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Review: Jaguar XJL Supercharged

Review: Jaguar XJL Supercharged

The Jaguar XJL Supercharged is a luxury limousine that drives like a sports car.

The Jaguar XJL with its top-of-the-line 5.0 litre V8 supercharged engine has one massive problem: it’s so much fun to drive that your chauffeur will end up in the backseat reading the newspaper. Massive power and acceleration, great handling, superb braking and a goose bump producing engine sound are enough to keep any driver happy. The interior, naturally, matches the performance.

I realised just how quick and powerful the Jaguar XJ is when I took it onto my personal drag strip. In my Porsche Boxster S I get to 170km/h before hitting the braking marker. The Jaguar reached 180km/h. In fact, I could have gone faster if I had known just how potent the brakes are. That shouldn’t come as a surprise though, as the supercharged XJ does 0-100km/h in 4.9 seconds. Top speed is limited to 250km/h.

Another problem with the 5.0 litre V8 supercharged XJ is that it always wants more. No, that’s not exactly true. You, the driver will always want more. Jabbing the accelerator produces such a great engine growl and unleashes 510 horses that make this nearly two-ton cat leap forward as if pouncing on a mouse. The problem is that in the blink of an eye you’re past 180km/h, just begging for a speeding fine.

Not that the XJ lacks refinement. Cruising at 100km/h it’s dead quiet inside, but when you accelerate normally you get enough engine sound to put a smile on your face. At 120km/h you still just glide along. The suspension is great, soaking up bumps and rutted road with little fuss. It even glides over speed bumps. Yet it is taut enough while cornering to make the XJ feel like much smaller and lighter than it actually is. This can largely be ascribed to an almost perfect weight distribution of 51:49 between the front and rear.

The ride gets a little firmer when you press the ‘Dynamic’ mode button and the new ZF eight-speed transmission gets way more urgent. But the underlying skill of the Jaguar XJ is that it drives like the luxury limousine it is, yet handles so well that you can make full use of the power, be it straight line or curves.

The Jaguar I drove was the XJL version, with the L denoting long wheelbase. At 5.2 metres this is a long vehicle but the exterior styling keeps it looking sleek with the right mixture of sportiness and sophistication. Rear passengers get a metre of legroom, plus business trays and reading lamps. There’s also a Rear Seat Entertainment option available.

Up front, there’s no shortage of space either and the seats have enough electronic adjustments that make finding that perfect driving position easy. The seats, with their soft, hand-stitched leather are extremely comfortable. In fact, the whole cabin exudes English cool. Push the ‘Start’ button and the aluminium JaguarDrive Selector rises up into the palm of your hand as the dashboard bathes the cabin with a cool phosphor blue and the virtual instrument panel emerges on the 12.3 inch TFT screen. The surrounds of the instrument panel change according to the selected driving mode.

In the centre console there’s a single eight-inch Touch-screen that controls the physical cabin, displays navigation information, and through the Dual View display allows the passenger to watch a video.

When it comes to in-car entertainment, I’m only interested in music. In this department my Jaguar XJL really rocked at it was fitted with the optional 1,200W Bowers & Wilkins premium sound system that fills the cabin with exquisite sound thanks to its 20 speakers. When I picked up the Jaguar the first song on the radio was Jimi Hendrix’s “Foxy Lady”, perhaps the perfect song for the Jaguar XJ.

My wife loved the XJ as much for its performance as the attention to detail. The suede roof lining fascinated her endlessly. But we both commented that the boot was a bit on the small side when we did our shopping. The view out of the rear window is limited, and the side mirrors have two large blind spots. However, the reverse camera and the blind spot indicators in the mirrors solve these problems. Still, thanks to its length, the JXL isn’t the easiest car to manoeuvre in and out of parking spaces and the proximity warning sensors nearly shattered our eardrums as they were so loud. I’m sure they can be set somewhere in the menu though.

But these are minor complaints. The Jaguar XJ is a precision piece of engineering that exudes sophistication. It is the best driving car in this luxury segment, where it is up against the Mercedes S class and the BMW 7 series. If you want to be in the backseat, then both the Merc and the Beemer have plenty to offer. But if you want to be at the business end, then the Jaguar XJ is the one for you.

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