Here in car-culture crazed Southern California, the mantra of "you can never be too rich or too thin" could be translated into "your car can never be too luxurious or too big." Just take a look at the vehicles clogging the 405 and 101 freeways and you'll understand. Bigness is in, as is luxury (at least I'm guessing that's what all those rear-seat DVD systems and spinner wheels are for), but sadly, subtly and decorum have been lost in the exhaust-created haze.
Thankfully, Jaguar Cars understands that big, luxurious and tasteful are not mutually exclusive. The new XJ Long Wheelbase is remarkably big (205.3 in. long, 83 in. wide, 57.3 in. high), incredibly luxurious (wood, leather and electronic accessories abound) and delightfully tasteful (no bling in sight).
Derived from the all-new XJ, the long-wheelbase version is 5 in. longer and 0.28 in. taller than the flagship sedan, yet thanks to the aluminum-intensive riv-bonded monocoque construction, it only weighs 53 lb more than the swb for a 3,777-lb curb weight. The base XJL is powered by the 294-bhp 4.2-liter V8, as is the luxo-supreme Vanden Plas edition (which is a bit heavier at 3,841 lb-must be those rear wood business trays and lambswool rugs). The Super V8 version sports the 390-bhp supercharged V8 engine and weighs in at 4,059 lb. All versions feature Jaguar's six-speed ZF automatic transmission with the tried (I, for one, say tired) and true J-gate configuration.
Even with the additional weight, Jaguar reports the 0-to-60-mph times for the lwb are the same as for the swb: 6.3 sec. for the XJL and 5.0 for the Super V8. Top speed is electronically limited to 121 and 155 mph, respectively. These are impressive numbers indeed for a car that I can't even fit into my garage-small garage, long car.
The lack of garage space surprised me. Even though I knew the car was extra long it just doesn't look it. From the beginning Jaguar's designers developed the XJs to be long wheelbase cars, thus the stretching isn't noticeable. The side profile looks "normal," with the hood, roof and trunk lines in perfect proportion to each other. Only the badging indicates that it's a long-wheelbase car. The inside, of course, is a different story. Rear passengers have 4 1/2 in. more knee room and a touch more headroom than on an swb XJ.
The XJL also doesn't handle like an extra-long car. As with the swb XJs, the lwb versions feature Jaguar's CATS adaptive damping suspension setup with traction and dynamic stability control. We drove the XJLs through the streets of San Francisco-definitely not a big-car friendly burg-to the back roads of Marin County. The sedan maintained its poise through it all, over bad pavement, bridge expansion joints, tight corners and undulated straightaways.
To remove any doubt about the long wheelbase's performance creds, Jaguar set up an autocross course for us to play on in the afternoon. Following instruction laps with either Sir Jackie Stewart or Kevin Schrantz (ec's frequent hot-shoe) behind the wheel, we were let loose for a fast-time competition. Braking, cornering and 0-to-whatever acceleration were all part of the course. No matter how fast or not-so-fast the drivers were, everyone came away with a sense of amazement that cars this big and relatively heavy could pull off these moves so easily. And with a level of comfort and luxury unsurpassed by most.
All the luxuries found on the XJ8/XJR are on the XJL, Vanden Plas and Super V8 as well. The XJL includes leather seats, burr walnut veneer, power moonroof, eight-speaker FM/AM/CD audio system and 18-in. Dynamic alloy wheels.
The Vanden Plas starts with the XJL base and adds a twin-stitched trimmed dashtop, walnut burl veneer with hand-inlaid Peruvian boxwood, heated front and rear seats and heated steering wheel, the previously mentioned fold-down business trays and lambswool rugs, a premium Alpine sound system with six-CD changer, bright mirror caps and taillamp bezels, powerfold exterior mirrors and 18-in. Rapier alloy wheels.
For those that want it all, the Super V8 takes all the Vanden Plas amenities and tops them off with Brembo disc brakes, 19-in. Custom alloy wheels wrapped in Z-rated tires, a bright mesh grille insert, radar-adaptive cruise control, DVD touch-screen nav system, DVD rear entertainment system, a four-zone climate-control system and electrically adjustable rear bench seats.
What will all this set you back? Surprisingly little when compared to other lwb luxury sedans. The XJL starts at $63,495, with the Vanden Plas listing at $70,995. The top-of-the line Super V8 bears the premium of $89,995. However, there is no $1,000 gas-guzzler tax as the lightweight chassis affords best-in-class fuel economy with a reported 17/24 mpg.
If you're one of those who honestly believe your car can never be too luxurious or too big, please check out the 2005 Jaguar XJLs as good taste can go a very long way.