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Joy Ride: 2014 Jaguar XJL Portfolio AWD

Jaguar’s 2014 XJL takes on the likes of the Audi A8L and Mercedes-Benz S-Class with a style, stature, and sportiness unmatched by its German rivals.

In the last year, with the F-TYPE Coupe and Convertible, Jaguar has wowed me with its rediscovered sport car-making abilities.

Those riotous sports cars, though, are far from the be-all and end-all off the Jaguar portfolio. After all, in the last 40 years since British brand’s last sports car, the E-TYPE, Jag has kept itself afloat off the backs of its bigger, plusher models.

At the top of that high-end luxury heap is the XJL, which – if it weren’t automatically clear – is the long-wheel-base version of the XJ full-size sedan.

Frisky kitty

I only had around 36 hours with the XJL, but in that time I gained a profound respect for the big-daddy Jag.

The XJ is offered in a range of engines, but mine was powered by a supercharged 3.0-liter V6 mated to an eight-speed automatic, which routes power to all four wheels. Making 340 horsepower and 332 pound-feet of torque, the engine is good for a 0 to 60 of 6.1 seconds and 121 mph.

2014 Jaguar XJL Portfolio AWD

The EPA rates the V6 -powered XJL to achieve 16 mpg city, 24 highway, with a combined score of 19. These are fine numbers for such a fat cat.

This engine is used in the Jaguar F-TYPE and the Range Rover Sport. Unlike in those applications, though, the XJL never belts out the telltale tones of a V6, which is good. After all, in a $100,000+ car, you never want to feel like you’re enjoying anything but the most refined powerplant in the world.

Unlike other Jags, though, the XJL isn’t about performance but rather about driving refinement, comfort, and luxury. And, for $103,000, the Jaguar XJL delivers in spades.

The suspension is both sporty and supple. And when put into performance mode, the luxury landship comes alive in a fine show of straight-line acceleration and also cornering courage.

‘Super premium’

Perhaps most notably of all the XJL’s features, my tester had been fitted with the optional Meridian Reference Audio System. Incorporating “26 super premium speaker drive units”, the 1300W audio system even includes “two 80mm speakers and one 25mm tweeter set in the rear of the each of the front seats.” I can tell you, the resulting sound experience is incredible.

People assumed I was a very, very important man in the XJL.

Topping the XJL’s intricate audio splendor is the Conversation Assist system, included with the Meridian setup. Conversation Assist puts a microphone above each seating position. The microphones pickup and reinforce the occupant’s voice via the vehicle’s audio system, regardless of whether music is being played through the speakers.

I didn’t drive with anyone else in the XJL so I can’t attest to the success of this system. Suffice it to say, its inclusion in the XJL is impressive enough, especially when you combine it with Premium Rear Seat Package, which includes – amongst many other things – the dual 10.2-inch rear screens and reclining and massaging seats.

Stacking up

Like I said, this is no performance Jag. Just looking at the 17-foot-long body gives that way – even with the long fastback.  Still, it holds up against the likes of the Audi A8L, my former favorite in the long-body luxury sedan market.

Yes, both cars are longer versions of big, bossy flagship sedans. But where the A8L feels simply elongated, the Jaguar feels like it’s both longer and suppler than the standard XJ.

By that, I mean Audi engineers seemed to only add length to the A8 but not rework the suspension for the extra weight of the elongated body. The XJL, by comparison, feels like it’s been retuned for its extra girth.

2014 Jaguar XJL Portfolio AWD

This – delightfully – isn’t the only realm where the XJL takes the checkered flag. Even though Audi is widely known as the king of interiors, the XJL handily outshines the A8L in terms of comfort and material quality and refinement.

Just look how Jaguar wrapped the wood from the door panels all the way around the bottom of the windshield. It’s simply stunning. Then the dash that it outlines, too, is covered in soft, supple leather that’s both brilliant to touch but also behold.

The infotainment is a bit dated in the XJL, yes. But where as the Audi MMI system is a bit complicated with many buttons and inputs, the Jag system is straightforward and simple. I rather like it, even though it is getting on in years.

Conclusion

I’ve driven Audi A8s, Mercedes-Benz S-Class, and BMW 7 Series. None of those, however, drew the attention of onlookers like the XJL. Older white men looked at me with disdain and envy, while everyone else looked at me with reverence.

Jaguar representatives have pointed out that Americans view Jaguar as a brand above its German rivals – for better and worse. This has never been more prevalent than in the XJL.

People assumed I was a very, very important man in the XJL. And I liked it.

Highs

  • Interior material quality and layout
  • Sheer interior size and spaciousness
  • Sporting yet refined exterior
  • Meridian Reference Audio system
  • All-wheel drive handling

Lows

  • Dated infotainment