Friday, July 8, 2011


I have mentioned before, including an entry in this blog several months ago, my feeling toward Jaguars.

I like them.
I like their sleek exterior profile, their classy cabins, and their performance, especially in “R” models with supercharged V8 power plants.
I like the way the leather on the steering wheel feels on my fingertips and the way the leather seats cradle my butt.
And I like the reactions I get from others when I am behind the wheel. (“Oooh, baby,” I heard a sultry voice coo one Friday night as I sat idling at a stoplight in Miami Beach in an XK convertible some years ago.)
So while it is not the only luxury car I like (with a couple of exceptions, I pretty much like them all), Jaguar is definitely near the top of the list of my favorites.
A week’s experience recently in the 2011 XJL did nothing to change my mind.
Jaguar introduced the current generation XJ a couple of years ago at the South Florida International Auto Show in Miami Beach, and the judging committee that choses the awards presented by the Southern Automotive Association immediately dubbed it the “Star of the Show.”
The styling was magnificent, a major upgrade over the previous XJ models that were beginning to show their age. No doubt, it immediately was transformed into a worthy competitor in its class, which includes the best Mercedes-Benz, BMW, Audi, and other luxury brands have to offer.
Of course, I didn’t get to drive the XJ until last month when Jaguar delivered to my driveway the 2011 XJL (the L is for long wheelbase, which extends the length to 206.6 inches or nearly five inches over the base XJ but also runs the price tag up to $91,575).
As good as it looked on display at the auto show, the XJL didn’t disappoint on the road either.
The power generated by the 5.0-liter, supercharged V8 engine is awesome. With 424 pound-feet of torque available at the touch of the accelerator, it takes gentle pressure from the right foot to avoid giving your passenger a neck-jerking head bob when pulling away from a stoplight.
The 470 horsepower delivered to the rear wheels via a six-speed automatic transmission (featuring sport mode complete with steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters for manual shifting of gears) is a boost of over 85 hp over the normally aspirated V8 on the base XJ.
Jaguar scores the zero-to-60 mph time as a tick under five seconds, darn impressive for a vehicle this size.
Speaking of size, much of the extra length found in the L version has been extended to the backseat area. There appears to be enough legroom behind the driver and passenger seat for a quick game of handball (but not on a regulation court, of course).
Yet I found the XJL to be extremely responsive in handling and steering. It is extremely agile when set to sport mode and the dynamic driver setting, thanks in part to its relatively light (for its class) weight. Curb weight is just under two tons.
Though I was conscious of the XJL’s size when maneuvering in parking lots (making sure I didn’t scrape the air dam as I pulled into my place), I did not get any similar feeling out on the road. Just the opposite, in fact. The XJL has a nice balance between performance and comfort, keeping both driver and passengers happy.
There is one thing, though, I wish Jaguar would get hopping on.
When it comes to technology, Jag engineers should keep in mind that just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should  do it.
Here’s what I mean. Take the radio.
A good friend of mine, who is quite a bit younger, so it isn’t necessarily a generational thing, said he thought all car radios should be operated by turning knobs. It was a system that lasted for years and years with buttons used for presets the only necessary update over the original system.
I couldn’t agree with him more.
But for some reason, many designers today -- most of them in the luxury segment -- like to make their car radio operate off the navigation touch screen with all kinds of “short cuts,” which generally means you are pushing some sort of arrow or button to do something as simple as change radio stations. Such layouts can be a distraction when driving.
So it is with the XJL. I found the audio, and some other controls for that matter, very fussy to operate. And the navigation screen is a bit on the small side and not the most intuitive to operate either.
But with all that the XJL, and other Jags for that matter, have to offer, I’m willing to put up with those idiosyncrasies.
The looks, the feel, the performance, the overall panache ... did I mention I like Jaguars?

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