Road Test: Jaguar XJL 3.0D Portfolio

It’s mighty competitive in the full-size chauffeur segment. Mercedes may have raised the stakes with its new S-Class, but out in the market, it’s proving difficult to match supply with demand. Try ordering an S-Class right now and your dealer will quote you a delivery date ending in 2015.

This has created an opportunity for Mercedes’ main rivals – instead of waiting, why not try something different? It’s working well for BMW, Audi and Jaguar – all of whom have tweaked their flagship models to fend off the S-Class threat. And perhaps the most improved of the contenders is Jaguar, whose XJL has since its launch in 2009 represented the most radical of the “big four” chauffeur saloons.

PD website road test Jag XJ header shot 600

And the XJL is still a head-turner. Its striking looks give it the kind of visual impact that the big German three-box saloons don’t have. They’re stylish and imposing, for sure – but the XJ’s looks are something else, taking reference points from outside the Jaguar heritage, including up-market motor yachts, which gives the XJL a sense of occasion. Just seeing the bold grille and aggressive headlamps and the flowing, coupe-like body drawing up will give the customer the sense that the chauffeur firm has sent something special to pick them up.

It’s always been there or thereabouts in terms of operating costs, but that lower roofline has proved to be a mixed blessing - an obstacle for some buyers, as it does give the XJL slightly less rear headroom than its more conventional-shaped competitors.

Rear comfort

For the 2014 model year, however, Jaguar has set about improving the XJ, concentrating especially on squeezing a bit more rear-seat space out of the streamlined shape. The long-wheelbase version has increased headroom and improved features, including airline-style reclining seats with massage function, fold-out business tables and a specially re-tuned rear suspension set-up to enhance rear seat ride comfort. Meanwhile front seats now include massage functions for both seats with five levels of intensity.

PD website road test Jag XJ rear seat

The rear seats feature cushion and squab adjustment, lumbar adjustment and two memory settings for each seat. There are three massage programs - wave/rolling, lumbar and shoulder. The total recline adjustment of each seat is 11 degrees, with 103mm lateral cushion movement and 14 degrees of upper articulation movement. Crucially, rear seat headroom is increased by 13mm – not a huge amount, but a noticeable change.

A new centre armrest, which can be stowed in the upright position to allow the use of the centre seat, houses all the seat controls as well as the Front Seat Activation button which allows control of the front passenger seat from the rear.

PD website road test Jag XJ front seat

Through the use of the front touch screen, any one of the four electric seats can be selected and then fully controlled via the driver’s seat switches. The rear seats can be returned to their home position by the use of the touch screen and driver’s memory buttons, and can also be programmed to return to their home position on rear door opening for ease of entry and exit.

In-car entertainment

The entertainment system has been enhanced with a new rear seat entertainment package. This comprises two 10.2in high-resolution screens mounted on the back of the front seat headrests. These can display inputs from a number of sources; the DVD player, digital TV tuner or an external media player that can be synced through the Rear Media Interface, which provides USB and RCA connections.

Audio can be transmitted through the wireless headphones, allowing each passenger to watch separate entertainment sources. The rear seat environment, including the entertainment, is managed by a wireless controller housed in the centre console which also allows passengers to alter their individual climate zones and seat heating and cooling functions.

The LWB XJ also features leather-surfaced business tables in the rear, which fold out of the front seat backs. The XJ also has electric rear-side window blinds that are operated via the window lift switches. Soft-close rear doors are another necessary enhancement.

Driving position

The XJ’s interior is as radical as its looks. The driving position is more of a cockpit than any of the Jaguar’s rivals, with a sweeping arc of trim running round the doors and across the top of the dashboard. In place of standard gauges is a flat panel, on to which photo-realistic speedometer, rev counter and information displays are projected. The bezels of the virtual dials are designed to give a ‘chrome’ effect, so they match the four real, and beautifully detailed chromed circular air vents. Nice detailing too, including the centrally-mounted analogue clock.

The digital dash hasn’t changed – and such is the pace of change in car interior design that it’s actually starting to look a little – whisper it – old-fashioned, especially compared to the wide-screen wonder of the new S-Class dashboard. A higher resolution on the screen might help, or maybe just some new software, updating the dials. With Audi also going for a fully-digital dash on future models, Jaguar is going to have to stay on top of the technology here.

It’s still a neat system, though. We always liked the ‘spotlight’ effect on the speedometer, which highlights the needle and speed you’re travelling, relative to the rest of the dial. It’s subtle and useful – like the red glow that the dials gain when you switch to ‘sport’ mode.

Satnav system

The large, 8in satnav screen does more than manage many of the XJ's functions, including climate control, audio, communications and navigation. It has a trick up its sleeve - dual-view technology, which allows the driver and front passenger to look at completely different content on the same screen. For example, the passenger can watch a DVD, while the driver views the satnav, while the car is moving.

But like the digital panel, the sat-nav system is starting to show its age. It’s a touch-screen system, and the home screen contains a vast amount of information about the different functions. The touch-screen functionality is OK on the Jaguar, but we prefer physical input devices, as found on the three Germans. Zooming in on the map isn’t easy. Hit a bump in the road while jabbing at the touch screen and all of a sudden you’ve accidentally cancelled navigation and retuned the radio to the local bangin’ techno pirate station. At least you can control most functions via buttons on the steering wheel.

PD website road test Jag XJ satnav

The resolution of the XJL’s sat-nav screen seems less sharp than competitor screens too. It’s certainly not as nice as the S-Class’s display – frankly, not much comes close. But it’s less clear than BMW’s beautiful widescreen display, and while it’s the same size as the A8’s screen, the Audi wins on clarity.

We do like the way the sat-nav integrates with the dashboard, putting up clear and detailed navigation instructions in sync with the main display. No need to divert your gaze from the road ahead.

Interior finishes are highly customisable. You can have traditional walnut and cream leather – or you can have charcoal leather with white piping and piano black inserts, as on our test car – much more practical for chauffeuring.

The seats are among the most comfortable on the market and offer a great deal of flexibility in terms of adjustment – a 200-mile motorway leg is accomplished in very relaxing style. At 70mph, the 3.0-litre diesel is revving at a burbling 1,200rpm. It’s quite a struggle to get the revs above 2,000 in normal chauffeur-style driving.

On the road

The XJ’s 3.0-litre diesel offers 275PS and a substantial 600Nm of torque. Acceleration to 60mph is accomplished in just 6.0 seconds and electronically governed top speed is 155mph. The addition of a new eight-speed automatic box, plus intelligent stop/start, has brought CO2 emissions down from 189g/km to 167g/km – still above the 159g/km tax band, which is achieved by the short-wheelbase XJ but not the XJL.

Fuel economy has been improved too – from 39.2mpg combined on the 2010 model to 44.8mpg on the 2014 facelift. But in real-life conditions there doesn’t seem to be much change. We achieved 34.5mpg at an average 33mph over 1,019 miles on test back in 2010. This time around we actually achieved a lower figure – 34.1mpg at 31mph, the lower average speed reflecting fewer motorway miles and fewer miles overall – 490 - this time around. On balance we’d say the fuel economy improvement is minimal, especially if, as most chauffeurs do, you switch off the stop/start.

PD website road test Jag XJ rear

Remember too that the EU official mpg figures come from a very brief rolling-road lab test, so they inevitably over-state real-world results. And compared to our recent results from the Mercedes-Benz S350L (33.6mpg at 30mph, admittedly in horrible winter conditions) and the Audi A8L 3.0TDI (36.3mpg at 32mph), the Jaguar isn’t far off its rivals in fuel economy terms.

Our car came equipped with adaptive cruise control – a system that probably dates back to the days of Ford’s Jaguar ownership. It’s good, but perhaps not quite as responsive as similar systems we’ve recently tested on Mercedes or Audi rivals. As with the digital displays, there’s a slight technology gap between Jaguar and the Germans – certainly it’s an area that needs some focus at JLR, making sure rapid advances in safety technology are quickly installed on the cars.

One improvement that is noticeable is the revised rear suspension. We found the original 2010 model’s ride a little harsh when we first tested the XJL. Now we’ve no complaints – and that’s on roads that are noticeably worse in pothole terms after several harsh winters and local authorities reluctant to spend money on repairs.

Even with the 20in alloys fitted to our car (a £1,020 luxury you can probably afford to do without), the suspension coped extremely well with deteriorated roads around Surrey – standard 18in alloys with more air in the tyres will give an even better feel, especially in the rear.

Boot space

The boot aperture is wide but slightly odd-shaped – narrower near the lip. Jaguar has opted for deep ‘hoops’ for the boot lid opening mechanism, rather than a cantilever-piston arrangement that does not intrude so badly into the space. On the Jaguar, the effect is to create a deep but rather narrow boot space, which might limit loadability. However it does have 520 litres of space and is wide enough to accommodate our test cases side-by-side. The boot has remote opening and a powered lid that closes at the push of a button.

PD website road test Jag XJ boot


Verdict

The Jaguar XJ’s facelift is extremely subtle – externally there’s no real change apart from some new alloy wheel styles, and the so-stylish cockpit remains the same. From the driver’s seat, nothing has changed.

The digital graphics look a little flat and low-res now – an inevitable consequence of the S-Class’s superb screens. The sat-nav is a little clunky compared to, say, Mercedes’ refined Comand system. Maybe a software upgrade would sort this out – functionality of the systems is still good.

In the back, though, Jaguar’s engineers have addressed the issue of rear headroom, redesigning the rear seats so the base sits lower in the car, while adding reclining and massage functions. Perhaps more significantly, tweaks to the rear suspension make for a softer rear seat ride, eliminating the harshness that was evident in earlier versions of the car. It’s still a tighter space than in a Mercedes, BMW or Audi – but the XJL’s rear seats are a nice place to be, with good forward vision.

Under the bonnet an eight-speed gearbox replaces the old six-speed, and this gives smoother shifts and better cruising performance, with even lower revs at motorway speeds. However, the claimed improvement in mpg didn’t materialise on our test. XJL economy remained as on our previous encounter back in 2010. It’s pretty much on the money, though, against key Audi and Mercedes rivals. Expect high 30s, not low 40s.

And while running costs are much of a muchness between the four main chauffeur cars, the shortage of stocks of S-Classes means there are deals to be had on the purchase price of Jaguar, Audi and BMW cars that Mercedes simply doesn’t need to offer.

When we first encountered the car, we concluded that “the XJ turns heads, in a way that an understated S-Class. 7-Series or A8 could never dream of doing. It’s not a car for a discreet arrival. The XJ screams – I’m here, where’s the red carpet?” Despite serious upgrades to its rivals’ products, this remains the case.


 

DATA

Jaguar XJL 3.0D Portfolio

Price (OTR):  £70,975 
   
Options fitted to test car  
Metallic paint £700
Premium rear seat package    £8,490
Meridian audio system £4,000
Adaptive cruise control £1,275
20in alloy wheels £1,020
Price as tested: £86,460
   
Specification  
Engine 3.0-litre V6 turbodiesel
Transmission 8-speed automatic, rear-wheel drive
Power 275PS at 4,000rpm
Torque 600Nm at 2,000rpm
0-62mph 6.4sec
Top speed 155mph (limited)
CO2 emissions 167g/km
Fuel consumption 44.8mpg (combined)
Luggage volume 520 litres
Overall length 5,252mm
Overall height 1,457mm
Overall width 1,899mm
Wheelbase 3,157mm
Fuel tank 82 litres
VED Band H
Insurance group 48
Warranty 3 years/unlimited mileage
Service intervals 16,000 miles

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