2011 Jaguar XJL Supercharged Review – VIP luxury meets racetrack-ready performance

Friday May 6th, 2011 at 8:55 AM
Posted by: AKramer

2011 Jaguar XJL
Pros

  • Gobs of supercharged V8 power
  • Surprisingly nimble handling
  • Yacht-like interior luxury
  • Sublime B&W sound system

Cons

  • Outdated 6 speed transmission
  • Less than roomy interior
  • Sluggish touch screen interface

The days of the lumbering land yacht are over, or so it would seem, after driving the new 2011 Jaguar XJL Supercharged. Buying a large luxury sedan like the XJL used to mean lots of cushy, roomy opulence, with the priority firmly placed on pampering over performance. Now, with close to 500 hp under the hood and huge, sticky sports car tires at the corners, this big Jag can do VIP duty in the evening and hit the racetrack the following morning.

Driving Impressions

“OMG! This car is freakin’ fast!!!”

So blurted an unsuspecting passenger after I stood on the throttle of our XJL Supercharged test car. Despite what many people may think of big British luxury sedans, the new XJL from Jaguar is a legitimate speed demon, especially in supercharged trim. With 470 hp available from the boosted 5.0L V8 engine there is plenty of power on tap, and courtesy of an all-aluminum body there is also surprisingly little weight (only 4300 lbs).

2011 Jaguar XJL

This adds up to the kind of head-snapping acceleration that you just don’t expect from a car this large. It also invites the kind of immature behavior that is surely unbecoming of such an otherwise stately automobile. Feel like drag racing the kids in the hot hatch lined up next to you on the on-ramp? Just hit the gas and smile as you leave them in the dust.

Handling is also a far cry from the barge-like road manners of Jaguars of yore. The steering rack in the XJL Supercharged is the same unit you’ll find in the smaller XFR, which makes for very responsive steering, to the point that it almost feels too light and quick. Point and shoot handling may be fun, but it gets a bit dicey when you’re throwing around a car that’s as long as a full-size SUV.

Luckily the rest of the handling goods are up to the task. The suspension is exceptionally well executed, striking a perfect balance between handling and ride quality. The brakes are plenty powerful, but can be a bit grabby at low speeds. Securing the XJL to the ground is a set of wide, ultra low profile summer tires, similar to what you’d find on a Porsche or Corvette. Needless to say, the amount of grip available is more than you’d ever really need on public roads.

2011 Jaguar XJ 20 inch aluminum alloy wheels

Should you decide to test the cornering capabilities of that sticky rubber, make sure to put the gear selector in sport and then hit the button with the checkered flag on it, which activates the competition mode. This firms up the shocks, quickens the throttle response, changes the shift points, and dials back the stability control. Just make sure you don’t have any passengers in the back, for they might get a bit upset when your exploration of the limits of lateral grip ends up throwing them sideways across the cabin.

About the only let down from a driver’s perspective is a transmission that is short a few gears. With all the 7 and 8 speed automatic transmissions available these days, having just 6 forward gears makes the XJL seem a bit out of date. Fuel efficiency also suffers as a consequence, especially on the highway. At 70 mph, the big V8 is humming along at around 2400 rpm, which is at least a few hundred too many. Adding a few more overdrive gears should help bring fuel efficiency closer to 20 mpg combined, instead of the rather thirsty 17 mpg the car gets now.

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6 Responses to 2011 Jaguar XJL Supercharged Review – VIP luxury meets racetrack-ready performance

  1. Dave Kovacs says:

    I have had the car in twice since delivery. One to put the winter tires on and one to take them off. At both visits some service bulletin work was done. Nothing that seemed major at all and during the last one their was a software upgrade. I tend to get a bit over the top with interior noises but even over rough patches etc the car makes no squeaks. I sense some of the service bulletin work is to prevent any annoyances or issues down the path. So happily I can say no problems or issues at this point.

    As an additional FYI – - we have had a few warmer days in the 80′s and the climate control handles that easily without a rush of blowers etc. The cooled seats seem more effective compared to some other cars I had with it – -

    My dealer is Bennett Jaguar and it is a new complex so no problems taking the car in and waiting although they will pick up the car and give you a loaner etc. They do transport the tires for me since at 20 inches you can’t pop 4 of them in the trunk! I have also had good experience with them insofar as my prior Range Rover.

    • Derek says:

      @Dave — very good customer information. Thanks for sharing. I’m sure lots of Jaguar and future Jaguar owners appreciate your input.

  2. Dave Kovacs says:

    I took acquisition of this car in vapor gray at the end of October. It is a great car to drive and much more exciting and special than my previous ‘ current’ model MB S Class. In PA getting 4 high performance snow tires was a must for the winter however they did not impact ride quality etc. Also I have noticed the car gets much more attention than other cars in this class.

    The Jaguar does feel more intimate inside than a S Class and I think that results in a more engaging and ‘cuddled’ experience. The seats are very comfortable and highly configurable. I have read in several reviews that transmission is just 6 gears – - but unlike other transmissions with more gears I never feel the car is left guessing or searching for the right gear. Oddly enough my S class had more gears, smaller engine and lower mileage with the added ‘pleasure’ of a gas guzzler tax.

    The sound system is really something unique in its performance – - it does not color the music to impress – it delivers a quality of reproduction that encourages your to spend time in the car just to listen to some of your favorite tracks.

    Much is also written about the slower performance of the touch screen. You can turn off transition animation which does change the perceived reaction but i think it really was designed not to be a system you typed away on like a drone on a computer keyboard. More like slow and steady wins the race. However, as the driver I rarely use the screen for entry . . more just for visual confirmation of information. The enhanced Jaguar Voice which was added after the initial launch lets you do everything very easily via voice – — no need to remember what to say – - – the virtual dash ‘pod’ window on the right changes to a voice guidance screen when you touch the voice button on the wheel and quickly and easily guides you without any need to glance over to the middle stack or even take your eye off the road for any length of time. Why use your fingers when you can just say it. . .

    Also for fun just say – -’ I’m hungry ‘- – - and see what the system does . .

    When I was in Ft Meyers a few weeks ago we stopped by the Bentley and Jaguar dealership – - – from my perspective the Jaguar looked much more contemporary than the much more costly sedans of Bentley. They are very nice cars but in comparison they almost seemed like ‘campy’ over the top examples of too much wealth. Also I believe the Jaguar design is much more inline with a person in their 40′s.

    And one other rather cool and functional benefit – - beyond just the visual depiction of how close you are to things is that the warning beeps virtually come from the appropriate areas of the car which are close to an obstacle. . . . something close to the passenger rear bumper – - – that is where the sounds emanates from – - – sounds simple – - -but highly helpful.

    Fast, fun and very freaking cool . .

    Dave

    • Derek says:

      @Dave – Another happy customer. How has the service and reliability been so far with your XJL?

      So often I hear about the reliability of the older Jaguars, but the company has been working hard to improve their service record with their latest generation of cars. Let us know, good or bad, if your car is working beyond expectations.

  3. Twain says:

    Awesome write-up. Jags are the most under-rated marque out there. Performance, luxury, handling and GREAT STYLING. Phenomenal!
    This said, I like the styling of the the last gen XJ a bit more…

    Jags are the most underated cars around IMO.
    -twain

    • Derek says:

      I totally agree – Jaguars are so under-appreciated. The owner of Tata Motors is a real enthusiast and takes an active part making sure the Jaguar line-up gets better and better on all counts. The brand has not suffered since Tata Motors bought Jaguar. I would even go so far as to say that the brand has gotten a lot better than when it was under Ford’s corporate arm.





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