2016 Jaguar XJL Portfolio Review: No Badge Required

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Take a look at the picture above. That chrome-ringed circle of red and rage tells the world that the car it’s attached to is a Jaguar. That name brings to mind visions of British elegance, extravagant living, and swift sports cars with fluid lines and erotic curves.

It also pops a dollar sign into a person’s head – one followed by a high-five- or even six-digit number. The traditional logic goes that if something has a high price, it must be good. That it’s somehow special. The same goes for labels. A Jaguar is going to be better than a car made by a company without such a reputation for luxury and beautiful design, right?

None of that mattered during my week with the 2016 Jaguar XJL Portfolio, the so-called entry-level offering within Jaguar’s extended-wheelbase XJ lineup. I didn’t care that it was a Jag, cost an as-tested $86,733, could stun valets, or that telling people which company made it would elicit the kind of whistle someone makes when they’re impressed. I just enjoyed it and what it did. If an unknown company had made the exact same car and was magically able to charge half the price for it, I would’ve enjoyed it just as much. That’s not a knock against Jaguar. It’s a testament to how lovable a car it made with the XJL. These are a just a few of the Portfolio model’s stand-out characteristics:

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Its Design

It’s not surprising that Jaguar’s stylists created a good-looking car, but it deserves mentioning. Most luxury automakers can manufacture a flagship sedan that’s attractive and stately, but Jaguar succeeded in making one that’s sleek and beautiful. A sculpture of precious metal, not a gilded trio of boxes. As attractive as the contrast between the softly trapezoidal grille and scalpel-like casings for the full-LED headlights is, it’s the rear end of the XJL that’s the most eye-catching. The roof line flows into the trunk, its wind-cheating shape accented and made all the more impactful by the blacked-out C-pillar. In a world filled with cars whose tail lights wrap around and into the sides of the rear body panels, the XJL’s LED units cut into the rear bodywork vertically – and dramatically. Unusual? Yes. Unloved? Not at all.

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The XJL has a wheelbase length of more than 10 feet and an overall length north of 17 feet. There’s no disguising the fact that it’s a long car. However, Jaguar’s designers managed to make it an awesome sight, not an awkward one.

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What’s Inside

It was a fluke that I received the keys to the XJL (and a long story), so I didn’t have time to mentally prepare myself for what to expect from it. I figured it would have leather, probably some wood trim, and the rotating JaguarDrive Selector knob that the company is fond of using. I was pleasantly surprised by the velvety headliner and diamond-quilted Jet black seats…surrounded by a ring of glossy burl walnut veneer panels. The XJL looked and felt more expensive than it was.

Something I did expect was the XJL to glide smoothly and quietly through the air. I was not disappointed. Wind noise was satisfyingly low. The effects of rough pavement were neutralized by the suspension. My tester was as easy on my back as it was on my eyes.

Given the XJL’s 4.8 extra inches of rear legroom, I was able to sit comfortably in the back behind the driver seat adjusted to my 5’10” build. Unfortunately, the seatbacks didn’t recline. That didn’t affect my view out of the panels of the panoramic glass roof or keep me from enjoying the power sunshades on the rear windows.

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Those Six Cylinders Under the Hood

The ground floor of the extended-wheelbase XJ powertrains is not a bad place to be. The 340 horsepower and 332 lb-ft of torque from the 3.0-liter supercharged V6 was enough to move the 3,913-pound big cat at a brisk pace. I never once felt as if the XJL was too much car for its engine. The fact that the most mechanically subdued stretched XJ could be livened up through the sport mode for its eight-speed automatic and the Dynamic drive setting made me love it even more. I could transform the refined English sedan from Dr. Jekyll into Mr. Hyde with the turn of a knob and the push of a button. No matter which way I had my review vehicle set up, the steering was well weighted and connected to front tires that didn’t keep me in the dark about what they were encountering.

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Gorgeous, trimmed with impressive materials, and pleasant to drive. That’s what the 2016 XJL Portfolio was. And even though it didn’t have to be, it just happened to be a Jaguar.

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