Monday, November 09, 2015
Driven: A Day with the Jaguar XJ L 2.0 Ti
A few months or so ago I managed a short drive in a Jaguar XJ L 2.0. That short drive was translated into this review over here. Now the thing about short drives or a spin around a block or two is that whilst you can pick up some interesting bits, design traits you may like, some driving pleasure, nuances and other traits, whether good or bad, you can never really judge something as good as having it over a few days at least. But the Jaguar XJ L is one of those cars that is an eye opener, in a very good way. Even over a short drive you can tell how much pleasure this large barge of a car can give you. Then you get lucky. You're actually given another one for one day and one nite (so a big thank you to Jaguar Land Rover Malaysia is in order). And now my life is ruined because I want one so bad and it costs RM653,888.
The car, a white Jaguar XJ L 2.0 Ti, looks incredible from the outside. Do check out how the rear wheel arches flare out a little. It shows off its rear wheel drive stance and a wider rear. Stunning. It is actually as large as a house but because it is low slung you don't actually notice this until you actually park in front of a house. But whilst it is a luxo-barge in every sense of the word its aluminium chassis actually brings its weight down to speed boat weights. It is over 200kg lighter than the equivalent Mercedes S-Class or BMW 7 series. It is because of this inherent lightness that Jaguar can actually fit a small 2.0liter turbocharged petrol engine into the car compared with its rivals which need something with at least a 3.0liter engine in them. And also shows in how this car drives.
All of its rivals from Audi, BMW and Mercedes Benz are similarly priced but all of them run a 3.0liter engine. The Ford based 2.0liter turbo in the Jaguar saves a bit on road tax, fuel costs and if you think about it a whole lot on maintenance costs. It may be a tad less refined in terms of having a four cylinder thrum instead of a V6 burble but I find that very minimal as the levels of soundproofing in a full sized luxury car to be high. Not much engine noise actually gets through to the cabin. Do note that the engine will actually cost less to maintain in the long run compared to the petrol-electric hybrid in the S-class as well as the sometimes sensitive and temperamental Audi and BMW cars.
However, the Jaguar combines fabulous steering and a compliant chassis. One of the best things about living in Petaling Jaya is that it is close to some great sweeping corners (at the interchange from Subang Jaya to the Federal highway) and a whole area full of roundabouts (called Shah Alam) to actually do some midnight runs in. I am not so bothered about hitting maximum speed in a car that is supposedly able to do 241kmh. This car should, but it still is a 2.0liter turbocharged engine and whilst it would get to the maximum speed claimed, it should get to 210kmh pretty quickly and then climb at only a decent rate thereafter. There are still limitations as you only have 240hp to play with. But 240hp coupled with 340Nm allows you a 0-100kmh time in around 7.5seconds as I tested.
Anyway, driving the car is supremely pleasurable. The interior is designed to wrap around and cosset you. The dashboard design which curves around the front of the car coupled to the walnut wood encapsulates you together with the high waisted, low glass area of the cabin. You actually feel protected inside the XJ L. It is this feeling that also allows for confident driving. That, and the fact that the steering is sharp and precise, the relatively small 2.0liter engine working as it should be and the suspension, so effective that a car so big and so long can do wonders.
Sweeping corners and roundabouts are demolished with ease. Once you get used to the length it is extremely chuckable. The steering wheel responds so quickly to your inputs that you can actually realise that you are driving something as long as a bus. It turns and a split second later the tail follows. It is a looong tail if you get what I mean. People at the rear have lots and lots of space. They may not have as much headroom as the latest Mercedes Benz S-class, but you still get acres of legroom. And back on the subject of driving the XJ L, it steers so well for something so large.
The suspension setup coupled to the steering is very good. Turn in is good, as is body control. I sat at the rear in one of the runs where I was driven at a fast pace through Shah Alam' s roundabouts. The car stayed flat and there were no major secondary movements or excessive roll to upset Yours Truly in the rear. If you were someone important and was sitting at the rear in one of these, you can still hold up that newspaper and keep on reading without much fuss even though you are being chased down by people who may want to kidnap you. Such is the body control of the XJ L.
And if you're driving it round a bend or a roundabout, things get better. Everything works so well together and the slow in, fast out method works best with this rear drive barge. See the corner in front of you, tap the brakes if you are too fast, get to a proper entry speed (by either braking or rowing down through the gears via the pedal shifts), steer into the corner, the car reacts instantly, just after the apex you floor the accelerator and it just shoots forward, gliding down the road with ease. No lurch, no body roll. Of course, there is some stabilising understeer that will rear its head if you overcook your entry speed. But aside from the length which may undermine some confidence, the nice and wide 275 series tyres at the rear grip the road well and allow for full throttle inputs upon exiting the corner. The only drama is the fact that you know this is a car with limousine length and that it costs over RM650,000
The car has various systems that allow this pleasurable drive. There is a Dynamic Mode button on the center console that if you press changes the TFT screen used for the instruments (instead of normal analog dials) from blue to red. But that's just for appearances. What is actually does is change the engine response, dials down the stability system for sporty driving and firms up the adaptive suspension – only slightly, as you can't really tell the difference as being a sporty barge, it is set up for driving, unlike other barges around. The ride is good though. And coupled with the silent cabin it is a pleasurable place to be.
Now if you want an even sportier feel to the car you can slip the gear selector into 'S' mode. The smooth shifting 8 speed ZF gearbox shifts even faster up and down when needed. If you feel this is still unsporting enough for you, the pedal shifters located at the steering wheel can be used to manually operate the gears. The ZF box is sweet. But because the rest of the passenger cabin is super quiet with very little road noise and engine noise, it becomes a tad bit loud in first and second gears. I suppose this is because there is nothing left to hear and the fact that this, one of the best automatic gearboxes in the world needs strong first and second gear components in order for it to last standing starts and bursts of speed from the traffic lights. It is only this slight complaint which I have about this Jaguar gearbox mechanically. The rest is sublime. The gears shift smoothly up and down and if you're cruising in eighth gear, a kickdown will result in it shifting down to fourth in an instant. And without any unwanted drivetrain shunts or shocks. It is sublime.
So attacking corners and bends in the Jaguar XJ L is fantastic. A sharp steering, a composed and grippy chassis and ample power from the engine allows this. And whilst you are doing all of the attacking and hard driving, you sit in luxury. Everything feels good inside. This car is white on the outside and black in the inside with walnut wood trim on all sides. For most of us, the space it offers is more than adequate. There is ample cabin space up front and fantastic legroom at the rear. The only issue with this car is the headroom. There is a slightly lack of it if you are expecting a normal upright styled barge like in the BMW 7 series or a Mercedes Benz S-class. But as a driver's car this is it. The hell with extra headroom. I for sure did not need it when I was up front and at the rear. I still had some extra room above. I am about 5ft 8inches, average Asian in height but then again, if you ask me, I'd buy this over the others. Who cares about headroom with something that drives as good as this! Oh, maybe it does lack the ottoman rear seats of the S-class. But trust me, you'd rather drive the XJ L than be driven. Of course, this makes no sense if you have a chauffeur. So don't have a chauffeur then.
But then you add something that the Jaguar has in spades, a sense of occasion. It isn't that the BMW or the Mercedes Benz is lacking in this subjective feeling. They have it. But the XJ L has more of it. It feels very special. It looks fabulous on the outside. Low slung and sporty. Like its namesake – A Jaguar. It is also so different from the normal luxo-barges out there with their upright stance. You want to be different? Buy a Jag.
In fact, if you even compare within the Jaguar Land Rover family, buy a Jag. There are more Range Rovers on the streets of Kuala Lumpur than a Jaguar. I also think that it would be better to be seen in a Jaguar than something as ceremonial as driving around in a Rolls Royce or a Bentley. You want to promote sportiness? This is it. A certain elegance coupled with a certain old school charm, without the feeling of being totally ostentatious. It conveys to me a feeling of old world charm and confidence.
So who the heck is the Jaguar XJ L for then? I suppose it would be the tycoon that loves his traditions and heritage. It would be for the person who does not go to the office every day but only for the occasional board meeting or two every week. He would also avoid rush hour traffic and only enter the city center after that. He would be at the country club and drive there himself. His driver would be the company's pool driver and would only be used occasionally. He would use this car for his trips down south to the Marina Bay Sands for a round of baccarat or for a 'tini at one of the bistros over on Sentosa. Or up to Penang for some sand and suft, whilst sitting under an umbrella drinking a cocktail with an umbrella in it.
This Jaguar may be for a specific type of successful person. But I do wish more would choose this over the others. This drives so bloody well even in this 2.0liter form. I need to get my hands on the 3.0liter supercharged version or the 5.0 V8 supercharged one as well. Oh, I suppose this car would also give you bragging rights that it was M's car in the James Bond movie Skyfall. You can see it being used to its potential there. So driving one does in some ways make you feel slightly British, and slightly like you're part of M.I.6 or a Double-Oh agent. And that folks, is a wonderful, wonderful feeling.
A day and a night with this fabulous car has irreversibly ruined it for me. I need RM650,000 to blow on a barge. This barge. As my friend said to another friend about him not being present whilst we were testing it out - “ Do not bother, it would take you more than 45 minutes to drive through traffic and the rain for 10 minutes in the Jag. It would give you a reality check on how bloody poor you are!” This was a guy who drives a modded Audi A4 B8 telling the chap who drives a Mk6 Volkswagen Golf R.
And so, my life is ruined. In a great way that is.
Jaguar XJL 2.0 Ti
RM653,888 (w/o insurance)
1,999cc turbocharged 4 cylinder - 240hp 340Nm
8 speed ZF automatic
Top Speed 241kmh
Est fuel consumption 9.1liters/100km
Pros – ride, handling, lightness, performance from the lightness, cabin silence, old world luxury inside, equipment levels, fuel economy, affordable road tax, fabulous ZF automatic, cheap road tax from a 2.0liter engine and did I mention handling?
Cons – Sometimes people want to brag about engine size and you only have a 2.0liter, S- class slightly more plush riding (because it is less sporty) and quieter, wish it were cheaper, headroom (for those who care about it at the rear), gearbox whine in the two lowest gears
Conclusion – In a perfect world the 3.0liter supercharged version would be the one to get, but this car handles like a dream. No other large sedan drives like it. Looks like a dream too. Makes you think you're working for M.I.6 if you're being driven in one. My life is ruined. I need RM650,000 to buy one. Need a large donation. ASAP.