By on November 18, 2011

Location: John Dodge mansion, Detroit

Editor’s note: The car pictured is not a long-wheelbase model, which is the only “Portfolio” model sold in the US. We are looking into the discrepancy.

When Jaguar of North America informed me that I’d be getting a 2012 XJL Portfolio for review, my first reaction was to engage in some mental bench racing. How would the new XJ compare to the smaller but more powerful XF Supercharged that I tested just about a year ago, and how would it compare to my dearly departed Series III XJ, considered by many Jaguar enthusiasts to be the finest of the traditional XJs. On both counts the 2012 XJ comes out favorably in the comparison.

The XJ Portfolio is the fully equipped long version of the XJ. While other luxury car makers have introduced “L” versions of their sedans, in part to serve the Chinese market where the person who owns the luxury car is likely to be riding in back, Jaguar has been offering long wheelbase XJs for decades. Other than a small handful of options like back seat entertainment and the two available supercharged engines, the test model had just about every luxury, convenience and safety feature that Jaguar offers. With transportation charges, as tested it comes in at just a tick over $82K.

Location: Charles Fisher (Fisher Body) mansion, Detroit

The Portfolio package, a $4,000 option, gives you an additional 5” of wheelbase, heated and cooled 20-way power front seats with massage, heated and cooled rear seats, navy blue leather trim with detail stitching and contrasting gray piping, suedecloth headliner and trim, plus four zone climate control with individual controls for the back seat passengers. The front seats store up to three position memories. You also get front fender vents with “Portfolio” badges. Twenty inch “Orona” style wheels, @ $875 ea. complete the optional equipment. A no charge option is your choice of wood trim, which sweeps from one back door around the front of the cabin to the other back door. The test car was trimmed in a satin finished burled elm veneer, book matched left to right. The console is finished in “piano black”, and tasteful thin shiny chrome trim surrounds many of the interior elements.

Location: Walter Briggs (Briggs Body Co.) mansion, Detroit. Briggs competed fiercely with the Fisher brothers but they were neighbors in life and are also buried near each other. I’m not sure that body maker Charles Fisher would have appreciated the Pontiac Aztek parked behind his house.

Standard equipment includes Jaguar’s base V8, with 5.0 liters displacement, making 385 HP, driving through a six-speed automatic by ZF, with paddle shifters that are activated when you turn the round Jaguar shifter to the Sport position. Stability control is standard as is a winter mode control. Every XJ comes with what Jaguar calls a “panoramic” glass roof.

That’s Henry and Clara’s place in the background. Note the green historical marker.

While the entire roof panel may be glass, the view from inside is not really panoramic. In addition to a normal sized venting sunroof over the front seats, rear passengers have a smaller fixed glass panel that can be exposed.

Blind spot monitors (which seem to be not as hypersensitive or distracting as the system on the 2011 XF), multiple air bags and active head restraints are among the standard safety features. Infotainment is handled by an audiophile quality Bowers & Wilkins audio system with Bluetooth, iPod and USB connectivity, a 30 gig hard drive, and a navigation system, controlled through a 8 inch touch screen that is as frustrating as every reviewer says it is. The XJ comes standard with a smart key and a power trunk lid. Customers and reviewers love the XF’s “handshaking” ritual, wherein the shift knob rises from the console and the HVAC vents rotate to an open position. The XJ has a more traditional looking dashboard design, so to give us a little theater, in addition to the rising shifter when you power up, when you unlock the doors, the side mirrors rotate from their retracted parking position.

I’ve been around computers for more than two decades and I’m usually pretty good at intuiting how to use digital devices but I found the nav system to be not particularly intuitive. It took me a few aborted efforts to figure out how to get it to accept a destination once the address was entered. Well, once I managed to enter the address. The touch screen reacts slowly and you’re never entirely sure each time you press a “button” that it’s going to work. Sometimes a small light touch will work, other times you have to practically jab your thumb at it. Also, it’s much easier changing modes from the steering wheel controls than using the mode buttons on the touch screen. They are so close to the bottom of the screen that the frame gets in your way. Fortunately for most of the basic audio and HVAC functions there are actual buttons and knobs. I’m a smartphone newbie so I can’t tell you much about phone connectivity beyond the fact that once connected the XJ’s infotainment system easily accessed music on my Samsung Android and the fact that it was much easier to get my phone to connect to the car than the other way around. Bottom line is that I was able to get all the infotainment functions to work and in the case of the audio system, work very well indeed, but the touch screen is a chore. Perhaps because the rest of the car is so good the touch screen and nav system stand out like a sore thumb. Either way, it detracts from an otherwise enjoyable driving experience.

The instrument panel is a TFT display, with virtual gauges. There are a couple of things that I don’t like about the interior, though I suppose that I’m picking nits to do so. I don’t like the way the big round HVAC vents look. They function better than most, with almost infinite adjustment, but I just don’t like how they look. The other thing is that I’d rather Jaguar had fitted proper analog gauges, at least a real speedo and tach. The virtual instruments look out of place, almost faddish in an otherwise traditional looking interior. I realize the need for digital displays these days, but I think that Jaguar could have put two smaller TFT screens flanking real gauges. Also, if you’re going to go with virtual gauges, at least sync the tachometer and speedometer indicators. One of the cool things about my old XJ was that at traffic speeds the tach and speedo needles were parallel and pretty much moved in sync as you went faster. If Jaguar could do that with mechanical gauges in the mid 1980s, I think they could do it with a virtual digital display. As is au courant in luxury cars, there’s an analog clock in the center of the dash that’s supposed to remind us of expensive wrist watches. Perhaps ironically, the analog clock is set digitally through the touch screen. Press “set” and the hands start spinning to the correct time.

Note how the grain in the burled elm wood trim is book matched left to right.

Quality control can be meaningless when it comes to prepped press fleet cars, but with that caveat, there were few noticeable flaws in the review car. Sometimes I could feel something moving around inside the driver’s seat back, perhaps it was part of the built in massager, and the back window glass slopes so that there is some visual distortion that makes objects look shorter and wider than they are. Fit and finish was as you’d expect in a car of this price. Other than some rather convincing looking vinyl on the door kick panels, just about everything you touch and see in the interior was once alive, sourced either from a cow or a tree. The leather trim shows signs of being fitted by real human beings. I see those slight imperfections as a good thing. The car smells like a leather jacket factory. That’s not hyperbole – my day gig is embroidery and every couple of months or so I trek down to Reed Sportwear to buy big leather scraps to use for motorcycle patches. I’m sure that my friends at Reed would admire the quality of the Jaguar’s leatherwork.

The XJ doesn’t just smell good, it feels good too. Car interiors are designed to fit just about 99% of people. If you can’t get those 20-way seats to find you a comfortable position, you’re probably in the 99th percentile. My bad back appreciated the inflatable lumbar support and massager. My love handles the inflatable bolsters, not so much. Those wealthy Chinese riding in the back will appreciate the longer wheelbase. Again, if you don’t have enough room sitting back there it’s probably because there’s a 99th percentile person sitting in the front seat. I can’t tell you how much that sloping roof affects headroom because at 5’6″, I always have enough headroom. Room for my ego? That’s a different question. I could get very used to driving this car.

The XJ is a fabulous looking car inside and out. That’s not just my opinion. Everyone who saw it just gushed with enthusiasm. While driving the XJ, I noticed that people noticed the car. More than one person came up to talk to me about it. The car makes a visual statement. The XJ is a big car to begin with and this stretched version came in an impossible to miss Polaris white paint.

After a week of driving, the painted alloy wheels were streaked with black brake dust.

Customers who opt for this color should invest in a coupon book at their neighborhood car wash because the bright white finish shows every tiny little bit of dirt. That’s a problem because like the XF I drove last year the XJ sheds brake dust like a Siberian Husky sheds undercoat in the spring. The big rims are painted in two shades of grey, perhaps to camouflage the dust. Or perhaps not, because it doesn’t really hide much of the dirt. Also, some of that dust ends up on the white paint. It’s a shame, because it’s really a beautiful car and its lines look great in white. Of course, in exchange for all that brake dust you get pretty effective anchors. It took a day or two of driving to get used to the somewhat sensitive pedal, but after that the brakes were easy to modulate and they retard your speed quickly. Use the brakes hard and the ABS will kick in, a bit earlier than I expected, but it’s not intrusive.

Location: Edward Fisher (Fisher Body) mansion, Detroit

It’s not perfect. On a white car Ian Callum’s rather notorious black sail panels that visually extend the rear glass from port to starboard are hard not to notice. I’ve never really objected to them as some folks have, since I get what Callum’s team was trying to do, but I understand those objections. Perhaps if the bottom edge of the window and those panels had extended couple of inches farther down, eliminating the slightly awkward little curl where the body meets the back edge of the side glass, there’d be fewer complaints, but I’m not going to lecture Ian Callum about car design beyond saying that I like or don’t like.

Speaking of the side glass, all things considered, visibility is good. The small window behind the rear doors really helps with your blind spot. I said all things considered because this is a modern high waisted high assed car, like just about every other sedan and coupe being made today. Between the high back deck and sloping roofline that distorted rear window only fills up about half of the rear view mirror, so the standard backup camera does come in handy.

Location: Mayer Prentis (longtime GM treasurer, Alfred Sloan’s right hand man) home, Detroit

The high beltline affects both the height of the back deck and the height of the front cowl. How high is it? Well, my big sister tells me that from the back seat I look like my dad when I drive, right hand bent over the top of the steering wheel, left elbow on the window ledge. Perhaps if I was six inches taller the window ledge might not be so uncomfortably high to use as an armrest. As it is, it looks like I’m trying to do the Funky Chicken. I should say, though, that the leather covered armrest on the door worked just fine. The high cowl, accentuated by that wood trim as it runs under the windshield, means that a short person like myself doesn’t have a prayer of seeing the front end of the car.

Location: Alfred O. Dunk home, Detroit

Still, that didn’t seem to be a problem, mostly because the XJ handles very well for a large car. Scratch that. It handles very well period. It doesn’t really feel like you’re driving such a big car. The fact that you can’t really see the corners of the car don’t really matter because it just goes where you steer it. All in all, I think the XJ may be a better handling car than the XF. The XF Supercharged had all of the XFR’s suspension upgrades, and according to published tests it’s a little bit quicker than the XJ Portfolio in the slalom. Ultimately the XF Supercharged is a bit more sporting, with less body roll, but the XJ Portfolio is more balanced. In long wheelbase form the XJ is a much larger car than the XF, about 10 inches of wheelbase and overall length, but its turning radius is only a foot wider than that of the XF. My perception is also that the steering on the XJ has a faster turn in than the XF. Not so quick that it makes the car feel darty, but once you get past 2 or 3 degrees from dead center, the car moves laterally with alacrity. This is one big car that can definitely get out of its own way. The speed sensitive power steering is very nicely weighted, with the right amount of effort in every case I experienced. The car is a pleasure to drive either sedately or with more vigor. It will waft with the best of them or alternatively, put the car into “dynamic” mode, which adjusts shock absorber settings and changes drivetrain mapping, and carve to your heart’s content. The XJ Portfolio has a lot of grip, the same .9g skidpad results as the XF Supercharged. I had to look up that figure because I don’t have a Traqmate or some other testing gizmo, but all of us have our own unofficial real world proving grounds. *Doing 60 on Providence Drive is pretty good, particularly with no tire noises or drifting. Though it doesn’t have the supercharged models’ active differential, the rear end is well controlled and when the dynamic stability control activates, it does so with little fuss. You have to try to break the rear end loose, and when you succeed, the DSC steps in quickly and fairly unobtrusively.  Alternatively, you can just deactivate the stability control and let it hang out. Even then, there’s enough grip that you have to work at getting the back end to slide. The ABS also shows a level of refinement that you might not find in cars at a lower price point. The XJ never seemed out of sorts. It drives with the composure that a longtime XJ fan expects from the marque.

Location: James Couzens (FoMoCo business manager & Ford partner) mansion

One of the things I was interested in finding out was if the stock 385HP engine was stout enough for the biggest cat Jaguar makes. The XF Supercharged had 85 more horsepower, a non-trivial delta. It turns out, though, that there is more than adequate power to endanger your driver’s license. The new XJ is Jaguar’s most modern architecture and the body is all aluminum, magnesium and polymer composites. The XF is highly ferrous by comparison. That means that the XJ Portfolio that I drove, at just over 4200 lbs, actually weighs about 100 lbs less than the smaller XF Supercharged. Though acceleration is not as instantaneous as with the smaller, blown Jaguar, you’re still capable of doing 90 mph without thinking about it as you enter the freeway. If Providence Drive is suitable for testing cars’ handling, the northbound Southfield freeway just north of Eight Mile Rd just before the expressway ends is great for short high speed runs. Detroit PD doesn’t patrol north of 8 Mile and Southfield cops generally won’t go all the way south to 8 Mile just to do traffic surveillance on 1 mile of expressway. So you have about a mile where you can open it up as much as you are willing to do, traffic allowing of course. The XJ Portfolio is still accelerating at 115. I have no doubt that it will pull hard all the way to its electronically limited top speed of 148 mph.

Attention was paid to weight (aluminum wheel for spare tire) and weight distribution (battery mounted in the trunk).

There are signs of attention to reducing weight from front to back and in between. Under the hood, you can see the lightweight castings that are used for the suspension towers. Next to the trunk mounted battery is a dedicated space saving spare tire, with its own aluminum wheel. The body panels are a mix of aluminum and composites. Jaguar did a fine job getting uniform paint color over multiple substrates.

Location: Ty Cobb home, Detroit

There is one aspect of the XJ that it unfortunately shares with the XF Supercharged that I tested last year. Right off of dead idle, throttle response is kind of flaky. After a week with the car I decided it was probably a combination of throttle and transmission mapping to keep MPGs high. I believe that under normal circumstances, the transmission starts out in 2nd gear. At least it starts out in second when you switch it to sport mode and activate the paddle shifters so I assume that from stops, the car starts in second. You step on the gas pedal and the car kind of sits there for a fraction of a second till you get past that point on the throttle. If you’re real sedate you might not notice it, and if you drive with a lead foot you probably won’t either, but if you drive like Goldilocks, it almost feels like a stumble, almost. It’s not something that would keep me from buying the car, but it is out of character with Jaguar’s sporting ways.

Location: Henry Ford mansion, Detroit. It should be noted that the Ford Motor Co. was a success before the Model T. Completed in 1908, Ford started building this home before he introduced the T.

The XJ Portfolio also had a firmer ride than I expected. Once you enter the freeway, that’s really where the XJ’s ride quality shines and it evokes memories of older XJs, but with a suspension tuned for drivers, those 20” rims give the XJ a ride on Detroit’s frost heaved roads that is surprisingly firm for a luxury car. Not harsh, but definitely on the harder edge of firm. It would be interesting to drive the XJ with 19” wheels to see if there’s a substantial difference in urban ride quality.

Perforations allow some engine noise to reach the cabin. Big cats gotta growl.

Jaguars are luxury cars for enthusiasts so they don’t entirely isolate you from what’s going on outside. There’s a little bit of road noise from the huge back tires, and there’s a perforated panel under the hood that lets some engine noise into the cabin. Still, the car cossets you in its own way. I could get very used to driving this car.

Location: Horace Rackham (FoMoCo lawyer and investor) mansion. Built in 1907, a year before the Model T was introduced. Ford and his partners were rich even before they put the world on wheels.

Once out on the open interstate or on winding back country roads the skill of Jaguar’s chassis tuners shows through. On the highway, the XJ Portfolio has all of the grace of old school XJs, though with a bit more pace, and at least as much space. On winding roads, the XJ is surefooted, quick, and will bring a smile to your face.

Gas mileage was about what you’d expect from a two ton car with almost 400 horses. I averaged 16.2 mpg for a bit more than a tank of gas, though most of that was not highway driving. Judging by the instantaneous readings, on the highway you should get into the 20s, maybe 25 mpg if you lightfoot it. EPA ratings are 16/23.

The suspension towers are lightweight castings that are fastened to the aluminum superstructure.

Not having driven a recent S klasse Mercedes, 7 Series BMW or LS from Lexus I can’t tell you how the XJ Portfolio stacks up against its direct competitors. I can say that if I could afford any of those cars, the XJ would definitely be on my short list. Yes, the infotainment system is a bit clunky, but ultimately I judge a car on it’s utility and its dynamics.  The XJ Portfolio is such an engaging car in terms of performance and handling, the comfort and aesthetics so well executed, that the question of how easy the touch screen is to use becomes almost irrelevant. We all know the Lucas, Prince of Darkness jokes and historical downsides to British cars, but at the same time the Jaguar brand and in particular the XJ has always stood for a uniquely British take on sporting luxury. A few flaws notwithstanding, the 2012 XJ Portfolio is a great Jaguar, a great XJ and should be considered by anyone in the market for a full size luxury sedan.

*Very late at night with no other traffic.

Jaguar of North America provided the car for a week, insurance and a tank of premium gasoline. Detroit’s historic Boston-Edison district provided most of the backdrops for the photos, which are courtesy of Cars In Depth.

Get the latest TTAC e-Newsletter!


52 Comments on “Review: 2012 Jaguar XJL Portfolio...”

  • avatar
    dvp cars

    ……”cops generally won’t go to 8 Mile Rd.”………they will now, once they read about Bonneville runs on their beat…….sounds like a nice car. That bright orange alloy spare tire has to be a first, I’ll bet the other luxury brands are frantically readying a response.

    • 0 avatar

      I believe I’ve decided on a colour for my old Volvo wagon’s winter wheels before they go on in the next week or two. Should clash beautifully with the teal and maroon paintwork.

    • 0 avatar

      Saab has painted their space-saver spares bright red since at least the 90s, Porsche has too. I think the idea behind it is that it calls attention to the spare and shames the owner into getting it replaced ASAP, instead of rolling around on it forever like one of Murilee’s hoopties.

      • 0 avatar
        dvp cars

        ….sbrnt…correct me if I’m wrong, but no maker has ever supplied a purpose built multi-spoke alloy mini spare before this. I think the engineering dept. responsible for spare tires needs it’s budget cut back a little. OTOH, they look great, wonder what else they’ll fit!

      • 0 avatar

        @dvp cars

        no, Porsche has had unique alloy spares before. if they need to save a few lbs to maintain a weight class for mpg reasons, doing an alloy wheel is one way to get there. in the case of a 911, getting weight off the nose might have been important to maintaining weight where they wanted it. there might also be situations where the amount of offset required for a given application can’t easily be supported with a steel wheel.

      • 0 avatar

        Even my lowly Focus SVT came with an alloy space saver. But mine’s black, so I can use it hoop tie style.

      • 0 avatar

        Mazda has also long used a unique aluminum spare wheel since the 2nd generation RX-7 in 1986.

    • 0 avatar

      Great review — thanks!

      I’m looking forward to picking up one of these as an <$20k used car in a couple of years.

    • 0 avatar
      Sam P

      This is Detroit. I imagine the cops there are busy with real crime.

      • 0 avatar
        dvp cars

        …Sam P….”cops are busy with real crime”…..sadly, you’re probably right……but after a shift of cleaning up after lowlife mayhem, nothing quite makes a cop’s day like busting a fat cat in a foreign luxury car (no personal slur intended to Ronnie, I have no idea of his size, although he did mention love handles….quite a risque reference in a non-Baruth article!).

      • 0 avatar

        No Baruthian thrusting here.

  • avatar

    I’d still rather have a small fleet of Series III XJs. It is going to take some time for this car and this engine to reach the iconic status of the old car.

    I’m also surprised that Michigan isn’t covered with snow yet.

    • 0 avatar

      A few light flurries today. Been in the mid 30s. We’ve had a pretty mild fall but winter’s coming. You can feel it. Also, the photos were taken last week.

      I love the traditional Jaguars, and you will always arrive in style in a Series III XJ, but I can’t say that there’s anything that a classic XJ does that the new car doesn’t do at least just as well. The older car has a silkier smooth ride, but I attribute that more to wheel size than anything else. Put 20s on an old XJ and it’ll ride a little harsh too.

      Of course for the price of one new XJ, you can buy about a dozen Series III cars in show quality shape.

  • avatar

    I want a car I can see out of. And I’m not talking about the sky.

  • avatar

    The white paint does this whale shaped car no favors at all. Doesn’t the digital dash and analog clock strike you as a bit ironic? Gauges should be elegant in a luxury car. The clock doesn’t matter, not unless it’s one of those 1982 Lexus clocks anyway.

    If I had a choice between this and the S8, I wouldn’t hesitate even for a second. S8, no ands, ifs, or buts.

  • avatar

    I almost do not care what its shortcomings are. I think it is the handsomest sedan ever built. I plan having one in three years when it will cost about 45% of what it does new (assuming it lasts that long).

  • avatar

    Looks like a cross between a Hudson Hornet and a Buick Lucerne. And those hockey stick taillights completely lose any connection with Jags of the past–and the center AC vents + the clock + the Nav screen looks like some sort of mudskipper staring at you.

    Really now, make the design committee about 80% smaller and start over.

    • 0 avatar

      Okay, people have been joking about Buicks and Jaguars since the 1980s at least, but other than the high beltline, just what does it have in common with the Hudson Hornet?

      More Hudsons here:

      • 0 avatar

        It’s in the roofline and rear quarter treatment.

        This was bone stock from the factory.

      • 0 avatar

        Okay, I see where you’re going there, but disagree with the extent of the similarity. You could probably say the same about a lot of contemporary cars with coupe-like fastback sloping roofs.

        The side glass has a similar outline, true, and the Hornet has a high beltline and relatively narrow glass, like the XJ but the XJ is ultimately a wedge with a high tail. The Hudson Hornet still has what Virgil Exner Sr. called a tail-dragging rear end that slopes down. Exner used fins to visually raise the back end. The Hornet has essentially the same body shape as bathtub Porsches.

  • avatar

    Beautiful car, and I’m enjoying the pictures of the mansions.
    Thanks for posting.

  • avatar

    Sure enjoy those photos of the mansions of the erstwhile potentates of Detroit. Are they in the city, or one or more suburbs? You see so much bad news about Detroit that it’s nice to be reminded there are good things there.

    • 0 avatar

      Think these are in the City or within spitting distance of the city limits. In he days before the big wheels moved out to Bloomfield Hills and the Grosse Pointes ipa Detroit address was nothing to be ashamed of.

      To be honest, I was shocked that these homes were in such good condition. Sadly, although these are not te only good houses in better neighborhoods, these represent the extreme tip on the good end of the bell curve. At the other end, take the area around the abandoned since 50 years Packard factory, some neighborhoods have streets and sidewalks but where homes used to stand, only lots filled with weeds and rubbish remain.

      • 0 avatar


        I don’t want to use the word “mostly” but driving around Detroit my primary impression is one of emptiness. Yes, Boston-Edison, Rosedale Park, Indian Village, those are viable neighborhoods but a few blocks away in every case is urban prarie and burned out hulks. Most of the homes in Boston Edison are maintained, but if you look at the left side of the James Couzens’ home, owned by an absentee landlord who lives in NYC, you’ll see that the archway/balcony needs repair and is falling down. You’ll also notice the caretaker in the doorway who was not happy with me taking those pictures. Still, Boston Edison is nowhere near the old Packard Palnt but just a few blocks north is Highland Park.

        I wasn’t worried about getting carjacked but driving the new XJ through Highland Park I got the same feeling that I get when I ride my bicycle past someone in a wheelchair.

    • 0 avatar

      In the city, about 5 miles south of Eight Mile Rd. just off of Woodward.,+Detroit,+MI&hl=en&ll=42.333423,-83.043251&spn=0.191871,0.308647&sll=42.482504,-83.197482&sspn=0.011963,0.01929&vpsrc=6&hnear=Boston-Edison+Historic+District,+Detroit,+Wayne,+Michigan&t=h&z=12

  • avatar
    Andy D

    Get that Buick off my lawn. Another ex- Series III owner. IMO the prettiest Jaguar made.

    • 0 avatar

      Actually, I wanted a rear 3/4 shot of the car and realized that the Edward Fisher mansion was ideal. I didn’t want to trespass, however in America there’s nothing wrong with parking on someone’s drive and walking up to the door to ask if you can take some pictures. If the home owner had said no, I would have thanked them and left. Since they weren’t home, on my way back to the driver’s seat I detoured around the back of the car and got the shots I wanted.

  • avatar

    Am I the only one who sees an Optima from the side?

  • avatar

    What strikes me funny is that most of these “mansions” of the early 20th century look to be 2500-3500 square feet – not much bigger than a modern “middle class house”.

    I felt the same way when I first saw Graceland, too.

    • 0 avatar

      It depends on the home. The Ty Cobb home is closer to the size you mentioned. The Ford, Fisher, Briggs, Rackham and Couzens homes are genuine mansions, most about 6,000 to 8,000 square feet I’d imagine. The Edward Fisher home has to be close to 10,000. Most of those homes are about as deep as they are wide. The carriage houses / garages for the Ford and Rackham homes are the size of a small home.

      FWIW, the Dodge Mansion is tiny compared to Meadow Brook, the next home John Dodge built. Horace Dodge’s Rose Terrace in Grosse Pointe was also immense. Ford’s Fair Lane wasn’t a large as the Dodge mansions or as Edsel’s home on the north edge of Grosse Pointe but it was still a sustantial home.

      As I mentioned in the captions, these are the homes that Ford and Dodge bought when they were merely rich, after their first flush of success, not fabulously wealthy. Ford wasn’t comfortable with ostentatious diplays of wealth, though he obviously lived well. The Dodges liked to show off their money a bit more, with storybook homes and expensive yachts.

      Edsel built his estate way over on the other side of town from Fair Lane. Eleanor also buried him in Woodlawn, near his friend Roy Chapin, not in the Ford family cemetery were Henry was going to be planted. The family felt that Henry mistreated Edsel, which he did, by constantly cutting him down in front of others, saying that he was “soft”. At the same time, Henry was a doting father who had a machine shop built above the Edison street home’s garage so that a teen age Edsel could fiddle with cars. Henry also bought Edsel Lincoln. Not just a Lincoln, but the Lincoln Motor company.

  • avatar

    there are quite a few large homes in Palmer Woods, near the 8 mile/Woodward intersection, including the 40k sq ft Bishop’s residence built for the Fisher brothers who gave it to the Archdiocese in 1925 when it was completed. there are a few other 10k+ sq ft mansions as well, one which is for sale currently, ~$700k last time I checked.

    the neighborhood is full of 5k+ sq ft houses which have infinitely more character than any crap-built McMansion in the endless swath of characterless suburbs outside of the city (and all over the place everywhere else of course).

    it’s also a neighborhood which has not really seen the decay of other areas of the city. it’s experienced some loss of home values, but many people there have been long time residents and don’t see the need to move, I can understand why.

    as noted in this article in The Atlantic from earlier this year, there were some isolated issues here & there, but it’s quite safe and really a neat place to live :

    • 0 avatar

      Red pop or Rock ‘n Rye?

      Just to point out to the non Detroiters, Palmer Woods is a few miles north on Woodward from the Boston Edison district where I took these photos (other than the interior shots which I took outside my home). I don’t know who owns the archdiocese’s home. When John Salley played for the Pistons, he owned it. Apparently it was built with 10 foot ceilings. The XF Supercharged review that I wrote last year had photos taken in Palmer Woods, including, I believe, the Fisher/archdiocese/Salley house.

      Parts of Detroit are as unsafe as a war zone (literally, there were about 3,300 people murdered in Detroit from 2003 through 2010, almost as many as there were US military personnel killed in Iraq during the same period). Other parts are safer than the average US city. Downtown is exceptionally safe – 37% less crime than the US avg. Palmer Woods and some of the other nice neighborhoods left in the city also have fairly low crime.

  • avatar

    “Am I the only one who sees an Optima from the side?” No, its the first thing I thought of too. This thing is an embarrassment to the the classic XJs of the past. It will not age well.

    • 0 avatar

      I think embarrassment is a bit strong. Jaguar had to make a clean break with the traditional XJ because though the newest trad XJ, the ’03 I think, was a completely new car, with advanced aluminum construction, and pretty sophisticated, hardly anyone, including XJ fans like myself, could tell it from the previous model. In the eyes of people that buy BMW 7s and M-B S Klasse cars, the XJ looked old fashioned.

      My experience is that most traditional XJ enthusiasts like the new car. I like it and owned an XJ. I’ll have to ask Baruth his opinion but I haven’t heard him dis the new XJ and he’s also a classic XJ fan. Is the new car a great, classic design? That will take time to tell. Probably not but it’s a good looking car that stands out in a good way from the Audis and BMWs. Do I like it as much as the Series III, no, but then this is 2011, not 1986. I do think it’s a handsome car. Other Jaguar fans have said likewise. Ian Callum decided to become a car designer when he saw his first XJ in 1968. In talking to him personally and reading his published comments, it’s clear that he loves the classic XJ. What car enthusiast doesn’t? I’d be shocked if he did something that he thought diminished the XJ’s heritage.

      Taste, though, is as personal as it gets. I can’t see many people, though, that would be embarrassed to be seen in the new XJ.

      • 0 avatar

        I made the comment a while ago that I wished Jaguar would have released this new, more modern car as the “XH” or something like that and then just kept on making the old, traditional XJ until the end of time.

        Kind of like Mercedes offering both the CLS and E or how Land Rover sells Evoque next to the LR4/Discovery.

  • avatar

    Great review of the mansions, thank you!

    As to the car. Gorgeous inside and out. Cast towers. Gorgeous.

    I may see it wrong, but on the S class the engine is much more forward vis a vis the front axle, maybe the towers lean aft more than Jag’s.

    Looks like a bargain next to s350 and 740 considering the interior materials.

  • avatar

    “…the 2012 XJ Portfolio is a great Jaguar”- that is high praise indeed.
    “And those hockey stick taillights completely lose any connection with Jags of the past…”- I have heard THAT several times in the past about jaguar styling. It proved to be wrong then, too. Jaguar styling is all about new ideas. At great intervals, sometimes.

  • avatar

    The XJ is the prettiest car when stacked against the A8, BMW7 and S550. Even though I own an S, I’m not ashamed to say I like the Jaguar more. Hopefully the 2013 s is world’s better.

    The Sclass has far more interior space and is the car you’ll want if you have to haul people in absolute comfort and don’t have the cash for a Maybach.

    The BMW 7 is an awesome car, but the Jaguar has more character and doesn’t nickel and dime you for features.


    Only problem I had with the XJ is the technology suite SUCKS.

  • avatar

    CR just rated the new XJ as the least reliable model in its yearly survey. Some things never change with Jaguar. They better hope this new style is enduring. Otherwise, the initial buzz of the new look will quickly fade.

  • avatar
    Sam P

    Great review, Ronnie.

    The only thing I don’t like is Jaguar’s interpretation of modern fastback styling. Audi really nailed this look with the A7, but Jag’s take looks much more slab sided and clunky.

  • avatar

    Nice review .

    What is with all these house pictures? I can understand posing the car, but this isn’t TTAD.

    Ford and his partners were rich even before they put the world on wheels.

    What the hell?

    • 0 avatar


      Regarding the house pictures.

      I figured that posing the car in front of the homes of automotive pioneers was more interesting than using some generic suburban manse as the backdrop. I also thought that some folks might like the historical info, so I put it in the captions. I left it up to our esteemed ed Ed to decide if the captions were appropriate.

      Just wondering. When you look at photo shoots in the buff books, does it bother you that they’re a bit about The Truth About The Pacific Coast Highway or The Truth About The South of Spain?

      Ford’s wealth was mentioned because I noticed that Ford and Horace Rackham both built substantial homes by 1908 – the year the Model T was introduced so obviously FoMoCo was successful even before the T.

      Yes, the captions had nothing to do with the review. I have eclectic interests and thought that others would find that info worthwhile.

  • avatar

    Things were actually starting to change at Jaguar in terms of quality at the very end of the Ford run. The XF ruined that positive streak though, and it seems that this is no better. I suppose if you like the looks, you can admire it from the shop window.

    Personally, I’d have a bit of an issue paying $80K+ for a service loaner.

  • avatar

    The leather in Jaguars always did smell nice, it used to be called Conolly leather I seem to remember.
    I must agree that the new interiors are not good enough – the fake gauges, the vents and that strip of veneer running along the base of the windshield – all must go.

  • avatar

    I hope that Consumer reportz is better at determining a car’s reliability than they are at choosing Presidential candidates to support… but I somehow doubt it.

  • avatar

    The touch screen reacts slowly and you’re never entirely sure each time you press a “button” that it’s going to work. Sometimes a small light touch will work, other times you have to practically jab your thumb at it.

    I suspect it will get better with age. That’s usually how electronics work.

    Close up, the relatively tiny brakes make the wheels look silly. From farther back, the car looks decent enough, apart from the Chotchkie-mandated “pieces of flair” on the front fenders.

    I enjoyed the pics and captions!

  • avatar

    I have owned 4 different Mercedes SL’s the past 12yrs and now own an ’09 SL550. I usually buy them when they are 2 yrs old because they depreciate in value so much and most have very little wear and tear. I also have an ’07 S550 that I use during the week for business. I started looking for a new sedan about a year ago. I looked at the Merz S, BMW 7, Bentley , Lexus, Maserati and Jaguar. I looked at a lot of cars, read reviews did a lot of research to settle on a car. It came down to the Mercedes S or the Jaguar XJL Portfolio. Two months ago I bought the XJL new and could not be happier. It rides like I’m floating on air and handles like a dream. The craftsmanship blows the Mercedes away and I’ve owned Mercedes for a long time. I do agree that the touch screen is very slow to respond and can be aggravating at times but that is the only complaint so far. I was told a software update is in the works to aleviate that problem. Jaguar now has a customer for life but I’m going to stick with Mercedes for the convertible.

Back to TopLeave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.

Recent Comments

  • roger628: 02336/?ref_=nv_sr_4 I’m surprised everybody missed this one. Certainly...
  • sgtjmack: I’m actually glad that it is taking a long time and several meetings to make the changes to NAFTA....
  • sgtjmack: Well, here is what I know. Before MADE A, we had a pretty good trade position. When NAFTA was instated, the...
  • sgtjmack: So you think that because Trump doesn’t want to allow a country that wants to obliterate the U.S.A as...
  • Shortest Circuit: I would try to stuff a SMART EV or BMW i3 powertrain under it.

New Car Research

Get a Free Dealer Quote


  • Contributors

  • Matthew Guy, Canada
  • Ronnie Schreiber, United States
  • Bozi Tatarevic, United States
  • Chris Tonn, United States
  • Corey Lewis, United States
  • Mark Baruth, United States
  • Moderators

  • Adam Tonge, United States
  • Corey Lewis, United States