Jaguar XJ: Long-wheelbase version of big cat doesn’t skimp on sport

SHARE Jaguar XJ: Long-wheelbase version of big cat doesn’t skimp on sport

Whenever you saddle up for a world-class luxury sedan, expectations are understandably very high – and they should be. The exotic Jaguar XJ is a special blend and balance of powerful performance and refined comfort that meets expectations, while offering up a few unexpected treats.

While featuring the distinct stoic British attitude of commitment to the task, the Jaguar still impresses and still gets everyone’s attention no matter where you go. This year’s model doesn’t change much, other than a few new options and colors, but that does not diminish this big cat’s prowess and impact.

The 2017 Jaguar XJ starts out at a base price of $74,400, my tester XJL Portfolio model (the “L” is for Long) has a base price of $83,200, add all-wheel drive and it starts at $86,700. When you enter into this class of vehicle, adding things will cost you. The good thing is you won’t be disappointed by the distinction of what you add on. For instance, if you choose to upgrade the already-amazing 20-speaker Meridian audio system, it will cost you $4,200. Step up into adaptive cruise control at $1,595 or add parallel and perpendicular park assist and a surround-view camera for $1,700. It’s easy to see how things add up on a Jaguar XJ.

On the outside, the Jaguar XJ is a bold melding of long, flowing lines. The XJL lands at 206.9 inches in length, which is an imposing sight until you realize it actually looks sporty and could feel even longer if not for some smart styling cues. This is a wheelbase of 124.3 inches, but it drives like something much smaller.

Looking smaller is another task, and it happens by designing blacked-out pillars into the exterior style, which gives the glass more attention, lightening the overall feel. While the Brits are famously set in their ways, this Jaguar has the fresh 2015 front end treatment that still has impressive refinement and outstanding sporty stylings.

The bold headlamps that bookend the signature wire-mesh grille are a statement few can equal in authenticity and impact. Personally, I believe the low roofline added as much to my XJL’s sleek style as any element. Though, the standard 19-inch rims provide a real focal point against the field of aluminum.

The Jaguar XJ uses a lot of aluminum in its construction. This provides noticeable enhancement to the driving experience, with light maneuvering and responsive acceleration the obvious benefits.

Jaguar offers both V6 or V8 power. Understandably, only V6 models may get the AWD option, and this is a tough call when you consider how nice the rear-wheel drive performs. The XJL Portfolio showcases a supercharged 3.0-liter V6 that delivers a beefy 340 horsepower. It is mated to a crisp-shifting 8-speed automatic transmission. The Supercharged models get the superstar 5.0-liter V8 and its 470 hp. Power is immediate and as on-demand as a sedan of this size can relinquish. I found the V6 to be adequate in every capacity on the road, including some athletic commands entering and exiting the highway.

The cabin of the XJ is a sophisticated and stunningly beautiful comfort zone accented by signature chrome and comfortable leather and genuine wood veneers. Fit and finish is top end. It is a quiet cabin that offers control of any sound moderation to the driver. A mix of leather and wood aesthetics give the long, curved dash a feeling of technical prowess and sporty performance.

I appreciated the view of the gauges offered by the long dash design, it’s easy to find the essentials and over my weeklong test period I acclimated to virtually every dash function without hardly moving my eyes off the road.

Naturally, the XJL delivers an added 4.8 inches of legroom for rear passengers. It doesn’t sound like a lot, but you feel/enjoy every increment. You cannot ignore the rear headroom tightening, but it’s a reasonable tradeoff for the awesome exterior roofline dive. Look for a roomy 18.4 cubic feet in the trunk.

This big cat is long and lean – but the price of admission ensures a very elite ownership clientele who, if they set the bar high, will never be disappointed with an XJ.

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