Test Drive: 2016 Jaguar XJL Portfolio

Think "large luxury sedan" and it's hard not to picture the German 1-2-3 hit parade consisting of the Audi A8, BMW 7 Series and Mercedes-Benz S-Class. No wonder then that most of the competitors – cars like the Lexus LS, Genesis G90 and Cadillac CT6 – all cleave closely to the German luxury blueprint. If you want something a little different, it leaves precious little choice: From Italy there's the Maserati Quattroporte, while from England there's the Jaguar XJ. And where the Italians counter the Germans' reserved, technological luxury with flamboyant Italian style, the Brits counter it with proper old-world opulence and hidden reserves of performance. Walk softly and carry a big stick, indeed.

Proper old-world opulence and hidden reserves of performance. Walk softly and carry a big stick, indeed.

Introduced in 2009, the current-generation XJ comes with two choices of wheelbase, two choices of engine, and rear-wheel drive or all-wheel drive. Its design represents a major break from previous-generation XJs, and was considered radical when it debuted. To keep things fresh and help stave off the "seven year itch," Jaguar has facelifted the 2016 model with new headlights, taillights, grille, front and rear fascias, and some updated trim details. The differences are mostly fairly subtle, but I do like the distinctly more aggressive-looking headlight treatment, and the big Jaguar remains up-to-date and good looking, if perhaps a little bulky at the back.

Inside, the XJL get quilted leather upholstery for 2016 (this won nods of approval from both my wife and myself), an updated infotainment interface, and additional standard equipment including heated and cooled seats and a blind-spot monitoring system with fast-moving vehicle detection. V8-powered rear-wheel-drive models also get electric steering for 2016, while V6-powered all-wheel-drive models like my test car continue with hydraulic power steering.

Where the German competitors offer varying takes on the concept of cool modern luxury, the folks at Jaguar take a decidedly more sumptuous, rich-feeling approach to interior design. In my test car, pretty much all interior surfaces were covered with lashings of high-end leather, except where there was with burled walnut, glistening chrome, or high-gloss piano-black trim. An impressive array of interior options let you select different colours and trim options, with gloss-figured ebony, carbon fibre or piano black available in place of the standard burled walnut.

Up top, there's a big dual-pane panoramic sunroof with electric blinds, while on the dash, the art-deco-style dash vents are like miniature works of art. The list of standard equipment in the Portfolio edition includes everything you might possibly expect and more, with highlights including a phenomenal-sounding 825 watt, 20-speaker Meridian sound system, four-zone climate control, heated and cooled massaging front seats, heated and cooled rear seats, smart key with pushbutton start, heated leather-wrapped steering wheel, a lovely suede headliner that almost begs to be touched, the previously mentioned updated InControl Touch Pro infotainment system with navigation…. shall I go on?

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On top of this there's a wide selection of available options, including an $8,500 Premium Rear Seat Package (this adds massaging rear seats, folding business tables, and entertainment system with touchscreen and remote control), a $1,700 Illumination Pack (which adds gorgeous phosphor blue halo cabin lighting, including in the air vent controls), a $1,000 Parking Assist pack (featuring surround view camera and 360-degree park distance control), a $1,600 adaptive cruise control system, an $850 InControl Connect Pro connectivity package, and $700 electric rear side window blinds. My test car didn't have the rear seat package, but it was kitted out with everything else.

Overall it adds up to a lavish level of comfort for all four occupants – especially in the long wheelbase model thanks to its oodles of rear-seat legroom. There's space for a third passenger in the rear centre position, but rear headroom isn't as generous as rear legroom, and the contoured seat rises in the middle, making the centre position best suited for shorter passengers and brief trips. Despite the tall rear beltline and somewhat slit-like rear window, the trunk is also a bit shallower than expected, though it'll still hold a reasonable amount of luggage (somewhere between 478.5 L and 520 L, depending on whether you believe Jaguar's British or Canadian web sites).

I found the upgraded infotainment interface to be good-looking and intuitive to operate, and the upgraded TFT "virtual" gauges are a noticeable improvement over the previous iteration – I wasn't keen on the TFT gauges when I drove the 2013 XJ, but in the 2016 car they're much crisper and better looking, and they're lightning quick to respond, so I'm finally sold on them. They change appearance depending on whether the driving mode is set for Normal, Dynamic or Snow.

Powering the XJL is a choice of either a supercharged 5.0L V8 cranking out a prodigious 550 hp and 502 lb-ft of torque, or my test car's supercharged 3.0L V6, which produces a still-impressive 340 hp and 332 lb-ft of torque, with a mellifluous growl from its exhaust. An auto start-stop feature aids city fuel economy, though I noted that it could occasionally be a little intrusive in its operation.

Shifting duties are taken care of by a conventional eight-speed automatic, which works unobtrusively in the background most of the time, and allows you to take control using steering-wheel-mounted paddle shifters when you're wanting a more engaged driving experience. Manual shifts are executed quickly and crisply, and my only quibble is that the shift paddles are a bit small and plasticky for the segment. Gear selection is accomplished using Jaguar's now famous rising rotary knob, which is a nifty touch but does require you to look at the gear selector to be sure of getting the right gear (this is only ever a bother if you're trying to pull off a quick three-point turn while looking out for traffic – not that I'd ever do anything like that myself).

With the V8, the long-wheelbase sedan will run from 0–100 km/h in about 4.6 seconds, while V6-powered AWD versions like my test car take just under two seconds longer, at 6.4 seconds. Fuel economy is rated at 14.1 / 9.3 L/100km (city / highway) with the V6. When I picked my test car up it was showing a long-term mixed average of 12.9 L/100 km (and a best result of 8.7 L/100 km over a 90 km highway drive), and my own consumption ranged between 11.5 and 15.5 L/100 km in mostly suburban and city driving. On the highway, wind and road noise are exceedingly well controlled, making the XJ a relaxing place to cover long distances.

Around the corners the XJL feels lighter than its appearance might suggest, thanks in part to the extensive use of aluminum in its construction (it tips the scales at 1,884 kg, considerably less than the 2,095 kg Mercedes S 400 or the 2,091 kg BMW 750Li). In normal mode the XJL's ride is comfortable and composed, soaking up most bumps with quiet aplomb, while adaptive dampers allow you to tighten things up in Dynamic mode, making the handling downright agile. Steering effort is fairly light, but feedback is excellent, and the tires offer plenty of grip.

Overall, whether you want a luxury conveyance that can waft you along in a road rage-proof cocoon of quilted massaging leather seats and chill audio tracks, or you want a powerful sports saloon that can carve up the tarmac with the best Germany can offer, the XJ puts in a jolly good showing either way, and looks good doing it.

Warranty:
4 years/80,000 km; 4 years/80,000 km powertrain; 6 years/unlimited distance corrosion perforation; 4 years/80,000 km roadside assistance

Competitors:
Audi A8
BMW 7 Series
Cadillac CT6
Lexus LS
Mercedes-Benz S-Class

2016 Jaguar XJL 3.0L AWD
2016 Jaguar XJL 3.0L AWD
Base Price $99,000
Optional Equipment $6,700 (InControl Connect Pro and Protect Package $1,300, Illumination Pack $1,700, Parking Assist Pack $1,000, Adaptive Cruise Control $1,600, Electric Rear Side Window Blinds $700, Heated front windshield $400)
A/C Tax $100
Destination Fee $1,995
Price as Tested $107,795
Optional Equipment
10 0
Scoring breakdowns 8.4
9 Interior
8 Fuel Economy
8 Exterior Styling
8 Performance
9 Comfort