From previous experience, I know the Jaguar XJ to be dynamically astounding, but unfortunately I wasn't able to fully enjoy its performance prowess due to the buckets of rain that fell during my time with the car. These conditions, however, did not prevent me from appreciating the big Jag's lovely interior and abundance of luxury features.
However, I was very frustrated to discover that it's quite hard to get a child seat to plug into the lower anchors in the rear seats, so tight are the rear seatback and cushion fitted together (I ended up having to invert the clips on the kid seats themselves). It seems that the bigger and more expensive the car, the harder it is to install baby seats -- the BMW 7-series is also a giant pain in this regard. Surely that is why parents prefer minivans and crossovers to six-figure European sport sedans ...
Still, it's hard not to fall for a long-wheelbase, high-zoot XJ and all its horsepower and loveliness. I particularly love the small, sporty steering wheel, which helps diminish the perceived size of the car and further enhances the sporty driving experience.
Rusty Blackwell, Copy Editor
I just returned from Pamplona, Spain, where I had the opportunity to get behind the wheel of the 2013 Audi S8. That car isn't due in showrooms until summer 2012, but it's worth waiting for if you're considering the Jaguar XJL Supersport. That's not to say that the S8 is a better car. They're both phenomenal vehicles and I wouldn't pick a winner without driving them back-to-back.
Both cars boast blown V-8s good for more than 500 horsepower and aluminum construction that makes them lighter than comparable cars from BMW and Mercedes-Benz. In contrast to the upscale, technology-laden S8 interior, the XJL's lighted climate vents, fussy touch screen, and rising-knob gear selector seem gimmicky for a $120,000 sedan. The Jag counters with fastastic driving dynamics. It feels lighter on its feet with the ability to carry more speed through turns. Regardless whether you prefer the Audi S8 or the Jaguar XJL Supersport, you're looking at a seriously speedy machines that offer supreme luxury. Either way, you win, but I am curious which car would win in a formal comparison.
Eric Tingwall, Associate Editor
Much like early NASA astronauts returning from a voyage into space, it takes a few days of decompression to return my senses back to normal after a night with an XJ -- particularly one in supercharged SuperSport guise. I still cannot wrap my brain around just how wickedly quick this large luxobarge is, or how willing it is to be driven hard (leave sport mode on around town, and you'll find yourself inadvertently chirping the tires leaving every stoplight). Even more incredible is how the big cat behaves; from cornering to stopping, it's as if you're driving something much smaller and shorter than it really is.
Yes, the infotainment system is a bit infuriating at times, and I still don't fancy the blacked-out D-pillar trim or the frumpy taillamps, but when you're blasting along a backcountry road in the epitome of luxury, those thoughts are worlds away. The Jag is a winner -- although, like Eric, I'm very much interested in seeing how new players in the segment measure up side-to-side.
Evan McCausland, Associate Web Editor
I drove the XJL Supersport more than 500 miles during a beautiful autumn weekend, crisscrossing the midsection of Michigan. If you hold your left hand with the palm facing away from you, you will see that your hand roughly approximates the shape of Michigan. On Saturday morning, I found myself in a rural county located roughly at the joint of your hand and your middle finger. In other words, the Jaguar and I were in the middle of nowhere. I took advantage of the emptiness and the arrow-straight, flat country roads that slice through the fields of corn and soybeans to goose the big Jag a few times. The acceleration from 90 mph into triple-digits is pretty amazing; the eight-speed automatic efficiently kicks down, the supercharger's whine intensifies, and the cornfields start to blur. After a few seconds of this bliss, I would hammer the brakes, and the Jag would bring itself down to sane, legal speeds with little fuss. Meaning, with no undue pitch or pedal kickback or shuddering or brake smoke filtering its way into the cockpit. This was not a bad way to spend a few moments of my life.
I arrived at my mother's house in plenty of time to transport her and my sister and brother-in-law to a family funeral. (Strangely, and somewhat sadly, this is the second time I have driven an XJ to a family funeral in the past two years. I ought to take one to a wedding, or some other happier event, sometime. After all, as big, prestigious luxury sedans go, the Jaguar XJ is a rather happy, fanciful car, not a somber gray Teutonic thing.) As we rode to the funeral home, everyone was very pleased with the XJL's room and comfort; my brother-in-law, in the front passenger seat, was blown away by the acceleration and handling and the way the XJ moves through corners. My mother, naturally, was tsk-tsking from the back seat when I exceeded 100 mph. Not that she had any clue what speed we were going until I pointed it out to her, so smoothly and effortlessly does the Jaguar cover ground.
When we arrived at the funeral home, the guy who was arranging cars for the funeral procession tried to stick one of those magnetic flags on the hood of the car, near the base of the A-pillar, but of course it wouldn't stick, because the Jaguar's body panels are aluminum, not steel. Later, in the funeral procession, I accidentally inserted the Jaguar into the group of cars belonging to the immediate family, rather than the cars belonging to the wider circle of more distant relatives and friends, so I felt a bit embarrassed as I'm sure many people thought, who is this jerk who thinks they go to the front of the procession just because they're in a Jag?!? Ah, such are the perils of driving a fancy, flashy car worth $120,000, a sum of money that in my hometown buys you quite a nice house.
One of the other perils of driving a Jaguar with a 510-hp, 5.0-liter supercharged V-8 is that, as I told the police officer who pulled me over on southbound US-23 north of Ann Arbor late that Saturday evening, "the difference between 80 mph and 87 mph in a car like this is just the teensy-tiniest, almost imperceptible movement of the accelerator pedal." To which he replied, having misheard me, "Well, my own car has 420 hp and I can tell the difference between 70 and 87." "Oh, no, officer," I quickly replied. "I never claimed to be going only 70! I thought I was going about 80, but once I saw you flick on your lights, I glanced down, saw I was doing 87, and immediately pulled over to wait for you." I said this knowing that, in Michigan, the cops generally don't blink if you're doing 80 mph; it's only in excess of that speed that you might catch their attention.
The cop's car, it turns out, is some sort of Mustang. I didn't probe for too many details about which Mustang exactly, because he'd already given me a break and written the ticket for 80 rather than 87, so I had to be grateful for that, grateful I hadn't been nabbed at higher speeds earlier in the day, and grateful for what was still a very enjoyable weekend in a really cool car.
Joe DeMatio, Deputy Editor
The last time I drove an XJ sedan, I decided that its 385 horsepower was more than sufficient. But the XJ is about nothing if it's not about excess, so naturally, Jaguar sells a version of the XJ with 510 horsepower. I only had the long-wheelbase XJL Supersport in my possession for about twelve hours, (at least eight of which were spent sleeping), so I clearly was able to explore just a fraction of this car's potential.
Here's what I took away from my short time behind the wheel of this car: It's fast. Really fast. In fact, it's almost a little too fast. As Joe DeMatio stated above, it takes just the slightest flex of the right foot to find yourself approaching the 100 mph mark. Also, in sport mode, it's almost impossible to ease away from a stop, as the XJ leaps forward as if straining at its leash. I'm still no a fan of Jag's touchscreen system, which has a few quirks. For instance, the only way that I found to activate the seat heaters is through the touchscreen, although all the other climate functions have their own discrete dials to operate temperature controls. This Jag is an interesting mix of new and old -- witness the lovely chrome air vents and analog clock that hark back to older Jags, and the completely digital gauges in front of the driver.
Amy Skogstrom, Managing Editor