Jaguar XJ L

British luxury flagship gets a refresh for 2012 – but is it still better to drive than be driven in?

Overall Auto Express Rating

4.0 out of 5

The Jaguar XJ L doesn’t lead the class when it comes to rear-seat comfort, as rivals from Audi, BMW and Mercedes offer superior rear headroom, ride comfort and build quality. However, it’s still incredibly luxurious in the back and the rest of the car is superb. Well-heeled executives who like to spend time behind the wheel won’t be disappointed – none of the XJ L’s rivals offer such an engaging driving experience.

It's one of the most stylish luxury cars on sale right now – and one that owners would sooner drive themselves, rather than let the chauffeur take charge. But where the Jaguar XJ is concerned, is it better to be in the front or back?
To find out, we tested the 2012 model year XJ L – a subtly updated long-wheelbase version, which gets an enhanced interior and some more luxurious options aimed at improving comfort.
Video: watch CarBuyer's video review of the Jaguar XJ
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Costing £3,005 more than the standard saloon, the XJ L adds an extra 125mm to the wheelbase for even more rear legroom, so you can really stretch out. The extra length fortunately doesn’t detract from the XJ’s stylish design, and neither does it affect the driving experience, as our extended test drive from London to the Orkney Islands revealed.
As you’d imagine with a car of this type, the XJ L made light work of the motorway sections of our 1,340-mile round trip. Even at speed, hardly any road, engine or wind noise enters the cabin, allowing you to really appreciate the clarity of the superb 1200w Bowers & Wilkins stereo, which is standard on the Portfolio model driven here. It also has ventilated massage front seats, which really take the sting out of long driving stints.
Where the XJ L excels, though, is on a twisty A-road. Thanks to wonderfully precise steering, strong grip and agility that belies its size, this is one luxury limo than can also do a good impression of a sports car.
This sensation is enhanced by the wraparound cockpit, the ability to take control of the slick automatic gearbox with steering-wheel mounted paddles and the way the all-digital instrument dials turn red when you put the car into Dynamic mode.
The XJ L is available with a range of powerful engines, including a supercharged V8 with more than 500bhp. However, it’s the 3.0-litre diesel that makes the most sense.
With sufficient grunt for effortless overtaking – something that proved vital on the busy single-carriageway roads of the Scottish Highlands – and a claimed fuel consumption figure of 40.1mpg, it offers a perfect blend of performance and economy.
But while the XJ L feels brilliant from the driver’s seat, it’s not quite a class leader when it comes to the all-important rear seats. Of course, there is acres of legroom and the seats are extremely comfortable – even more so thanks to the addition of a new option package that includes electric recline, lumbar adjustment and the massage functions.
However, the sloping roof limits headroom a little and the sporty suspension means the XJ L feels a bit fidgety on rougher surfaces compared to the totally unflappable Mercedes S-Class. And while the modern interior is beautifully made, it still doesn’t feel quite as special or as expensive as an Audi A8’s.
However, if you’re going to be spending most of your time in the front seat, none of this really matters. The XJ L is the limousine for those who prefer to have a steering wheel, rather than a newspaper, in their hands.

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