Richard Nixon was president of the United States the last time Jaguar did a clean-sheet redesign of its flagship XJ sedan. That alone is occasion for a drumroll as the venerable automaker rolls out its gorgeous new line of XJs this spring. I luxuriated for 24 hours this week in a Porcelain colored XJL, one of only a handful on the road now in North America. Jaguar of Chattanooga sales consulant Mark Able said, "Jaguar is known for making cars that are both beautiful and fast. This car is both." Amen.
STYLING: The new Jaguar XJL is, in my opinion, the best example of the contemporary automobile as art. Heck, the XJL's silver key fob looks as if it were made by Tiffany. The new Jag would be right at home in the "Allure of the Automobile" exhibit at the High Museum of Art in Atlanta, alongside the Duesenberg and the Pierce Arrow. Driving the new Jaguar XJL around Chattanooga, I encountered BMW and Lexus drivers tying their bodies in knots trying to get a better look. There is an opera-house classiness to the interior of the XJL, the "L" designating the long-wheelbase version of the rear-wheeldrive sedan. And a band of Satin-Elm veneer circles the cockpit. A gorgeous leather dash is accented by circular air vents with echoes of Art Deco styling. An 8-inch high definition screen - for navigation functions, backup camera and DVD play - bisects the dash.
PERFORMANCE: The XJL is so mesmerizingly beautiful that its scorching performance jolts you like a lightning bolt. This is a sub six-second 0-60 mph machine. On Chattanooga streets, the big V-8 engine effortlessly launched the XJL up steep hills. The naturally aspirated engine is rated at 385 horsepower, although a supercharged version packing 470 horsepower is also availablefor true driving enthusiasts.
BOTTOM LINE: People sometimes ask me: "What car would you buy if money were no object?" My standard response: "Money is always an object." Well, I've changed my mind. After spending a day with the XJL, I've decided this is the car I'd own if I won the lottery. As a bonus, Jaguar offers five years (or 50,000 miles) of free scheduled maintenance for the XJs. Mr. Able said the local Jaguar dealership hopes to have its first shipment of XJs for sale to the public by the end of May.
TESTED MODEL: 2011 Jaguar XJL.
ENGINE: 385 horsepower, V-8.
HIGHWAY: 22 mpg.
CITY: 15 mpg.
BASE PRICE: $78,650.
STICKER PRICE AS TESTED: $79,500.