If your sales and consulting duties call for some long trips in the saddle, or if you’re simply looking for an extremely dignified way to make your rounds, we invite you to re-think your impressions of Jaguar.
As the flagship of Britain’s storied and status-laden automaker, the Jaguar XJ had, admittedly, gotten a little stale in recent years.
This coming on top of the company’s somewhat tarnished reputation of the past, though this had been quickly improving in recent years, especially as Jaguar’s relationship with Ford Motors came to an end.
2011′s total makeover of the XJ has injected both stylistic and motoring life aplenty into the old feline, transforming the machine into something modern and head-turningly cool.
That includes a design aesthetic heavy on the long, long lines, a newly chiseled and angular nose and massive mesh grille and a tall, sculpted and almost Rolls-Royce-like tail with LED brakelamps that shoot off at crazy angles. It’s imposing and awesome.
I recently had a chance to spend some time in both the standard XJ and the extended XJL model, which stretches the luxury to a 205-inch-long wheelbase.
The vehicles also offered a chance to play around with two of the three engine-output configurations available, all based on the improved 5.0-liter V8: the 385-HP naturally aspirated model and the 470-HP supercharged machine.
There’s also a fearsome 510-HP Supersport edition, which I did not drive, and am a little frightened to do so.
The longer XJL may not seem completely poised for the sporty country roads and foxhunting high-speed jaunts associated with the brand’s lore, but … you’d be surprised.
Even that “base” 385-HP engine thrums harmoniously at idle and growls marvelously when the pedal is flattened and you use the paddle shifters to bark through the six gears, though it’s wonderfully sedate in tone, despite the output. And moderately frugal, exceeding the 22 mpg highway EPA figure on many occasions.
The smaller XJ featured the 470-HP mill, and while the extra power is a little like having a pair of solid-fuel rocket boosters at the ready–passing is officially never a problem in this machine–the extra supercar-styled power doesn’t sound particularly rumbly or ridiculous.
And that was a little sad, really. It did serve to rather easily loosen up the XJ’s rear end and achieve quite remarkable speeds, so quiet isn’t necessarily bad.
More ingeniously, click them both into sport mode and you can feel the belts automatically tighten and watch the gauges suddenly glow red, Batman-style, as the big car extends the revs and allows more playful use of its potential.
Despite their relatively roomy size, especially in extended format, both XJ variants stick to corners quite impressively, handle with a wonderful smoothness and certainly take care of pure intimidation factor when cruising down the boulevard.
Throw them hard into a cloverleaf off-ramp and the car hangs in there much longer and harder than you’d imagine.
And with good winter tires for my Colorado winter tests, you could replicate what I believe might be the only trip ever taken for a ski day at Arapahoe Basin in a new XJL, with solid bite on snowy roads, excellent control on ice and an incredibly large back seat for your skis, as this model had no pass-thru in the trunk.
The XJ, driven a few weeks later, was also properly shod for winter and provided equally grounded all-season driving comfort; substitute some sporty summer tires and the character will only improve.
As chuckable as the bigger XJL remains, it is very clearly set up for executive duty, its expansive back seat more akin to a private jet than a mere four-wheeled automobile.
Luxurious leather seats, hardwood fold-down tray tables and separate A/C (and optional AV) controls will endear the machine to its probable audience, plus those 44 inches of leg room.
That’s too bad for most owners as XJL is still as fine a driver’s machine as the XJ, with the front of both of their cabins showing the bulk of the 2011 interior makeover.