Road test: 2014 Jaguar XJR L

It was a cornucopia of power, a plethora of performance, an abundance of outrageousness — thanks to the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada’s recent TestFest, I was, in the space of a day, able to slip behind the wheel of the new Corvette Stingray, the Mercedes E 63 AMG 4Matic and Jaguar’s F-Type V6 S and XJR L.

Permit the following brief summation: If it’s fast and sexy you crave, the Vette (zero to 100 kilometres an hour in 4.7 seconds) and the F-Type V6 S (5.1 seconds) are inspiring and similar interpretations of the sports car formula. If you want faster and room for four, the thundering 550-horsepower E 63 (zero to 100 in 4.1 seconds!) hooks up and launches with a ferocity that is astounding. If you want fast, room for four and sumptuous luxury, the long-wheelbase, limo-like XJR L (zero to 100 in 4.8 seconds) takes the prize. Simply, something this big and opulent — 5,252 millimetres in length, tipping the scales at 1,881 kilograms (surprisingly light for the size) and with a price tag of more than $124,000 — shouldn’t be this fast and agile.

This Jaguar is in the running for AJAC’s 2014 Canadian Car of the Year. Read about the other contenders here

Or maybe it should. Jaguar has been liberal with its most potent powertrain — a 550-horsepower, 5.0-litre supercharged V8 matched with a slick eight-speed transmission — installing it in the XFR-S and XKR-S as well as the XJR, the automaker’s newest addition to the “R-performance” lineup. The all-aluminum engine is topped with a Roots-type twin vortex supercharger fed by two intercoolers, and it takes just the lightest of pressure on the gas pedal for the biggest cat to show its claws. Acceleration is immediate and, if one is somewhat imprudent, rather forceful, with a shove back into the seats for all aboard. If there was an autobahn in Canada by which the XJR (last seen in Canada as a 2009 model) could stretch its legs, Jaguar says the speedo needle could hit 280 km/h — electronically limited. It’s certainly not a number to be dismissed.

The 2014 Jaguar XJR L is capable of accelerating with gusto, pushing lucky occupants well back into their seats.

The 2014 Jaguar XJR L is capable of accelerating with gusto, pushing lucky occupants well back into their seats.
PHOTO: Handout,

The eight-speed automatic transmission, meanwhile, accentuates the XJR’s sporting nature while still maintaining the sedan’s serenity in lower-speed driving environments. It’s a sophisticated gearbox, engineered to detect the manner in which the Jaguar is being driven by monitoring acceleration, braking, cornering forces, throttle/brake pedal activity, road load and kick-down. On detecting what Jaguar likes to call “a more enthusiastic driving style,” the transmission automatically gets more aggressive and moves the upshifts higher in the rev range. Steering-wheel-mounted paddle shifters also provide more personal levels of control.

Then there’s Corner Recognition, which senses when the car is negotiating a bend, holding the correct gear for the exit. No annoying upshifts to upset the balance.

Speaking of balance, Jaguar has made sure the necessary underpinnings are there for the rear-drive XJR to handle twisting roads as well as it accelerates — without ruining the requisite composure as befitting the car’s intent. Needless to say, the Nürburgring was one of the circuits used to tune the suspension. Wide, grippy (P265/35R20 front and P295/30R20 rear) rubber is wrapped around lightweight Farallon alloy rims, so road feel is there albeit well damped. Electronic programs controlling the Adaptive Dynamics, active electronic differential, and dynamic stability control (DSC) systems keep the big sedan pointed in the right direction. Of course, the “Trac DSC” setting offers boy racers the means to “explore the outer edges of the handling envelope” — in other words, get the Jag’s gorgeous rump twitching — while still providing a modicum of safety.

With great power comes great stopping ability (apologies to Marvel’s Stan Lee), which means the XJR’s platter-sized ventilated discs — 380 mm up front and 376 mm at the rear — have your back. The sedan takes just 40 metres to come to a halt from 100 km/h.

The interior of the XJR is everything you'd expect to find in a $120,000 Jag.

The interior of the XJR is everything you’d expect to find in a $120,000 Jag.
PHOTO: Handout,

Since discretion and circumstance limit unleashing all of the XJR’s power at once, it’s good to know the über-luxe sedan has a docile side to it that is quite easy to live with. It will contentedly devour kilometre after kilometre of tarmac at legal speeds, engine purring at low revs, with occupants ensconced in its roomy and refined leather and suede-lined cabin. This nod to the Old World is contrasted by such 21st century gadgetry as the illuminated start/stop button, puck-like transmission selector — which rises regally from the centre console — and the high-def screen that displays “virtual” gauges instead of traditional instruments. If the supercharged V8’s melody is somehow found lacking, audiophiles can groove to the car’s 825-watt Meridian surround-sound audio system, replete with 18 speakers. Front-seat comfort is exemplary, and, unlike the regular-wheelbase XJ, there is copious legroom and foot room for even those with extra-large dimensions, no matter how far the front buckets are back in their tracks.

The XJR L belongs in the same rarefied company as the Mercedes CLS 63 AMG, BMW M6 Gran Coupe, Porsche Panamera Turbo and Audi RS7 — intimidating transportation for industrialists and entrepreneurs who like to wield their power on the road as well as in the boardroom. Jaguar’s flagship sport sedan delivers dynamic performance through technology well beyond what is necessary for most situations, combined with seductive looks — accessorized with a new front splitter and aerodynamic sill section, additional rear spoiler and unique hood louvres — and top-drawer luxury.

In short, this long-wheelbase Jag is a fitting reward for the ambitious.

The Specs

Type of vehicle Rear-wheel-drive full-sized sport/luxury sedan
Engine Supercharged 5.0L DOHC V8
Power 550 hp @ 6,500 rpm; 502 lb-ft of torque @ 2,500 rpm
Transmission Eight-speed manumatic
Brakes Four-wheel disc with ABS
Tires P265/35R20 front, P295/30R20 rear
Price (base/as tested) $122,990/$124,290
Destination charge $1,350
Natural Resources Canada fuel economy (L/100 km) 14.2 city, 8.6 highway
Standard features Four-zone climate control, power windows with one-touch open/close, panoramic glass roof with electric blinds, three-flash lane change indicators, power tilt and telescoping steering column, auto-dimming rear-view mirror, front and rear courtesy footwell lights, Phosphor Blue halo illumination and interior mood lighting, front and rear door puddle lamps, 18-way power front sport seat in soft-grain leather, red-painted brake calipers, 12.3-inch LCD instrument cluster with virtual information display to include speed, rpm, distance, trip computer functionality and key information for navigation, audio, phone etc., 825-watt, 18-speaker Meridian audio system, rain-sensing windshield wipers, automatic headlamps, LED tail lamps, intelligent High Beam, engine block heater, power-folding and heated auto-dimming exterior mirrors
Options Heated windshield ($300), 20-inch Farallon wheels ($1,000)

About Brian Harper