An odd thing happened as Americans’ taste for luxury vehicles grew in recent years: Jaguar, the venerable British marquee, struggled to gain traction.
In fact, U.S. sales of Jaguar’s flagship sedan, the XJ, are on pace for their slowest year since 2010.
Although this may be worrying to the carmaker and Jaguar dealers, owners of the 2015 XJ and its long-wheelbase version, the XJL, won’t have to worry about seeing many other new XJs in their country club parking lots. And they’ll still have a stylish, large sedan that almost looks like a coupe from the side because of the slope of its rear roofline.
Three supercharged V-6 and V-8 engines are available — none of them particularly fuel efficient.
Interior accoutrements can mix old-world, pull-down Jaguar “business trays” and vanity mirrors for back-seat passengers with navigation system and adaptive cruise control technology for the driver.
But Jaguar doesn’t have all the latest technology. For example, the 2015 XJ doesn’t offer a surround-view camera, rear cross-traffic alert and lane departure warning. And the XJ’s centralized interface for most audio and navigation controls is still a touchscreen in the middle of the dashboard.
In contrast, BMW and Audi use singular control dials and Lexus has a movable cursor, both of which can be faster to operate than Jaguar’s touchscreen.
Starting manufacturer’s suggested retail price, including destination charge, for a rear-wheel drive, 2015 XJ with 340-horsepower V-6 mated to an eight-speed automatic transmission is about on par for the large, luxury sedan segment — $75,195.
The lowest retail price of a 2015 XJ with all-wheel drive is $78,695, and this model comes with the base, supercharged V-6.
Rear-wheel drive long-wheelbase XJLs, which add 4 inches of legroom for the back seats, carry a starting retail price of $82,195 with the same base supercharged V-6.
Jaguar XJ pricing can reach more than $119,000 for the top-of-the-line long wheelbase 2015 XJR with a 550-horsepower supercharged V-8.
By comparison, the starting retail price for a 2015 Mercedes-Benz S550 with a 449-horsepower bi-turbo V-8 is $95,325, while a 2015 Lexus LS 460 with a 386-horsepower V-8 starts at $73,485.
The test-driven 2015 XJL looked pretty on the outside, with the optional-for-$1,500 British racing green paint.
The sporty front end with large grille and curtly clipped rear gave the car a less formal appearance than might have been expected.
Trunk space is limited, at 15.2 cubic feet, and much of this is under the rear window. Both the Mercedes S550 and LS 460 have larger trunks.
The XJ no longer has the “leaper” — a shiny, pouncing jaguar figure — affixed to the hood. The iconic cat has been replaced by the face of the “growler” cat on the grille.
But the plentiful power, speed and grace of the animal remains part of the XJ’s DNA.
Depending on the engine, a rear-wheel drive, 2015 XJ can zoom from zero to 60 mph in anywhere from 4.7 to 5.7 seconds.
Shifts can be smooth, or not, if the driver puts the car in sport mode and uses the steering wheel’s paddle shifters to manually go through the forward gears of the sequential-shift automatic.
Power was always at the ready in the tested XJL and torque of 332 foot-pounds kicked in by 3,500 rpm.
The tested car averaged only 16.2 mpg in city driving and made it to the federal government’s city/highway combined estimate of 19 mpg only after lengthy highway travel.
Premium gasoline was required.
Jaguars have long been known for their sumptuous interiors and the test car didn’t disappoint, with its luxuriously styled leather seats.
The optional two separate back seats were a hit, because they reclined and had three massage settings and raised foot rests on the floor.
But the electronic Virtual Instruments, such as the speedometer in the instrument cluster, looked artificial and cheap.
The gimmicky metal shifter dial that descended out of site into the center console when the car was turned off and magically rose when the car turned on was so hot to the touch on a summer day that it was difficult to move from Park to Drive.
Steering was responsive, but not twitchy.
Active damping worked to keep the large car body tightly controlled, and long highway trips were comfortable, with many road bumps absorbed by the suspension.
Three U.S. safety recalls involved the 2015 XJs. They ranged from brake line junctions that might leak brake fluid to a battery cable, accessory belt or power steering pump pulley that could detach, thereby creating the potential for a fire or reduced power-assist for steering.
2015 Jaguar XJL
BASE PRICE: $74,200 for base XJ; $77,700 for base XJ AWD; $81,200 for base XJL; $84,700 for XJL AWD.
PRICE AS TESTED: $98,895.
TYPE: Front-engine, rear-wheel drive, four-passenger, large, luxury sedan.
ENGINE: 3-liter, double overhead cam, direct injection, supercharged V-6 with dual intercoolers.
MILEAGE: 16 mpg (city), 24 mpg (highway).
TOP SPEED: 155 mph.
LENGTH: 206.8 inches.
WHEELBASE: 124.3 inches.
CURB WEIGHT: 4,151 pounds.
BUILT AT: United Kingdom.
OPTIONS: Premium rear executive package (includes two individual rear seats with three massage functions, foot rests, electric side window blinds, business trays with leather inserts, rear seat memory settings, rear entertainment package) $7,750; Meridian surround sound system with 825 watts $2,300; British racing green exterior paint $1,500; visibility package (includes headlamps with adaptive front lighting, cornering lamps, intelligent high beam) $850; front seat massage $800.
DESTINATION CHARGE: $995.
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