ROAD TEST - JAGUAR XJL AUTOBIOGRAPHY 3.0 V6
Earlier this year, the Jaguar XJ scored a notable conquest in London, with established operator Crawfords taking 50 of the revised flagship. It was a major coup for Jaguar, which is working hard to challenge Mercedes-Benz’s dominance in the chauffeur sector.
The 2016 model year XJL represents a subtle makeover for the XJ, launched in 2009, with updated styling and several significant enhancements under the bonnet and inside the cabin.
The facelift includes new front and rear bumpers, new panel lines on the bonnet and a bigger, more upright grille. The intake vents in the bumper are reshaped, and new LED lights front and rear complete a sharper and more modern look, without sacrificing any of the XJ’s distinctive style.
New trim levels have also been added. R-Sport is a sporty trim level aimed at company car buyers, but a new top-of-the-range Autobiography trim line – taken from sister-brand Range Rover – now sits on top of Portfolio as the most opulent XJ. It’s only available on LWB models too. Entry level model is Luxury, with prices starting at £58,690 on the road, followed by Premium Luxury.
Under the bonnet, the 3.0-litre V6 diesel engine gets uprated from 275PS to 300PS, with torque increased from 600Nm to 700Nm. Meanwhile CO2 emissions are reduced by 10g/km to 149g/km for SWB models, while claimed combined fuel economy has improved again to 49.6mpg. The engine is Euro 6 compliant, and all XJ models come with an eight-speed ZF automatic transmission. A new electric power-assisted steering set-up is introduced to allow use of active safety aids.
The distinctive cabin remains largely unchanged – you’re enveloped by a dashboard that sweeps round from the doors via a strip of trim that runs behind the main instrument panel, beneath the front windscreen. The “aircraft cockpit” feel remains – the XJL may be a chauffeur car, but all XJs are designed with the driver in mind.
Jaguar has not gone down the Mercedes route of a single digital panel. Instead, the stylish, curved dashboard layout is retained, but the digital displays – always a feature of the car - have been upgraded, with a higher resolution 12.3in full-colour TFT-LCD configurable digital instrument cluster. This has a higher resolution than previously fitted, giving much crisper graphics.
The new InControl Touch Pro touchscreen infotainment system, as fitted to the new XF, runs the main satnav system. Surprisingly, this was developed in-house rather than outsourced to a third-party supplier. It’s built around a quad-core Intel processor, with a 60GB solid-state hard drive and a next-generation Ethernet network. As a result, it’s designed to handle massive amounts of data and is exceptionally powerful and responsive.
It’s also designed to be intuitive to use. It’s based on an 8in touchscreen which operates like a smartphone or tablet. The home screen can be customised with a choice of wallpaper images, while widgets can be used to shortcut to favourite features and functions.
Pinch to zoom gestures are used, as well as swipes to scroll between screens. We prefer manual input devices to touch, but this one does feel a lot easier to use than some we’ve tried. And it looks good, with clear maps and readable type – again, a very high-resolution screen is used. It’s a massive improvement on the dated system of the pre-facelift XJ.
There are some nice touches too, such as dead-reckoning functionality that accurately determines the vehicle’s position even when GPS signals cannot be received, for example in city centres with tall buildings. InControl Touch Pro also enables door-to-door route planning and a companion app allows you to plan your route offline and then load it into the system at the start of the journey.
The system also offers a Commute Mode: this learns your daily drive and can automatically offer alternative routes to avoid congestion using historical and real-time traffic information. Approach Mode displays a 360 degree interactive view of your destination as you get to within 200m, and can even direct you to the nearest available car parking space.
The system also works in conjunction with an app which lets the driver control functions such as heating remotely. It’ll even guide you to the car if you’ve forgotten where you’ve parked it, and it works as an emergency tracker if the car is stolen.
InControl Touch Pro also delivers a full-screen navigation display in the new XJ’s digital instrument cluster – so you can have a 3D map in the dash and a top-down map on the satnav screen, for example. One sacrifice is the dual-view screen of the old XJ, which allowed the front passenger to see a different screen to the driver.
Rear seat comfort
In the rear, new 10.2in rear screens are concealed within the backs of the front seats when not in use—unlike competitor cars where the screens are permanently fixed to the rear headrests. The screens pop up when the rear seat passenger pulls down the table that folds into the seat back. It’s a very neat and elegant solution, and sets the XJL apart from its rivals.
The rear screens offer a true 16:9 widescreen aspect ratio. When digital TV is also specified, a different channel can be shown on each screen and an additional 100GB of user media storage is provided.
Previously Portfolio was the most luxurious trim level, but pre-facelift Portfolio is now the same as Premium Luxury. The “new” Portfolio gains quilted soft-grain leather seats with diamond stitching and embossed headrests, and figured ebony veneer.
Our test car has the new Autobiography trim level, which sits above Portfolio, adding bigger 20in alloys model, chrome detailing, even softer leather and leather headlining, as well as massage seats in the rear. At £79,600 on the road, it’s a £21,000 premium over Premium!
On the road
The extra power and torque of the revised 3.0-litre engine is immediately noticeable, particularly at relatively low speeds. The extra 100Nm of torque makes a big difference, and gives much snappier acceleration when overtaking.
With eight speeds, the revs stay low at cruising speed – with the engine ticking over at just 1,500rpm at 70mph, there’s almost no noise at all. The electronic power steering doesn’t relinquish steering feel either – the car feels stable at speed and agile on country roads. Along with the BMW 7-series, the XJ is the most “driveable” of the big saloons.
Electronic power steering is necessary to offer electronic driver aids such as All-Surface Progress Control (ASPC), designed to help drivers to pull away smoothly on slippery surfaces such as snow, ice or wet grass.
ASPC isn’t like traction control systems that try to control wheel slip. Instead it works like a low-speed cruise control and starts working as soon as the car starts to move. ASPC also uses the brakes in opposition to the throttle. So only very low engine torque is applied to the driven wheels, thus limiting wheelspin.
It can operate between 2.2mph and 18.6mph. The system is activated by pressing a button on the centre console and then the driver uses the cruise control switches on the steering wheel to set the maximum speed. The driver just has to steer.
Jaguar has addressed some of the XJ’s weak points compared to its German rivals – in particular, an infotainment system that was really showing its age. The new system is different – like Volvo, Jaguar has gone for tablet-style functionality, with a gesture-based touch screen system. It works well, and the graphics are clear, but we do prefer a physical input device.
The revised engine feels brighter than before, though frankly we’ve always liked the handling of the XJ. A little more poke doesn’t go amiss when overtaking, and the 3.0-litre diesel still feels as good as any. Sadly, our first drive didn’t allow enough of a motorway run to generate a meaningful mpg figure – we achieved 29.1mpg at an average speed of just 22mph.
That’s less than we got on a pre-facelift test, though we’d expect go return around 35mpg in more repesentative conditions. We’ll be testing the car again more thoroughly later in the year.
The basic body hasn’t changed. Rear headroom is fine once you’re on board, though the rear door frames are lower than those of a Mercedes S-Class or Audi A8. But seat comfort is excellent and there’s ample leg room, and we love the pop-up screens and chunky tables of the Autobiography trim level.
The boot is unchanged too – 520 litres is good on the numbers, but it’s a narrow, slightly awkward space – the smaller XF actually has more luggage space in a more useable shape.
Where does the XJL sit in the market? It doesn’t have the all-out modernism of the S-Class or the 7-series, with their wide-screens and LED mood lighting. But it oozes class, and the driving position is a joy. The combination of striking exterior styling and a traditional, more reserved interior is still a winner.
Jaguar XJL Autobiography 3.0 V6 300PS
|Price as tested||£80,810|
|Celestial Black paint||£700|
|InControl Secure (3yrs)||£510|
|Engine||3.0-litre V6 turbodiesel|
|Transmission||8-speed automatic, rear-wheel drive|
|Power||300PS at 4,000rpm|
|Torque||700Nm at 2,000rpm|
|Combined fuel economy||47.9mpg|
|Luggage volume||520 litres|
|Fuel tank||77 litres|
|Warranty||3 years/unlimited mileage|