to drive everywhere naked, Jaguars have rewarded the left side of the brain while often infuriating the right.
So the news that the all-new 2011 Jaguar XJ is jam-packed with solid, logical features that will appeal to the engineer in all of us might come as a shock to some long-time fans. Climbing behind the wheel to be greeted by what is the world's first or at least its most complete digital instrument gauge set is not exactly in keeping with the hoary old-world chrome-and-wood thing Jaguar traded on for so long. But it is surely welcome. Ditto the technological masterpiece of an audio system, Bowers&Wilkins having stuffed 20 speakers (a record for a production car as far as I know) into the cabin and then excited their precious little perma-magnets with no less than 1,200 watts of bass-booming amplification.
Then there's the now commonplace on luxury cars, at least central computer that uses much more user-friendly touchscreen technology rather than a twiddly mouse, a couple of proximity sensor buttons that sense when your finger is approaching them to pop open things such as the glovebox and a nifty little gearshift knob that pops up from its resting place when the car is started. It's all very high-tech and it isn't even the culmination of all of Jaguar's electronic abilities since, for legislative reasons, the automaker had to abandon plans to bring a cool, centre console-mounted LCD screen that displayed different images (i. e., a digital readout of vehicle settings for the driver and, say, a movie for the passenger) on the same monitor. We're the lesser for it not coming to North America.
All this talk of digitization doesn't mean Jaguar has forgotten how to reward the senses. For instance, that B&W audio system is pure sex to the eardrums. I'm not sure if I am ready to state that it's better than the Bang & Olufsen systems Audi offers when it comes to DVD output, but I can say there is no better automotive stereo system at radio reproduction the B&W system proves as clear and sharp on an FM station as most audio systems are playing CDs. It really is incredible.
And that TFT screen that is the gauge set is a marvel to watch. The little numbers illuminate as both the tachometer and speedometer needles swing around while their numbers simultaneously illuminate. There are little histographs to explain hidden functions and--my favourite touch the speedo and the tach can get into role reversal games where the tachometer, when it's feeling decidedly sporty, can switch places with the normally larger speedometer. Hey, it gets me hot and heavy.
So, too, does the rest of the Jaguar. The leather is supple beyond belief it's a Jaguar, after all. The big 5.0-litre V8 makes all manner of feline noises as well, its supercharger ever so subtly announcing its presence, while its 470 horsepower ensures telephone poles fly by. And the exterior shape is just as sensuous as Jaguars of yore, although thoroughly modern. I actually prefer the proportions of the longer-wheelbase L version, not something I could have said of previous XJs. And, if you don't like designer Ian Callum's one stylistic oddity, the pronounced piano black C-pillars, just order the entire car in black like my tester and nobody will notice.
There are also some surprises such as rear-seat legroom that is not only gargantuan in the larger L model but also fairly expansive in the standard version. The handling of the standard version even the Supercharged model runs on standard springs and dampers makes me wonder how an R version can be expected to improve things. As it is, this is the first big luxury sedan to give BMW's 7 Series a run for its money in the corner-carving sweepstakes.
On the money front, Jaguar Canada's pricing is more than competitive (and now that our loonie has slumped, the U.S. pricing is not nearly as attractive). Base model XJs start at $88,000 and even topline premium models such as the long-wheelbase Supercharged are amazingly well equipped at $107,000, barely more than a baby S-Class Mercedes.
Jaguar is back, as sexy as ever, only this time it's not nearly so difficult to get along with.