- Gobs of supercharged V8 power
- Surprisingly nimble handling
- Yacht-like interior luxury
- Sublime B&W sound system
- Outdated 6 speed transmission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.
“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).
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.
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.