If you've ever wanted to try the flying car found in the Hammacher Schlemmer catalog but don't quite have $350,000, you might consider trying the $79,900 base-priced 2011 Jaguar XJL. While it doesn't go so far as sporting foldable wings, my daughter said riding in the back of this Jag is "soooo cool; it feels just like a private jet." She should know since at age 8 she's clearly an expert in private jets. Ahem.
She's right about one thing: The 2011 Jaguar XJL, the long-wheelbase version of the flagship XJ sedan, is luxurious with a capital L.
As lux as the backseat accommodations are you might be inclined to hire a driver to chauffeur you to and from the grocery store and the yoga studio. Don't be fooled, however. The front seat is just as fabulous and enjoyable, with the exception of the tortoise-slow touch-screen multimedia center.
The driving experience in the 385-horsepower, 5.0-liter V-8 is as smooth as butter — the curled pats of butter dotted with pink Hawaiian volcanic sea salt that you get when flying first-class overseas. While each person's taste in ride quality is different, the XJL's is pure pleasure for me. It's responsive, but soft and comfortable regardless of how rough a road you may be driving over. It must be the adaptive dynamic suspension that adjusts itself continually — as in 500 times per second — to be optimized for the road you're driving on.
And the very best part is the cabin is peaceful and quiet. At least it was after I dropped off my gaggle of girls at school. Practically no road or wind noise sneaks into this cockpit.
The XJL has a starting MSRP of $79,900, and my test car cost $81,450.
The XJL is sleek, smooth and aerodynamic looking. It walks that fine line between strong and sexy with the skill and grace of a Cirque du Soleil tightrope acrobat.
This car got a lot of attention during my weeklong test drive, and it was exactly the kind of attention that any busy mom deserves. When parking it with the hotel valet for a work event, the valet noticed my kids' booster seats in the back and said, "Wow! This is a hot car for a hot mom." Cha-ching! You can bet he got in a handsome tip for putting that sly grin on my face for the rest of the day.
I also noticed a neighbor stopping outside my house, whipping out his iPhone and snapping a few not-so-discreet photos of the XJL. Yeah, none of his golf buddies are going to believe it's his car even if it was sort of parked next to his house.
The XJL was an absolute breeze for the little ones to climb in and out of on a daily basis. Thanks to the wide-opening doors and incredible amount of legroom, they were able to clamber in even with their huge backpacks over their shoulders.
The XJL's trunk was power operated, something you don't see in sedans regularly. I love this feature because it allows me to open the trunk remotely when approaching the car with an armload of groceries and my other hand on my daughters to keep them from veering out into parking lot traffic. The trunk space will easily swallow a family's groceries, backpacks, weekend bags and more.
Filling this puppy up at the end of my test drive wiped the grin off my face. With its 385-hp, 5.0-liter V-8, the XJL gets an EPA-estimated 15/22 mpg city/highway and uses premium gas. It won't be competing in any hypermiling challenges any time soon.
SENSE AND STYLE
Family Friendly (Not Really, Fair, Great, Excellent): Fair-Great
Fun-Factor (None, Some, Good Times, Groove-On): Groove-On
The five-seater's interior fit and finish is absolutely fitting of the price tag. The black leather seats with contrast piping and stitching were soft enough to warrant being in a home library rather than a car. The gorgeous wood veneer accents echo the most beautiful hardwood floors, and the center console's chrome trim looked like a sparkling chandelier.
In my test drive, I found the chrome gear selector, which rises up from center console, had too much form and not enough function. While I loved its looks and the clever yet simplistic turn-dial design, the chrome often reflected the bright summer sun directly into my eyes. Once or twice, I even draped my sweater over the top of the gearshift to cut down on glare. And, if parked in a sunny spot, the gear knob got so hot that I had to use the same sweater to protect my fingers from getting burned while shifting the car from Park to Drive.
In the backseat, the XJL has an immense amount of legroom (5 inches more than the XJ to be exact) and fold-down tray tables that are reminiscent of a private jet. These tables are made out of wood rather than the germ-laden plastic found in the planes I travel in. My girls got a ton of use out of the flat desk-like surface in the car. Thank-you letters were written while on the go, and a quick snack on the way to their dance camp performance was eaten without inadvertent spills on their sparkly costumes. The fold-down illuminated vanity mirrors in the backseat were also great for them to check their fancy selves out since I let them wear makeup for the performance.
Families with youngsters also will appreciate the sunshades for the back and rear side windows in the XJL. The rear sunshade slides up and down automatically via the press of a button, while the side ones operate manually.
For total rest and relaxation, all of the five seats are heated and cooled. The front seats also have a massage feature when needed. The benefits of an in-car massage will quickly diminish, however, the second you attempt to use the center stack's touch-screen controls. There's a two- or three-second delay between touching the screen and the screen actually reacting to your touch. I don't get it. If my $200 iPhone can respond to my touch immediately, why can't this $81,450 (as tested) Jaguar? That's just unacceptable.
IT'S THE LITTLE THINGS THAT COUNT
Storage Compartments (Puny, Fair, Ample, Galore): Ample
Cargo/Trunk Space (Puny, Fair, Ample, Galore): Ample
During the course of my week in the XJL, I pinched a nerve in my neck after sleeping on a bad hotel pillow. The XJL's standard blind spot monitoring system was such a huge help to me when driving. Helping people with mobility issues drive safely is another bonus to blind spot monitors that I'd never before considered.
And being a mom of three youngsters who love to spend time in the driveway drawing with sidewalk chalk, the XJL's standard backup camera eased my concern about potential backovers.
The XJL also has standard rear-wheel drive, all-disc antilock brakes with brake assist, an electronic stability system with traction control, active front head restraints in the front row, and six airbags, including side curtains for both rows.
Parents with kids of any age will be thrilled by the incredible legroom in the XJL's backseat. Rear-facing child-safety seats fit with room to spare. However, if you're using the Latch anchors to install child-safety seats then you'll run into the hurdle of fighting with the seat cushions to find the actual anchors buried in the seat bight, where the back and bottom cushions meet. My kids' Britax high-back booster seats with side-impact head protection fit like a glove in the slightly bolstered rear seats. Since the seat belt buckles were on stable bases, they were able to buckle themselves in easily. Find out how the XJL did in MotherProof.com's Car Seat Check.
Get more safety information about the 2011 Jaguar XJL here.