The XJ is the largest vehicle that Jaguar makes, and this XJL version is the biggest of the big. Longer from nose to tail and more spacious on the inside, the 2014 XJL shifts even more of its focus toward keeping its driver and passengers swaddled in the lap of luxury.
Largely unchanged since its debut in 2010, this generation of XJ and XJL is starting to feel a bit dated, particularly where tech is concerned. However, its flowing design has stood the test of time and "old luxury" never really goes out of style.
The second-best seats in the house
The primary difference between the model we're looking at today and the 2013 Jaguar XJ that we tested last year has everything to do with that extra letter "L," which indicates a long wheelbase. The XJL adds 4.9 extra inches to its wheelbase, which translates directly into the same amount of extra legroom for back-seat passengers.
By itself, that's a huge step up in rear-seat comfort and luxury, but our example doesn't stop there. We've also got the Premium Rear Seat Package: a $7,750 option that overhauls the second row. The rear outboard seats gain motorized reclining and upper-back articulation. A multimode massage function and heated surfaces pamper passengers while seat memory keeps them from having to futz around too much with getting just the right seating position.
The package also adds electric rear side sunblinds that reduce glare on the dual 10.2-inch screens for the Rear Seat Entertainment System. From their positions on the front seatbacks, these non-touch-sensitive displays can be controlled via an included IR remote control to display infotainment, navigation data with ETA for the current trip, and video sources. Audio for this systemis either piped through the main stereo or via a pair of wireless headphones, allowing up to three different A/V sources throughout the car (front, right-rear, and left-rear). Just below the displays, completing the first-row-airline-seat illusion, are dual "business tables" that can be folded out to hold a laptop or, as I learned, a messy barbecue lunch.
Between the upgraded outboard seats is a wide center armrest console that folds up, allowing the XJL to seat up to five people. However, that center seat isn't really a pleasant one for anyone but a small child thanks to the transmission tunnel hump and shoulder room that's generous for two, but a tight squeeze for three passengers.
An electric rear sunshade for the rear window is not part of the Premium Rear Seat package (although I believe that it should be) and is a ridiculous $670 additional charge.
As nice as they are, the rear seats are not the best seats in the house. Up front, our XJL was equipped with the optional $800 front-seat massage system, which is even more customizable with more programs than the rear's thanks to its touch integration with Jaguar's infotainment system. That's on top of the 18-way power adjustment, heated and cooled ventilated seating surfaces, and memory functions for the driver and front-passenger seats, features that are standard on the XJL but optional on the shorter XJ.
The XJL's cabin uses a visually interesting variety of high-quality materials, ranging from pleasant-to-the-touch leather trim for most of the dashboard and doors to shiny chrome trim and glossy wood. Though I'm not a fan of the fingerprint-magnet black gloss trim that makes up most of the XJL's center stack and console, it is also nice to look at when it's clean (and not reflecting errant sunlight directly into the driver's eyes).
However, here and there, it's possible to see hints of cheapness that stand out starkly in the XJL's otherwise immaculate cabin. The most heinous examples are the paddle shifters located on the steering wheel, which are made of dull, hollow plastic that you'd expect to find on an economy car, not one bearing an as-tested price over $100K. Usually, automakers spend more materials budget on these "touch points" where the driver comes into regular and direct contact with the vehicle, but Jag seems to have overlooked this issue. I'd expect metal shifters on a car in this price class or -- when you consider that the XJL isn't really a "performance car" anyway -- no paddles at all. As is, they feel like an afterthought.
The tech: What's here, what's missing
This generation of the Jaguar XJ has been around since 2010 and its dashboard infotainment system for nearly as long, but the tech has aged gracefully and seems to fit well with the XJL's "old luxury" feel.
Based around an 8-inch color touchscreen, the system puts navigation, Bluetooth telephony, and an ever-broadening range of digital and analog audio sources at the driver's fingertips in a well-organized way. The navigation system uses 2D maps and doesn't feature any of the connected technologies or 3D-rendered graphics that you'd find on the car's competitors from BMW or Audi, but the maps are crisply rendered, featuring traffic data and smooth animations.
However, the standard voice command system requires the driver to slog through too many tedious prompts for address input and needs too much confirmation. Seriously, after half a dozen prompts for city, street, number, and the like, the system asks you if you want to input the address and then asks again if you want to begin navigation. Why do you think I went through the trouble of inputting, Jaguar, if I didn't want to go there?! Let's go! It's just faster to have a passenger key the address in, which thankfully is possible.
Also missing from the feature set is Bluetooth MAP support, which would augment the hands-free calling functionality with the options to have incoming text messages read aloud and to auto-reply, reducing driver distraction by removing the temptation to reach for the phone for every notification. However, I doubt the XJL's prospective clientele will miss it.
Standard audio sources include USB with iPod/iPhone connectivity, Bluetooth audio streaming, HD Radio and satellite radio, CD/DVD playback, and auxiliary audio and video inputs. Our Premium Rear Seat-equipped example also featured a dedicated rear USB port and auxiliary video input, as well.