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Published: 10/24/2013 - by Mike Monticello, Road Test Editor
A funny thing happened on our way to proclaiming the Jaguar XFR-S as the greatest sedan in the British marque's history. We drove the 2014 Jaguar XJR Long Wheelbase.
Not that we didn't enjoy our time with the flashy 550-horsepower 2014 XFR-S, with its monster brakes and even more monstrous rear wing. It captivated us with a raucous supercharged V8, on-demand burnouts and powerslides, and sublime twisty-road tenacity.
The problem is that the larger, quieter, more comfortable and classier Long Wheelbase Jaguar XJR (the old man's Jaguar) can do pretty much everything the XFR-S can do.
Maybe there's some kind of new, new math going on here that only the Brits understand. Because this doesn't add up.
Bigger, but Lighter
With 550 hp at 6,000 rpm from a direct-injected supercharged 5.0-liter V8, you'd think the XJR's goodness would begin and end with its engine. You'd be wrong.
Not that we mind 502 pound-feet of torque churning the XJR forward with instant neck-wrenching grunt from just 2,500 rpm. But what separates the XJR from the smaller XFR-S isn't what it has, but rather what its all-aluminum body structure doesn't have. Weight.
Get ready to be baffled: The XFR-S, which rides on a 114.5-inch wheelbase and measures 195.3 inches overall, tipped our scales at 4,382 pounds. The 2014 Jaguar XJR LWB, which rolls on a 124.3-inch wheelbase and takes up 206.8 inches bow to stern, weighed in at 4,351 pounds. That's 31 fewer pounds!
Bigger, but Faster
The lack of mass and the traction of a longer wheelbase translated into stunning acceleration times for the XJR, especially so considering this is a two-wheel-drive sedan distinctly lacking launch control. The sprint to 60 mph took just 4.1 seconds (3.8 seconds with a 1-foot rollout like at a drag strip), with the quarter-mile arriving in 12.1 seconds at 117.6 mph. The XFR-S was a tenth slower, though with a higher trap speed of 118.5 mph.
This, even though the XJR's ZF-built eight-speed paddle-shiftable automatic transmission takes its time going through the gears. The last Porsche Panamera Turbo S we tested, with all-wheel drive and a lickety-split-shifting PDK transmission, proved slightly quicker, clawing its way to 60 mph in 3.7 seconds and through the quarter in 11.9 seconds at 117.2 mph.
And it's out on a two-lane road, when you need to pass a line of big rigs, that you come to realize true luxury isn't just a sumptuous interior. But rather, it's the ability to summon huge bundles of XJR horsepower with barely more than half throttle.
Although the XJR wasn't put on this earth to go head to head with plug-in hybrids for fuel miserliness, Jag fitted the car with a standard stop-start system that automatically shuts the engine off at stoplights.
It's fairly seamless in operation, the engine firing back up the second you take your foot off the brake. One downside to the stop-start is that the air-conditioning can't keep up during shutdown on hot days. If the system annoys you, it can be turned off via the Eco button on the center stack.
The EPA rates the XJR LWB at 18 mpg combined (15 city/23 highway), which matches it well against the Audi S8, Mercedes-Benz S63 AMG, Porsche Panamera Turbo S and Maserati Quattroporte.
We averaged 16.7 mpg overall, but the 21.6 mpg we achieved on our 116-mile Edmunds test loop (using stop-start) showed what this car is capable of with a reasonably tepid right foot.
Besides the lightweight chassis, the 2014 Jaguar XJR comes standard with two other ultra-important facets: two-mode adjustable constantly adaptive dampers and hydraulic (not electric) power steering.
At our test track the big Jag produced only 0.86g circling the skid pad, but still turned in the best slalom we've recorded for an XJ at 66.6 mph. Neither figure will put fear into the Panamera Turbo S, which is good for 68.9 mph through the slalom and 0.96g lateral acceleration.
But the magic happens for the XJR LWB when you wick up the pace on a twisty road. It's there that the steering, which seemed a bit light at the test track, comes alive with a wonderfully intuitive nature. Wherever you point the XJR's leather-wrapped steering wheel is exactly where it will go, while the perfectly tuned dampers make it feel like a midsize sport sedan.
Throw the XJR into a corner and suddenly the cockpit seems to shrink and envelop you. The 5 extra inches of wheelbase and huge rear overhang are all but forgotten. All you think about is the steering's precision and feedback, and that nicely controlled powerslide at corner exit. Dynamic mode makes the throttle delivery a bit abrupt, but seriously, who would've guessed you could have this much fun in a car this large?
As with other Jags with adaptive dampers, the difference between Normal and Dynamic modes isn't that great. You can take high-speed sweepers in Normal and think nothing of it, or leave it in Dynamic mode on a city street without rattling your teeth loose.
That said, if you're expecting anything resembling a plush ride, you're buying the wrong XJ model. The suspension is never truly harsh, but it is taut and there's a palpable level of stiffness ensured by the car's structure, 30 percent stiffer springs and ultralow-profile rubber.
The XJR shares the same 15-inch front and 14.8-inch rear brake rotors clamped by two-piston front and single-piston rear calipers as the XFR-S, along with identically sized Pirelli P Zeros (265/35ZR20s up front and 295/30ZR20s at the rear). Yet once again the XJR outperformed the XFR-S, stopping from 60 mph in 105 feet versus 108.
Pedal travel was on the long side during hard back-road running, but there was never a lack of braking power. Around town pedal feedback was perfectly linear.
Blindingly Good Cabin
Unlike some of the more staid German marques, the XJR's interior is a vibrant mix of leather, carbon fiber and chrome. The workmanship is meticulous, without a squeak or rattle to be heard throughout our time with the car.
We particularly love the huge swiveling dash vents, which make it easy to direct air exactly where you want it. And you might not realize it at first because it's so good, but the XJR's instrument panel is in fact a virtual rendition of analog gauges. The 8-inch touchscreen makes it easy to navigate through the menus, but it should be a requirement that the navigation system in all cars this powerful show the current speed limit. Because you're probably exceeding it.
Some testers also noted that if the sun hits the chrome trim just right (or just wrong) it can temporarily blind you.
The seats offer the body-hugging bolstering you'd expect in a car with the XJR's need for speed, without sacrificing comfort. But the XJR's low-slung body forced Jag to be stingy with headroom, especially in the rear. That said, the LWB's extra 4.9 inches translate to near-limitless rear leg- and foot room.
As further proof of its split personality, the XJR is an utterly silent traveler. Our sound readings showed it to be several decibels quieter than the Panamera Turbo S at full-throttle and 70 mph top-gear cruising. Wind, road and tire noise are nearly nonexistent.
Starting at $119,895, including destination ($123,870 as tested), the 2014 Jaguar XJR LWB is considerably less costly than both the Mercedes-Benz S63 AMG and Porsche Panamera Turbo S. It's more of a driver's car than the big, heavy Benz. And while the Jag doesn't offer the all-out performance numbers of the Panamera, its graceful body slices a far prettier line through the air while also offering the purer thrills of rear-wheel drive.
Ultimately, what sets the 2014 Jaguar XJR LWB apart from its rivals are its uncanny do-all abilities. It's as quick as all but the priciest exotics and rips through back roads like a much smaller sport sedan, yet can still play the role of limousine with an inviting interior that manages to be both cozy and gigantic.
That it is one of the finest ultra sedans ever created is without question. And despite the XFR-S's statement and speed, we'll take the more subtle, versatile and quicker XJR. Suddenly, getting old just got a lot better.
The manufacturer provided Edmunds this vehicle for the purposes of evaluation.