Step out of the 2012 Jaguar XJL and its slogan Grace, Space and Pace sums up the car perfectly.
Wonderfully fitted out with real wool carpets, cool-to-the-touch chrome metal surrounds on the air vents and switchgear and rich, deep walnut veneers, it is also deceptively fast.
Since the 1950s, the XJ sedans have exemplified for me, more than Rolls-Royce or Bentley, what a British car is all about.
Some 40 years ago when Morris and Austin where still sold in Canada, the club-like leather and wood cabins were commonplace, even expected.
Along the way, the British motor industry lost its way between slap-dash engineering and a workforce that forgot the meaning of quality.
Jaguar was not immune.
I will always remember going to Jaguar just after Ford bought it in 1989. On a wall was a chart of the number of faults per 1,000 cars. At a time when 200 faults was considered ghastly in North America, the chart was showing (if memory serves) 1,200 faults per 1,000.
Led by a wonderful fellow from Ford named Jim Padilla, that quality control debacle was reversed and has been improved every year to this day when Jaguar is consistently at the top of numerous owner satisfaction surveys.
One of the drawbacks of the big XJ sedans was styling. From the 1986 XJ6, they looked basically the same as Jaguar concentrated on the XK sportscars, the S-Type and more recent XF mid-size sedan.
While is it still unmistakably a Jaguar, the current XJ is styled by Ian Callum, one of the truly great car guys anywhere. If there is anybody best suited to design Jaguars, it is Callum.
The nose expands upon the mesh grate look of the XF while the taillights flow from the rear forward to blend into the wonderful catwalk design cue that starts just above the front fender and flows straight back over the rear fender flanks.
Here is attention to detail.
Before the car existed in the flesh, it was reproduced in one of the world’s most advanced 3D virtual reality suites. Callum and his team could see and sample every line and curve on the computer model.
On top of that, every component was modelled and checked in more than 43,000 separate simulations.
But more to the point is the attention to classic Jaguar values that transcend details—values such as the walnut tables that fold up from the front seat backs. Values such as the satisfying feel of the walnut and leather steering wheel. And values like that singular “thunk” sound of a closing door that only prestige English cars seem to make.
The 2012 XJ is offered in three trim levels (XJ, XJ Supercharged, XJ Supersport), each available in standard and “L” or long wheelbase models.
Motive power for all three is Jaguar’s long-serving 5.0-litre DOHC V8. In its latest Gen III iteration, it produces 368 hp (380 lb/ft of torque) in the normally aspirated XJ. The XJ Supercharged puts out 470 hp (424 lb/ft) while the Supersport, which is also supercharged, raises the ante to 510 hp (461 lb/ft). Fuel consumption is 13.1/8.5L/100 km city/highway and 14.1/9.3L/100 km for the Supercharged and 18.3/8.7L/100 km for the Supersport.
When it comes to the pace part, the 2013 XJs accelerate from 0-100 km/h in 5.7, 5.2 and 4.9 seconds respectively with a top speed limited to 250 km/h.
But a car such as the XJL Supercharged as tested here is not about going fast, and it surely will, but all about enjoying getting there whether it be across town or across the continent.
Press the starter button and the hockey puck sized and shaped JaguarDrive Selector rises up from the transmission tunnel. There’s nothing like it found on any other vehicle and is another of the Jaguar values—being a step apart. The shifter rotates between the gears with a sequential shift mode as part of the six-speed automatic gearbox.
Among the myriad of driver/safety aids is DSC (Dynamic Stability Control) with traction control and cruise control with automatic speed limiter. On long-wheelbase models there is four-zone climate control with heated and cooled seats.
The standard multimedia system has an eight-inch touch screen, interactive voice control, media hub with Bluetooth audio streaming, HD radio receiver, iPod and USB audio connections and a navigation system with hard disc drive.
I have to report the navigation system was the most baffling I have yet to wrestle with. It was so non-intuitive to operate that I had to go to a Jaguar dealer and have the sales manager show me how to enter what should have been a simple address in cottage country.
Once I was shown how it worked, it seemed easy enough, and off I went in no particular hurry, which, again, seems to suit the car.
When it comes to the space part of the Jaguar slogan, the long wheelbase version tested here provide a full five extra inches of legroom. Passengers lucky enough to ride in the back can enjoy their own eight-inch LCD monitors with individual wireless headphones and touch screen remote control, sun shades hidden in the doors or the immense panoramic roof and individual climate controls.
And then there are the twin, walnut tabletops that fold down from the front seat back, perfect for a light lunch and a beverage while watching one’s favourite video.
Very civilized indeed!
Prices start at $88,000 and range up to $135,500, not counting the $1,350 destination fee.
For the driver, there is a sense of always being in control but there is something so very space age about the virtual main gauges a glance away from the centre dash mounted analog clock. That oozes the essence of what a Jaguar is, should be and has always been.
And that’s why a Jaguar is such a wonderful distillation of all its years as the embodiment of Grace, Space and Pace.
Jaguar XJL Supercharged 2012
Body Style: four-door premium luxury sedan.
Drive Method: front engine, rear-wheel drive.
Engine: 5.0-litre DOHC naturally aspirated V8 (385 hp, 380 lb/ft of torque); (as tested) 5.0-litre supercharged V8 (470 hp, 424 lb/ft of torque); 5.0-litre limited production Supersport V8 (510 hp, 461 lb/ft of torque).
Fuel Economy: (Premium), 5.0-litre DOHC V8, 13.1/8.5L/100 km city/highway; 5.0-litre supercharged DOHC V8, 14.1/9.3L/100 km; 5.0-litre supercharged DOHC V8, 18.3/8.7L/100 km
Cargo: 430 litres
Pricing: XJ, $88,000; XJL Portfolio, $95,500;vXJ Supercharged, $105,500; XJL Supercharged, $108,500; XJ Supersport, $129,000; XJL Supersport, $135,500; shipping, $1,350