By Tom Crosby
The look of a Jaguar can attract second glances and just sitting behind the wheel can create an addiction.
We test-drove the 2014 XJ with the extended wheelbase (XJL) savoring the confidence in turns, the power surge on the highway and the luxury-laden, roomy interior -- traits that have evolved in Jaguar's more than 75-year history.
Our passengers may have enjoyed it more in the back seat with its nearly five-inches of extra legroom, clam-shell center armrest, pull-up window blinds, heated/cooled seats like front seats and a rear-suspension improvement to soften the ride, even with our rear-wheel drive.
It's a toss-up whether it is more fun to drive or be driven, chauffeur style.
The 8-speed, smoothly-shifting automatic transmission can be supplemented with manual steering wheel paddles for desired power surges, allowing the Jaguar to live up to the quickness of the animal it is named after.
Vehicle occupants will enjoy Jag's Adaptive Dynamics active suspension damping that monitors body movement 100 times per second and wheel position 500 times per second mating with transmission shifts reacting to aggressive or laid-back driving styles.
The cushioned, controlled ride receives support from 20" 20-spoke Kasuge wheels encased in summer tires with glue-like grip supporting Jaguar's famous low-slung frame. The adequate trunk contains a temporary spare, not a tire-sealant package.
Safety features include a blind spot monitor and rear view camera, which compensate for some reduced rear visibility due to the sloping rear end that adds to the sleek design. However, other cutting edge safety technology, like lane departure warning and adaptive cruise control, remain options most drivers crave in a high-end sedan.
Soft-door closing doors block outside sound intrusion into the cabin and entry/exit is carefully done on the low front seats due to an absence of over door grip handles. Sculpted, luxurious soft leather seats with white stitching, plush headliner and mats, natural wood veneer and chrome accents contribute seamlessly for excellent fit-and-finish.
Gauges are easily read and a reachable 8-inch dashboard screen is manipulated via voice or touch for a variety of functions, include temperatures for all four seats. It blanches in bright sunlight. An intelligent stop-start system cuts the engine off when stopped and turns it automatically back when the foot lifts from the brake before the foot can reach the gas pedal.
Outside, the profile remains the same: chrome honeycomb grille, low front air dam, raked windshield and high beltline arch.
LIKES: Rear seating, power, luxury, handling, ride
DISLIKES: Option needs
BOTTOM LINE: It you can't afford it, make friends with someone who has one
Base price w/destination fee: $94,925
Vehicle weight: 4,200 lbs.
Wheelbase: 124.3 inches
Length: 206.8 inches
Width: 75 inches
Engine: 5.0-liter, DOHC, V-8, w/supercharger
Horsepower: 470-hp at 6,000-6,500 rpm
Torque: 575-lbs.-ft. at 2,500 to 5,500 rpm
Transmission: 6-speed automatic w/manual paddles
EPA Rating: 15 mpg city and 23 mpg highway
Range: 21.7-gallons, premium unleaded required
Performance: 0-60 in 4.9 seconds
Tom Crosby is a former journalist and communications director for AAA Carolinas. He has been reviewing cars since 1996, and has been active in traffic safety issues for more than 30 years.