To do my homework reading, I went out and sat in the back of this 2014 Jaguar XJL Portfolio sedan, Jaguar’s demi-limousine. The car is just that much more comfortable than the recliner in my office. It’s the long wheelbase model, five inches longer between the axles than the standard XJ—itself no small car—and all of those inches went into extra legroom for the rear seats. Besides, I thought I might meet the Queen back there.
Still, even in the deluxe Portfolio trim, this particular example lacks a few things. Such as business-class adjustability in the back seats ($4,000 extra) or the entertainment system with twin LCD screens and headphones ($7,750). And where’s the 24-speaker stereo? And the heated windshield, power sun shade, adaptive cruise control and other amenities? Also, that’s a V-6 under the hood, in a class of automobile where many buyers expect at least eight, if not 12 cylinders. So even at $88,775 it’s a bit of a stripper, this Jag—relatively speaking. A full-house XJL can cost $140,000.
Let’s instead look at what our sample car does have, and why it’s so appealing as is. The all-wheel drive, for example, makes it a luxury item that can be used year-round here in the Frozen North. In normal weather it’s a proper rear-drive system that lets the XJ handle and steer like a performance cruiser, but then it transparently sends up to half of the engine torque to the front wheels whenever there’s an “oops.” And even before; by constantly monitoring grip level, steering angles and acceleration, the AWD predicts and pre-empts rear-wheel slip. The driver can also select Winter mode, which pre-loads the front wheels with 30 percent of the power, with more in reserve.
Now about that downmarket engine: It may be just a 3.0-liter V-6, but it’s supercharged for quick power (340 horses, 332 torques) and connected to a smooth eight-speed automatic transmission with Sport mode and shift paddles. No surprises there—save that the engine feels underrated—but since XJ bodies and engines are aluminum, even this AWD stretch model barely breaks 4,000 pounds. That’s a quarter-ton less than expected, so the Six produces outstanding acceleration and surprising fuel efficiency. (We got 25 MPG overall.) At 80 miles per hour, the engine needs to turn a mere 1,700 RPM. Its stop-start feature, so useful in city traffic, can be switched off when it gets annoying.
Naturally, Jaguar makes more testosterone available. Both long- and normal-wheelbase XJs can be outfitted with 470 or 550 horsepower V-8s—for considerably more money, and without the option of AWD.
In this car, however, less can seem a lot like more. Thanks to its adaptive suspension and taut structure, the V-6 XJL feels lean and light. It is agile, for its size, and satisfying. Hours of interstate boredom pass serenely, with great stability and poise, and then at the off-ramp the car becomes a back-road athlete. The harder it was pushed, within reason, the better this XJL seemed to like it.
Although it came with just $3,150 in add-ons (front-seat massage, adaptive headlights and British Racing Green paint), our “entry-level” XJL Portfolio was hardly a stripper. Alongside the built-in luxury and performance, it had satnav, two panoramic power sun roofs, blind-spot and back-up monitors, keyless entry and ignition, a power trunk lid and soft-close doors. I particularly appreciated the lavish front seats, which could be adjusted through an unusually wide range of lean and rake angles.
Younger drivers might whine about the slightly clunky touchscreen controls and last-week infotainment systems, but where it counts, the XJL is a delight. The swanky leather and wood-trimmed interior, with gleaming bits of substantial chrome, is lovely. So is the driving experience, abetted by the heated, leather-wrapped steering wheel that fills the hands. This XJL offers the same slightly steampunk heroic feeling of a Bentley Flying Spur, with much less power and mass but at just one-third the price. I call that a rare bargain.
2015 Jaguar XJL Portfolio
Base Price: $84,700
Price as Tested: $88,775
- Big-cat grace
- Powerful, efficient V-6
- Aristocratic elegance
- Must hold start button down for ignition
- One-two upshift sometimes feels rushed
- Not in my retirement package