Test Drive: 2014 Jaguar XJR L car test drives luxury cars jaguar
2014 Jaguar XJR L. Click image to enlarge

Review and photos by Peter Bleakney

Before we get started on the XJR L I just have to take a peek at my review of the 2011 Jaguar XJR Supersport with “only” 510 hp and… hang on, yes, just as I suspected. Nowhere in that assessment did I say, “Damn, I wish this thing had another 40 hp and rode stiffer so I could fling it about and play silly bugger in the turns.” Nope. Not a word of it.

But such is the state of things in this rare slice of autodom where the air is thin and the wallets are thick. There are enough people in the world desiring heroically powered full-size super sedans to warrant the development and production of such strange beasts.

And this is a strange one. And beautiful. And does it ever make me grin. It’s a rolling dichotomy. It’s an elegant and very lengthy sybaritic cocoon that got boinked by a Shelby GT500, or something of that ilk. Wonderfully weird.

Test Drive: 2014 Jaguar XJR L car test drives luxury cars jaguar
2014 Jaguar XJR L. Click image to enlarge

Acceleration from the 550-hp, 502 lb-ft supercharged 5.0L V8 is absolutely ferocious and it makes the most glorious bellow when caned.

Furthermore, this rear drive limo is quick to sidestep its portly posterior. If James happens to put the power down a tad too early when pulling away from the Four Seasons (and Sport mode is selected, tsk tsk), those big rear gumballs will squeal, squirm and do a little (or big) lateral jig before hooking up. Sir might not mind, but the Missus will surely be harrumphing and poking James in the back of the head.

She might even say, “Dearest, I told you to buy the all-wheel-drive AMG. But do you ever listen…?”

James is the only one really having fun here. Until he gets his walking papers.

Granted, the XJR L’s backseat accommodations are first class, even if you don’t get the twin LCD screens that another rear-drive V8 luxo-barge going by the name of Equus (Hyundai) provides.  “L” indicates long wheelbase, and as such legroom is more than generous. The chairs are trimmed in the creamiest of hides, and they are heated and cooled to boot. The problem is, the XJ’s usual magic carpet ride has been somewhat compromised in the name of increased agility.

Test Drive: 2014 Jaguar XJR L car test drives luxury cars jaguar Test Drive: 2014 Jaguar XJR L car test drives luxury cars jaguar Test Drive: 2014 Jaguar XJR L car test drives luxury cars jaguar
2014 Jaguar XJR L. Click image to enlarge

So Sir and the Missus won’t be truly happy back there. The XJR never really settles down. Yes, it is refined and quiet, but when not on perfect pavement, there is a constant flow of vertical and lateral jiggles that reflect the car’s more aggressive body control.

And it does pay off. Constructed entirely of aluminum with lashings of magnesium and high-strength steel, the rear-drive XJR is a relative lightweight in the realm of big luxury sedans, and it surprised us all on the tight handling course at this year’s AJAC TestFest.

So the driver’s seat is the place to be.

Penned by Jag design director Ian Callum with lead designer Giles Taylor, the XJR remains a stunning piece – bold, languid, challenging in some respects, and yes, very big.

The three-box look of its major competitors is left behind here as the XJ flows from its upright mesh grill to tapered tail in a long, graceful arc. One of the more contentious details is the blacked out C-pillar, although with a black car it is a non-issue.

Test Drive: 2014 Jaguar XJR L car test drives luxury cars jaguar Test Drive: 2014 Jaguar XJR L car test drives luxury cars jaguar Test Drive: 2014 Jaguar XJR L car test drives luxury cars jaguar Test Drive: 2014 Jaguar XJR L car test drives luxury cars jaguar
2014 Jaguar XJR L. Click image to enlarge

The XJ’s cabin is also wonderfully different. A thin arc of veneer connects the wood door panels, sweeping just under the windshield and above the twin retro air vents that perch on the dash top like a pair of froggy eyes. The piano black accents and chrome trim in this tester are finely wrought, and the leather appears to have come from bovine who enjoyed daily cocoa-butter massages before their march to the tannery.




About Peter

Peter Bleakney is a Toronto-based automotive journalist. He is also a member of the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada (AJAC).