We're lucky to have some spectacular cars pass through our Four Seasons fleet, but few have sparked the excitement that surrounded the arrival of the 2013 Jaguar XJL. Chalk it up to the romance and allure of the brand, enhanced by the most iconic of Jaguar liveries, British racing green paint. The cabin is flat-out decadent, appointed with beautiful tan leather, stitching, and trim. It's perhaps the most ostentatious car in our stable, and it's clearly going to be one of the top choices for attending class reunions and occasions that require a sparkling first impression.
That may make us sound vain, but in actuality, this long-wheelbase XJ is a noteworthy car. It has all-wheel drive and a V-6 engine, two critical elements that Jaguar's chief rivals have embraced as Jaguar sat on its paws. Now, the XJ is more competitive in northern climates, matching the tough-weather abilities of the BMW 7 Series, Mercedes-Benz S-Class, and Audi A8.
So we felt it was important to put this glamorous sedan through a yearlong test. Once we stopped swooning over the XJL's dramatic appearance, we were left with serious questions. How will the six-cylinder engine measure up? We're used to V-8s in our Jaguars. This is not just any V-6, it's a 3.0-liter supercharged powerplant pumping out 340 hp and 332 lb-ft, more power and torque than many V-8s.
What about the all-wheel-drive system? Jaguar hasn't offered one since the front-wheel-drive Ford Mondeo-based 2008 X-Type, which was not one of our favorite cars. Can this AWD system endure the cold, snowy conditions of winter in Ann Arbor? We have some extreme commuters on staff, and as the snow flies and temperatures drop, we treat our cars like sled dogs. No one wants to be stuck in his or her driveway or stranded by the side of a slick highway.
We're maintaining a degree of skepticism until we get more time behind the wheel, but at least we're doing it in comfort. Jaguars have a reputation for lavish furnishings, and we chose the Portfolio model, which costs $86,470. That's actually on the low end of the XJ spectrum, as a top-level 2013 XJL Ultimate costs $155,895. Our car still feels loaded, with its 19-inch aluminum wheels, xenon headlights (they're practical and add design panache), and the green paint, which cost an extra $1500. The interior is replete with 18-way power front seats, a panoramic sunroof, soft-grain leather, a suede-like headliner, and a 12.3-inch touchscreen. The dashboard is laid out attractively and intuitively, and the circular vents convey a sense of old-fashioned, nautical luxury. In addition, because we got a long-wheelbase model, our backseat passengers enjoy an additional 5.2 inches of legroom.
Staffers have noted a few flaws, though, after their first drives. Senior web editor Phil Floraday calls the infotainment system "infuriatingly slow," and he's not the first to be vexed by a Jaguar's electronics. Associate web editor Jake Holmes chauffeured friends to brunch, and they made ample use of the space in rear, though one complained about being poked by the leather seat piping. Holmes said the XJL doesn't "feel particularly special," preferring the sublime setting of a Mercedes-Benz S-class. Associate editor David Zenlea was more drawn to Jaguar's flagship sedan and captured the general sentiment of our staff, calling it "graceful, stylish, comfortable, and enjoyable to drive." If our XJL can live up to that lofty description, we should be in for a great year.