?How much?? the convenience store clerk asked me.
Which kind of confused me. I had come up to the counter with a pack of gum and was about to ask him the same thing.
He nodded towards the window.
I turned and saw that he was looking at the Jaguar XJL, artfully posed in the parking lot, resplendent in Polaris White, gleaming glass and chrome, an icon of class and luxury shimmering in the spring sun.
?About $100K plus,? I rounded off in reply.
His eyebrows went up a bit, but not enough to wipe the wistful look off his face.
It was an expression I was becoming familiar with.
The Jaguar had been turning heads all over town as it powered past traffic in a permanent state of unruffled elegance, like some great basking shark gliding through schools of lesser fish.
It was ?large and in charge?, as they say, especially this elongated L version with a 125 mm (5 in) stretch in both wheelbase and overall length, lending it the kind of long lines and gravitas reserved in other automotive eras for deluxe land barges like the Cadillac Fleetwood, Buick Roadmaster, or anything at all by Rolls-Royce.
This latest generation version of the Jaguar XJ debuted in 2011. Last year?s 2013 model made significant improvements, adding a new ZF eight-speed sport automatic transmission across the entire lineup, along with the addition of a new 340 hp 3.0-litre supercharged V6 version.
For 2014, in addition to the supercharged 3.0-litre V6 model, the Jaguar XJ lineup also offers a 470 hp supercharged 5.0-litre V8 in the XJ Supercharged and an even more powerful 550 hp supercharged 5.0-litre V8 in the all-new XJR that replaces last year?s XJ Supersport.
All three versions come in the two wheelbase choices – Standard Wheelbase (SWB) or Long Wheelbase (LWB).
As tested here, our XJL 3.0 model features the all-aluminum supercharged V6 engine that replaces last year?s normally aspirated 5.0-litre V8.
Thanks to direct injection, dual independent variable cam timing and a Roots-type twin vortex supercharger, the V6 steps up with a healthy dose of applicable power, harnessing 340 hp at 6,500 rpm along with a broad sweep of torque peaking at 332 lb/ft between 3,500-5,000 rpm.
The V6 gets up to speed quickly with a suitably feline roar snarling from the engine and tailpipes. And it knocks out respectable acceleration times of 0-100 km/h in 6.4 seconds.
Fuel economy is rated at 13.2/8.1L/100km (city/hwy), getting some benefit from an Intelligent Auto Stop/Start system that reduces idle time. Because this system was occasionally negated by the cold temperatures of our early spring test period, and maybe because I was having a little too much fun finding out just how well the V6 accelerates up to speed, my tests offered a more realistic fuel economy average of 13.6L/100km (comb).
This V6 version has proved popular, not just because of its entry-level positioning, but also because it is the only XJ powertrain offered with Jaguar?s all-wheel-drive system, a particularly appealing combination for Canadian customers.
The Instinctive All Wheel Drive System is an active torque monitoring system. It will normally send almost all engine power to the rear wheels to maximize fuel economy and to maintain the steering feel and sport agility that drivers expect from a premium sport sedan.
The system will, however, preload the front wheels from a standing start for better acceleration and will also send up to 50 per cent of power to the front wheels if the rear wheels slip due to any loss of traction.
The all wheel drive system also works in conjunction with Jaguar?s standard Adaptive Dynamics active damping system and the JaguarDrive control mounted on the console, blending power proportions, suspension traits and transmission shift points through three mode choices – Normal for leisurely comfortable cruising, Dynamic for sportier, crisper responses and a Winter mode that defaults to a 30/70 torque split between the front/rear wheels under slippery driving conditions.
And all these technologies are blended in with further dynamic assists designed to maintain an edge of sport agility, even with a full suite of accompanying amenities and standard luxury items.
As tested here, our 2014 Jaguar XJL AWD ($96,490) adds options like a Visibility Package ($850), big 20-inch Kasuga wheels ($3,500), a heated front windscreen ($300), 825-watt Meridian Surround Sound system ($2,500) and, especially significant in this rear passenger-oriented long wheelbase version, a Premium Rear Executive Package ($7,750) featuring two individual heated rear seats with memory and message functions, fold-down business tray tables with leather inserts, and a dual-screen Rear Seat Entertainment system with Touch-screen remote control and wireless headsets.
That all adds up to an as-tested price of $113,440
The Jaguar XJ lineup contends in a very competitive segment against the BMW 7 Series, Mercedes-Benz S-Class and Audi 8, models that are arguably as good or better.
But, as common as those Teutonic competitors have become, the XJ lineup continues to offers something just a little bit different – the distinctive Jaguar brand cachet and a unique take on a full-size prestige offering, blending limo-like luxuries, passenger-oriented comfort and the latest technologies with the heart and soul of a sports sedan.
(Jaguar XJL 3.0 AWD Portfolio 2014 at a glance
BODY STYLE: Full-size luxury sedan
ENGINE: 3.0-litre V6 supercharged (340 hp, 332 lb/ft)
DRIVE METHOD: front engine, all-wheel-drive.
CARGO: 520 litres.
FUEL ECONOMY: 13.3/8.1L/100km (city/hwy)
PRICE: XJL 3.0 AWD Portfolio $96,490; as tested $113,440