Space, pace, grace remastered for the 21st century

2011 Jagaur XJL Supersport(Photo: Justin Couture)

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What is it?
You're looking at one of the fastest, classiest and most luxurious ways to transport four people. This is the ultimate version of Jag's flagship luxury sedan, and it's a spot-on demonstration of how progressive and dynamic a full-size luxury sedan can be.

What's new?
Just about everything, right down to the name. Where Jag's previous range-topper was the XJR, it's now called Supersport. Available in regular or long-wheelbase form, the XJ family has been completely redesigned for 2011. As with the last one, it's crafted from aluminum, but it's been completely modernized with achingly beautiful styling inside and out. The only thing that really isn't all-new is the powertrain; it's the 510-hp supercharged V8 and six-speed ZF automatic shared with the XKR and XFR high-performance models.

What's it like to drive?
Around town, the XJL Supersport cossets. With so much power and torque, it sighs away from stoplights, whisking passengers along in silence. Light and direct steering masks its limo-like length; only around tighter urban streets do you really become aware of how long it is. As you luxuriate in the sound of its phenomenal 1,200-watt B&W sound system, massaging air conditioned front seats, leather-lined roof, and wooden fold-down trays, there's nothing to indicate exactly what kind of performance is there. The only thing preventing it from earning top marks as a limo is its slightly fidgety ride; even in its most comfortable setting, the adaptive suspension never completely settles down.

Feed it open road and the XJL seamlessly transforms into a completely different vehicle. Foot the floor, the XJ lunges with the ferocity of the XFR (not surprising, given it weighs as much as an XFR), the heart-melting raspy V8 sound filling the cabin. But it isn't just the engine or the rapid-fire pace of the rev-matched downshifts from the automatic gearbox that make the Supersport so special. It's the way it moves down the road.

That slightly bothersome ride quality is a token price to pay for remarkable dynamic prowess. On top of the communicative steering, the Supersport-exclusive active limited-slip differential keeps things tidy when deploying its massive 461 lb.-ft. reserve of torque. Body control is excellent, as is stopping performance. The result is an astonishing shrinking effect: the faster you go, the smaller it feels, instilling in you the sort of confidence you'd never expect from a large sedan. And while you might think that rough roads would send the big-wheeled Jag skittering, it glides over weathered backroads planted and unflustered.

Should you buy one?
If you've got the $131,000 Jaguar asks, absolutely. Few cars look or feel this special — it's worth it on style alone. But what really sells the car is how it drives. Unlike so many über-limos that specialize solely in silent, high-speed cruising, the Supersport's repertoire includes ride and handling that encourages you to seek out and, most importantly, enjoy corners. Driving this large sedan is truly as engaging as it is genuinely entertaining.

2011 Jaguar XJL Supersport
Base price / As-tested: $131,000 / $131,000
Type of vehicle: RWD full-size luxury sedan
Engine: 5.0 L, 32-valve, DOHC V8 supercharged
Power/Torque: 510 hp / 461 lb.-ft.
Transmission: Six-speed automatic
Fuel consumption (city/hwy/as-tested): 18.3 / 8.7 / 14.7 L/100 km
Competition: Aston Martin Rapide, BMW Alpina B7, Maserati Quattroporte, Mercedes-Benz S63 AMG, Porsche Panamera Turbo

QUICK SPIN SUMMARY

PROS
Gorgeously styled, inside and out
Bar-setting dynamics
Supercar-challenging power

CONS
Unabashedly thirsty
Ride a touch fidgety
Supersport trim is special-order only