2011 Jaguar XJL Supercharged
Sleek, fast and luxurious
Review and photos by Russell Purcell
Earlier this year Jaguar launched the latest series of its storied XJ sedan to much acclaim, as this new car represents a new direction for the company, and in the case of the XJ, represents the first complete redesign for the flagship since its introduction in 1968. Last fall I spent a week getting acquainted with the long-wheelbase variant of the XJ- the XJL- and came away from the experience impressed with the car’s styling, interior appointments, fit-and-finish, and of course, its comfortable ride and road manners.
The 5.0-litre V-8 engine under its bonnet is reported to be capable of sprints from 0-100 km/h in 5.7 seconds, but I have to admit that the big car felt a little sluggish at times. Despite the fact that most of the car’s frame and body panels are constructed from aluminum, the 385 horsepower produced by this engine is being asked to hustle well over two tons of metal, wood and leather, which is a daunting task for any mill.
Recently I was offered the opportunity to test the same car fitted with a supercharger, and after spending a week behind the wheel of this cat, I am happy to report that the supercharged engine makes this car come alive. With 470-horsepower and 424lb-ft of torques Jaguar literature claims that the XJL SC can reach 100 km/h in a mere 5.2 seconds. That is fast for any car, but is exceptionally quick for a sedan as large and opulent as the big Jaguar.
I took a long road-trip which included several high altitude mountain passes, and it was here that the prodigious power reserves generated by the engine’s blower help deliver a driving experience I will remember for a very long time. Long climbs that strangle the life out of lesser cars were no match for the XJL SC, and passing maneuvers were executed without concern. I must admit that I was surprised to see that the car only had a six-speed transmission as most of the cars in this class have seven- or eight-speed units, but it performed its duties seamlessly and never missed a beat.
Under hard acceleration the XJL SC feels athletic as the nose gently rises and the car settles on its haunches. As it levels out you may catch a glimpse in the mirror of the mischievous grin that now resides on your face as you gain velocity, especially when you operate the transmission in the Sport setting and choose your own shift points with the steering-wheel mounted paddles. The cabin is well insulated to prevent the intrusion of wind, road and mechanical noises, but when driven in anger there is a subtle whine from the supercharger and growl from the exhaust that is by no means unpleasant.
Should a little extra precision be needed the driver can engage Sport Dynamic mode which alters engine mapping and throttle response to allow you to extract the most from the car’s engine. The product planning team at Jaguar is well aware that there is always a small segment of buyers who seem to have an unquenchable thirst for power so they also offer a SuperSport variant of the XJ and XJL. This car also features a supercharger and further performance advancements which result in an additional 40 horsepower (510-hp). A SuperSport will set you back another $24,000 before taxes.
My test vehicle looked resplendent in Liquid Silver Metallic, a colour that seemed to highlight the car’s shapely new curves, styling cues, and fastback roofline. The car’s curb appeal was immediately apparent, as talking with strangers became a regular part of my day, and I noticed an inordinate amount of head swiveling taking place in passing vehicles. The large grille, enormous alloy wheels, LED lighting and chopped roofline tend to draw attention.
The long wheelbase XJL has been designed for shuttling passengers in maximum comfort. The rear compartment of the XJL is perfect for stretching out as there is an additional 5-inches of legroom than offered in a standard wheelbase XJ. Luxury touches include folding seatback trays, clever ambient lighting, and an ultra efficient climate control system. As this car is gunning for rivals such as the Mercedes-Benz S-Class, BMW 750iL, and Audi A8L, the level of ergonomics, craftsmanship and fit-and-finish is exceptional throughout. My passengers could not stop talking about the quality and feel of the supple leather hides- Navy with high contrast Ivory stitching and piping, polished wood, and even the limited plastics used to outfit the car’s cabin.
Slipping behind the wheel the driver will immediately notice the attention to detail paid to the cockpit, as everything needed to operate the car and its various systems is easily at hand, and very visible. The car’s gauge cluster is an innovative LCD screen that when illuminated displays a trio of bold circular gauges and gives the car a definite 21st Century look. Jaguar’s novel periscope gear selector has found a home in the XJ as well. Visibility is great and the seats proved supportive enough during aggressive driving, and comfortable enough for long distance cruising.
The design team used the company’s stunning XF sedan as the inspiration for the new XJ, which is a good thing as the sporty XF has rekindled the flame at Jaguar, and has been attracting a whole new wave of buyers to the storied British marque. Hints of the XF can be seen throughout the XJ’s styling, but it is what can’t be seen that has vastly improved the drivability and handling prowess of the bigger cat. Much of the suspension and most of the power train is XF derived, which gave the engineering team a massive head start when it came time to revamp the XJ as they had a well sorted chassis and engine combo to use as a foundation for the new car.
Drivers will relish the responsive handling of the XJL. After exploring some twisty back roads I must admit that the car feels very nimble and easy to rein in, and delivered exceptional feedback to my inputs. Much of this is due to the fact that the aluminum unibody design of the new car has made it 11% stiffer than that of the car it replaces and the engineering team moved to a solidly mounted design for the front sub-frame design which helps tighten things up in the handling department.
The XJL’s long list of standard equipment includes 19-inch alloy wheels, Xenon headlights with LED accents, Adaptive Dynamics, and a 6-speed automatic with Jaguar Sequential Shift. Rear window blinds, seatback trays, and heated and cooled seating will keep rear passengers cozy, as will the four-zone climate control system. The virtual instrument panel, touch-screen navigation screen and a 600-watt premium sound system complete with onboard disk drive and media hub will appeal to the technology fan. My car came fitted with optional 20-inch wheels, a heated wood-rimmed steering wheel, and the stunning 1,200-watt Bowers & Wilkins audio system.
The all-new Jaguar XJ is loaded with new found levels of both technology and performance to make it more competitive, but careful attention was made to preserve the company’s legendary stature as a leader in both value and comfort. The car represents a daring design departure for the iconic brand, and as such should help raise its profile and attract younger consumers to the showroom for a look.
Technical Specifications: 2011 Jaguar XJL SC
Base price (MSRP): $104,000 (XJ SC); $107,000 (XJL SC)
Price as tested: $109,450
Type: 5-passenger, 4-door, full-size sedan
Layout: front-engine, rear-wheel-drive
Engine: Supercharged direct-injection 5.0-litre V8, DOHC, 32 valves
Horsepower: 470 @ 6,000-6,500 rpm
Torque (lb-ft): 424 @ 2,500-5,500 rpm
Transmission: 6-speed automatic with manual shifting capabilities
Curb weight: XJ 1,942 kgs. (4281 lbs.); XJL 1,961 kgs. (4,323 lbs.)
Fuel economy (L/100km): City 14.1 (20.3 mpg), Hwy 9.3 (30.4 mpg)