Jaguar XJL Portfolio — This cat has claws

By Al Vinikour

Al Stewart once had a song entitled “The Year of the Cat.” Big deal! I just spent a week with the cat and I’m the better man for it. In this case the “cat” is the 2012 Jaguar XJL Portfolio, a vehicle that screams volumes about its owner “having arrived.”

The XJL Portfolio is not a car that people glance at and get on with their lives. It’s like a magnet that pulls in car enthusiasts to take a closer look. And what will they find as they begin their exploration?

For starters a luxury car that doesn’t look like every other luxury car. To be fair there’s no mistaking that this is a Jaguar, but to paraphrase a long-ago tag line from another manufacturer’s advertising campaign, “This is not your Father’s XJL.”

The XJL is nearly 5-inches longer than the standard wheelbase models and sitting in the rear seat is living proof. There’s plenty of room to stretch one’s legs – even with the front seats in their most rearward position. Furthermore it can double as a mobile office. A new Executive Package ($2,500) provides fold-down laptop trays and an electric rear sunblind for increased privacy. The package also includes upgraded carpeting, combination wood and leather steering wheel, gloss wood veneer choices and chrome mirror housings. With surroundings like these there’s no dying need to have a “stodgy old office” in a conventional building.

As long as we’re inside the vehicle there’s a lot of content to discuss and rest assured it won’t all be done in this review. My editor doesn’t supervise a library and that’s about what it would take to fully describe everything the 2012 XJL Portfolio comes with. For instance there’s softgrain leather heated and cooled front and rear seats, four-zone automatic climate control, panoramic glass roof, front and rear footwell lights, phosphor blue lighting, illuminated mirrors for rear seats, 20-way adjustable front seats with massage, etc. You get the picture.

Audiophiles and techies will not be disappointed, either. Standard multimedia would make NASA jealous. There’s a 600-watt premium sound system, iTech system, virtual instruments, interactive voiced, Bluetooth v2.0 audio streaming, hard drive navigation system, HD Radio, eight-inch touchscreen, Sirius Satellite Radio and a bunch of other things I don’t understand, so they must be pretty cool. (Full disclosure; my technical expertise is slightly above a Ticonderoga #2 pencil and a Goldenrod yellow-lined tablet.)

My test vehicle did have the upgraded Bowers & Wilkins 1200W Sound System ($2,300) and I have to say I could honestly tell I was listening to something really special.

A feature I really liked is the pop-up gear selector. When the vehicle is started a shift wheel rises from the center console that creates the ability to select a gear. When the engine is shut off it recedes into its little house. Unlike some center console gear selectors and even steering wheel-mounted shift arms it’s never intrusive. Besides, the polished wire mesh that surrounds the control knob is rather fun to play with. With the multitude of selectable features it’s possible to personalize this vehicle in practically any way the driver wishes.

As alluded to earlier there’s a lot of premium materials used in the XLJ Portfolio’s interior. What’s the point of having a vehicle that has an MSRP beginning at $80,000+ if it’s sporting hand-me-downs? This even includes the soft velvety material used in the headliner and A-pillar. Furthermore, all these features add up to make the XJL one of the quietest vehicles on the road…as “viewed” from the inside. The outside is a different story.

What do big cats do besides “meow?” That’s right, they growl. And the XLJ Portfolio definitely has a lot to growl with. It’s powered by a 5.0-liter V8 that puts out a satisfying 385 horsepower and produces 380 pound-feet of torque. The engine is mated to a 6-speed automatic transmission. Putting the hammer down emits a great exhaust rumble that lets you…and everybody else you’re leaving in the dust…with the knowledge that this cat has claws.

To keep all this power harnessed for the highway requires a better-than-base suspension and to no surprise the XLJ delivers. Jaguar has a lifetime’s history of motorsports and this experience, combined with modern technology and innovation has created what some describe as a perfect blend of road, track and luxury. It’s particularly gratifying to whip this big vehicle around sharp curves and witness its effortless handling. I’m a novice at performance driving and I really enjoyed the feeling the car provides. Thus, someone with this type of driving expertise is going to be one happy wheel jockey.

There’s a lot of safety and security built in to this vehicle. For instance there are Xenon front and LED rear lights, a flotilla of air bags, active head restraints and the usual array of active and passive safety features. Furthermore it comes standard with Blind Spot Monitor, a device I think is THE most important improvement in auto safety since the advent of disk brakes and something I’d like to see standard on all vehicles – regardless of price or segment.

What good is a Jaguar without being a fashion plate and the styling of the 2012 XJL Portfolio is unique. Lightweight aluminum construction has given it superior agility and economy and the bold styling of the past few years has actually re-energized Jaguar’s forward-thinking reputation. The XJL is long (as its name implies) and its sweeping lines, integrated taillights and distinctive chrome mesh grille combined with its low, crouching stance the Jaguar is famous for makes for a handsome package.

I don’t often have to look far to find something I find objectionable in the vehicle I’m testing.  I’m still trying to find something I didn’t like in the XJL Portfolio and I turned the vehicle in a few weeks ago. Don’t wait for a follow-up to this review because I finally remembered something and especially don’t hold your breath waiting; you’ll turn blue and die…and Jaguar doesn’t make hearses.

Speaking of packages there are a number of those available so combined with the MSRP of $80,700 (excluding transportation and handling of $875) it’s easily possible to head towards the century mark in total price. When you think about it, it’s still a small price to pay for owning a legend.