DETROIT – "That's a beast," a friend said to me with a really big smile on her face. Translated, she was complimenting Jaguar's new flagship, the 2011 XJL Supercharged.
It was long, it was sleek, it was slick and it was black. Jaguar called the color ebony. Whatever, it was set off by the XJ's chrome side gills, 20-inch chrome wheels and chrome surround for the side windows. The low slung sedan cut quite the figure as it sliced through the air and down the streets.
This XJ is so new that I think people mistake it for its midsized sibling the XF. The Jaguar XJ is as big as the BMW 7 Series and the Mercedes-Benz S-Class. In fact, those two sedans are its main competitors. And the L on the end of my XJ stood for long-wheel-base. It was about five inches longer than a regular XJ
I think because the XJ's design stayed the same for so long, the car buying public forgot what Jaguar stood for: speed, style and technology. My test vehicle was powered by a 5.0-litre 470 horsepower supercharged direct injection V8 direct that could move the XJL from zero to 60 mph in 4.9 seconds.
The engine was mated to a six-speed transmission with Jaguar's dial gear selector as well as paddle shifters.
On my long wheel base model I'm not sure the paddle shifters go with the buyers. I never even thought about testing them. My test vehicle also had a sport setting and I didn't bother with that either. If I had a quibble it would be performance equipment that didn't match the psychograph of the buyer.
That says something about the character of the XJL, I'm quibbling about equipment that didn't match it seemed to me the aplomb of the car.
Most my week-long test drive was confined pretty much to surface streets; I didn't even have to venture onto the expressways that much. That's another way of saying that I never got anywhere near letting the Big Cat's engine loose.
Still, mine was a great week-long test drive in the XJL. The air suspension was just what the big sedan needed. It was firm without being harsh. Steering was precise. The short steering ratio on the full-size XJL resulted in it handling more like a midsize sedan. And the car looked good.
It had a mesh grille with a leaping Jaguar right in the center. The rear end was low, sculpted and the LED light clusters wrap over the rear wings, forming distinctive vertical strips. In other words, you'll be able to tell a Jaguar XJ or XJL coming or going.
The interior of the car was dominated by a sweeping wood veneer that look like one piece extending from the doors to the front of the car forming a U. It had a black piano template over the center stack and console. There were black leather seats with ivory piping, ivory stitching and an ivory headliner.
The XJ was one of the first cars to feature an aluminum body and that has been carried over into the new XJ. The aluminum body reduced the XJL's weight by 330 lbs over its competitors. The weight reduction improved performance, handling and fuel efficiency.
My test car as well as all XJs had a panorama roof, in other words the glass roof was standard. And where the new technology came in was the virtual instrument panel. In other words, the speedometer, the temperature gauge, RPM gauge, gas gauge, all of it was a projection
Couple the virtual instrument gauges with the touch screen control center and the interior of the XJL had a clean egalitarian look. Even the audio system was different – a 1,200 watt set up from Bowers & Wilkins which list Jaguar as its only automotive customer on its Web site.
What's more, Bluetooth, satellite radio, USB and iPod jacks, keyless entry and exit, push button start and stop, the navigation system, the premium sound system, Xenon headlamps, all of it was standard on the 2011 Jaguar XJL Supercharged.
In other words, for $90,500 Jaguar is saying that its XJL Supercharged has everything you need.