Having decided to go bowling, it seemed only natural to drive the 2013 Jaguar XJL Portfolio to the local lanes. Our driver predicted it would be the only new Jaguar in the parking lot, and he was right. On the way, the back-seat passengers concluded this extended-length sedan was intended to be driven by a chauffeur, with the wealthy owner comfortably stretched out in the roomy rear compartment.
With its competitive price, lavish accommodations, crisp handling and powerful engine – but perhaps most of all, with its elegant shape – this redesigned full-sized Jaguar promises to crease some foreheads in Germany and Japan. It even gets good fuel economy; we averaged in the mid-20s with the 340-horsepower, V-6 engine. It’s also the first Jaguar to come with optional all-wheel drive.
Although not meant to be produced in massive numbers, the XJ comes in a surprisingly wide variety of flavors and textures. The base model, priced at $73,200, has rear-wheel drive and the V-6 engine. The extended-length XJL Portfolio starts at $83,700 with all-wheel drive. Upgrades to V-8 power ranging to 510 horses, and ever-higher levels of luxury and technology, bring the price potential to $155,000.
Competitors are few, but daunting. Start with the Mercedes-Benz S-Class, a magnificent machine whose base price starts about $20,000 north of the Jaguar’s. Audi’s flagship sedan, the A8, is priced about the same as the XJ, but the addition of all-wheel drive to the XJ line erased one of Audi’s major advantages in the Snow Belt. The Lexus LS, luxurious and reliable, lacks the XJ’s athleticism. Also competing in this segment are BMW, with the 7 Series, and Porsche, with the Panamera.
The XJ’s interior recalls a time when the finest European cars were built by hand, one at a time. Supple leather is everywhere, and creature comforts of all kinds are at hand. On the way to the bowling establishment, our passengers enjoyed the optional massage feature.
The car’s lines, befitting its name, are lithe and graceful. Evidently convinced the lines themselves will lure lovers of automative art to the Jaguar showroom, the manufacturer eliminated distractions like the once-obligatory chrome hood ornament. A graceful, leaping cat does appear in the form of a badge on the trunk lid.
Thanks to extensive use of aluminum body panels, the XJ is lighter than many luxury sedans, enabling the V-6 and 8-speed automatic transmission to deliver surprisingly good fuel economy. With rear-wheel drive, the XJ can reach 28 mpg, according to Jaguar. All-wheel drive lowers highway mpg to 25.
The question that will come to mind first for many would-be Jaguar buyers is: will it be reliable? Past XJs have compiled worse-than-average reliability records; our research into this question yielded inconclusive results. As a niche model, the XJ’s reliability is harder to track than that of a Ford Focus or Toyota Camry, with huge sales numbers. For what it’s worth, our test car performed flawlessly.
Steven Macoy (email@example.com) is a longtime car enthusiast and full-time editor who lives in Bethel, Conn.
Engine: 3.0-liter V-6, 340 horsepower, 332 lb.-ft. torque
Transmission: 8-speed shiftable automatic
Weight: 4,153 lb.
Suspension: double wishbone front, multi-link rear
Wheels: 19-in. Painted alloy
Tires: 275/40R19 105H all-season
Seating capacity: 5
Luggage capacity: 15.2 cu. ft.
Fuel capacity: 21.7 gallons
Fuel economy: 16 mpg city, 24 mpg highway
Fuel type: premium