By Al Vinikour
The XJL Portfolio is not a car that people glance at and then get on with their lives. It’s like a magnet that pulls in car enthusiasts to take a closer look. And what will they find as they begin their exploration? For starters a luxury car that doesn’t look like every other luxury car. To be fair there’s no mistaking that this is a Jaguar, but to paraphrase a long-ago tag line from another manufacturer’s advertising campaign, “This is not your Father’s XJL.”
The XJL is nearly 5-in. longer than the standard wheelbase models, and these measurements are real. There’s plenty of room to stretch one’s legs — even with the front seats in their most rearward position, though headroom is compromised by the fastback roofline. Furthermore, it can double as a mobile office with the new $2,500 Executive Package that provides fold-down laptop trays, and an electric rear sunblind for increased privacy. It also includes upgraded carpeting, a combination wood and leather steering wheel, gloss wood veneers and chrome mirror housings. As long as we’re inside the vehicle there’s a lot of content to discuss and rest assured it won’t all be done in this review. My editor doesn’t supervise a library and that’s about what it would take to fully describe everything the 2012 XJL Portfolio comes with. For instance, there’s soft grain leather heated-and-cooled front and rear seats, four-zone automatic climate control (the long wheelbase and supercharged models get this standard, all other models have dual-zone systems), panoramic glass roof, front and rear footwell lights, phosphor blue halo lighting that highlights the center console and door panels, illuminated mirrors for rear seat passengers, 20-way adjustable front seats with massage, etc. That’s a lot of stuff.
Audiophiles and techies won’t be disappointed, either. The standard multimedia unit is enough to make NASA jealous. It has a 600-Watt sound system with 14 speakers and DSP amplifier. Jaguar iTech lets the driver and passengers use touchscreen, voice or switches to control the infotainment, phone and navigation functions. Add a 30 GB hard disc that can store 10 uncompressed CDs while holding the database for the (somewhat slow to respond) navigation system, and connect to audio, video or digital devices through its integrated USB connector, a 3.5-mm auxiliary jack or wirelessly via Bluetooth v2.0. Not enough? How about HD Radio, an eight-inch touchscreen, Sirius Satellite Radio and a bunch of other things I don’t understand, so they must be pretty cool. (Full disclosure; my technical expertise is slightly above a Ticonderoga #2 pencil and a Goldenrod yellow-lined tablet.) My test vehicle had the upgraded $2,300 Bowers & Wilkins 1200-Watt Sound System that features Dolby Pro Logic IIx and DTS Neo:6 encoders to deliver 7.1 surround sound via 15 channels powering 20 located speakers. Three extra audio channels are available through optional WhiteFire wireless digital headphones. What does this mean? I have no clue, but I can say without reservation I could honestly tell I was listening to something really special.
A feature I really liked is the pop-up gear selector. When the vehicle is started a knurled wheel rises from the center console to give you the ability to select a gear. When the engine is shut off it recedes into its little house. Unlike some center console gear selectors and even steering wheel-mounted shift arms it’s never intrusive. I know, this feature made its first appearance on the mid-size Jaguar XF, but it’s no less magical here. However, one feature the XJ has that the XF doesn’t is a virtual instrumentation pack that come to life when the car is started. Projected onto a 12.3-in. Thin-Film Transistor (TFT) display ahead of the driver, the full-color display offers a number of personalization options with high-contrast, high-resolution graphics that rival HD TV. And while you might think they would not be as “real” or readable as true analog gauges (when that option is chose), you’d be wrong. It takes no time at all to get used to the virtual gauges (perfect for The Virtual Driver), but it’s easy to marvel at the detail of the gauge faces and trim rings, even though they aren’t real. The attention to detail is incredible.
That attention extends to the premium materials used in the XLJ Portfolio’s interior, which is what you’d expect in a car that has a sticker price that begins at more than $80,000. This includes the velvety soft material used in the headliner and A-pillar, an intaglio "ingot" at the base of the windshield, and “JaguarSense”. It is an electronic control system that allows you to open the glove compartment and front overhead console lights with just a touch. And, despite being made from 50% recycled aluminum, the lightweight XJL structure is both very stiff and… quiet.
Of course, that quiet comes with a purr and a growl. The XLJ Portfolio is powered by an all-aluminum 5.0-liter V8 that puts out a satisfying 385 horsepower at 6,500 rpm, and produces 380 lb-ft of torque 3,500. It is mated to a 6-speed automatic transmission that has overdrive fifth and sixth gears, and can be placed in Sport mode or shifted via steering wheel-mounted paddles. Drop the hammer, and the XJL emits a sophisticated yet menacing growl that lets you, and everyone around that you’re leaving in the dust, that this cat has claws. According to Jaguar, 0 to 60 mph takes 5.4 seconds. Top speed is 121 mph.
Keeping it all on the road is a dual-wishbone front and multi-link independent rear suspension. This is in line with Jaguar’s motorsports history, and this experience, combined with modern technology and innovation, has created what could as a perfect blend of performance and luxury. It’s particularly gratifying to whip this big vehicle around sharp curves. The light weight (the aluminum-bodied XJ weighs about 90-lb less than the smaller, steel-bodied XF sedan) makes it feel lighter on its feet, and the car seems to shrink around you at speed. Novices will enjoy the feeling of control, and experts will find the XJL is capable of surprising Point A to Point B times.
TVD Verdict: 4.75 out of 5.
Jaguar’s XJL is a fashion plate, and — except for the gloss black plastic pieces on the C-pillars meant to make the rear window look like it wraps around — there little to criticize. From a grille that is a modern interpretation of the original 1968 XJ grille, to taillights that look like cat scratches (and contain 57 LED elements each), the XJL breaks with the past. Not everyone is a fan, but there is no doubt the design expresses both power and sensuality in a handsome package. The lightweight aluminum construction is a plus, and allows the V8 engine to perform without draining the tank. And the electronic luxuries cosset driver and passengers, but — for those with long memories of British electrics — may scare some buyers more than this car’s personality seduces.
2012 Jaguar XJL Portfolio
Options: Executive Package (rear seat business trays, electric rear window sunblind, premium carpet mat set, chrome mirror covers), $2,500; Bowers & Wilkins 1200-Watt Sound system, $2,300; heated front windshield, $375; Front ashtray with lighter, N/C; Ivory headliner, N/C.
Destination charge: $875
Price as tested: $86,750
Engine: Longitudinal gasoline direct-injection 5.0-liter V8. Aluminum block with aluminum cylinder heads, variable valve timing, double overhead cams and four valves per cylinder.
Horsepower: 385 @ 6,500
Torque: 380 @ 3,500
Transmission: Six-speed automatic with Sport mode and paddle shifters.
EPA mileage rating: 19 city/28 highway/22 combined.
Steering, Suspension and Brakes
Steering: Hydraulically power-assisted variable0ratio rack and pinion.
Suspension F/R: Upper and lower control arms, coil springs, telescopic dampers, anti-roll bar/Multi-link independent with coil springs, telescopic dampers, anti-roll bar.
Brakes F/R: 15.0-in. vented discs with dual-piston calipers/14.8-in. vented discs with single-piston calipers. Four-wheel ABS with electronic brake force distribution.
Dimensions (in inches)
Width: 74.6 (83.1 with mirrors)
Fuel capacity (gallons): 21.7
Cargo capacity (cu. ft.): 18.4.
Powertrain: 4 years/50,000 miles.
Vehicle: 4 years/50,000 miles.
Corrosion: 6 years/Unlimited.
Free scheduled maintenance: 4 years/50,000 miles.
Roadside Assistance: 24-hour roadside assistance for 4 years/50,000 miles.