Front Seat or Back? Test-Driving a Jag and a Benz

HOME JEEVES: The ‘L’ in Jaguar’s XJL stands for long wheelbase. From the outside the car’s length is obvious. Inside, there’s limousine-size space and comforts for rear passengers. Meanwhile the driver is plenty comfortable with an array of comfort and safety features.
HOME JEEVES: The ‘L’ in Jaguar’s XJL stands for long wheelbase. From the outside the car’s length is obvious. Inside, there’s limousine-size space and comforts for rear passengers. Meanwhile the driver is plenty comfortable with an array of comfort and safety features.
BILL GRIFFITH

If I were a carpenter, I’d be driving a pickup truck.

If I were a chauffeur, I’d love to be driving one of today’s test cars—the Jaguar XJL, the long wheelbase version of the company’s flagship saloon. You have to admit “saloon” sounds much more upper crust British than plain old sedan.

If I were a successful salesman with a large territory, I’d love to be driving today’s other test car, a 2014 Mercedes-Benz E250 BlueTEC 4MATIC Sedan.

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Both cars, as tested, were pricey.

The Jaguar has an MSRP of $85,595 (including destination). Several options (visibility package, illumination package, wheel locks) pushed the bottom line to $88,283.

The Mercedes has a base price of $54,825. A massive list of appearance, safety, luxury, and technology options and packages ka-chinged the final tally to $70,105.

In the Jag, the place to ride is the rear seat where there’s limousine legroom. In addition, leather-surfaced business tables fold out of the front seatbacks to make it a mobile office, and electric side window blinds operate from the power window switches to screen both the sun and prying eyes.

Each of the airline-style reclining rear seats is heated and cooled and features three massage programs—rolling wave, lumbar, and shoulder—for those long business trips.

An infotainment package (not in our test vehicle) offers a 10.2-inch, high-resolution screen on the back of each front-seat headrest. Wireless headphones allow each passenger to view separate video feeds.

The entire rear seat environment, including climate control, seat controls, and entertainment, is controlled via a wireless system in the center console.

Should you bypass the chauffeur and drive yourself, our “portfolio” model of the XJL was powered by a supercharged 3.0-liter V-6 engine making 340 horsepower and mated to a smooth 8-speed automatic transmission.

Performance, as Jaguar promises, truly is effortless and seamless. The vehicle was a joy to control, especially on the highway. A 125-mile trip to Connecticut drew a “Wow, we’re here already?” reaction from both driver and passenger.

An instinctive all-wheel-drive system makes the Jag a limo for all seasons. Blind spot monitors, rearview camera, front and rear parking sensors, Bluetooth, and an eight-inch front touch screen, make driving equally painless, whether you or your chauffeur is at the wheel.

Fuel economy is rated at 19 miles per gallon in combined driving with a range between 16 city and 24 highway. We tend to do a lot of highway driving and averaged 22.2 mpg with me playing chauffeur.

Mrs. G refused to do the “Driving Miss Daisy” role and ride in the rear. While she was impressed by the comfort and luxury of the rear seat, she instead chose to ride in the front passenger seat, finding it “truly comfortable and fully electronically adjustable. You also have to love the panoramic sunroof and standard sound system.”

In contrast, the rear seat of the Mercedes was not the place to be. It’s nice but snug.

This vehicle is a driver’s (and front-seat passenger’s) vehicle.

A description as an ideal salesman’s car is apt.

It feels strange to describe a mid-size M-B sedan as having a 2.1-liter engine, but this has an advanced turbo with 369 lb.-ft. of torque available at relatively low rpms. Lots of torque fits most Americans’ driving preferences. We like that feeling of pulling power when we hit the accelerator and torque numbers describe that more accurately than horsepower. In this case the E250 put out a relatively paltry 195 hp.

The E250 is rated at a more-than-adequate 8.0 seconds in 0-to-60 time, but it’s the mpg figures that can make you gawk: 42 highway with all-wheel-drive, 32 mpg combined, and 27 city.

On one of our trips coming back from Connecticut, the on-board computer credited us with averaging 45.2 mpg. Paper and pencil figuring gave us 42.2 for that round trip, plus some local driving.

You have to listen closely to the engine to notice the slight bit of engine clatter that signifies this is a diesel, but there’s no smoke or diesel smell.

Power goes to all four wheels via a smooth 7-speed automatic transmission.

The present E250/E350 generation has been around since 2010 but is aging well; indeed, M-B and BMW have been successful in maintaining design evolution through the decades. A 30-year-old M-B still has contemporary design cues.

Our test car had a full array of Mercedes’ latest safety systems, including attention assist, collision prevention assist, rearview (and surround view) cameras, auto high beams, parking assists, active blind-spot assist, and lane-keeping assist.

These are the latest of Mercedes’ always cutting edge technology.

Meanwhile, M-B retains one feature that continues to baffle me after 17 years of reviewing cars. When you go to use the directional signals (or as the Commonwealth of Massachusetts tells us: “Use Yah Blinkah.”), it’s still easy to hit the cruise control stalk at the same time.

At a time when we criticize automakers for cookie-cutter designs, these Jaguar and Mercedes-Benz models stand out and are great ways to cover the long distances many of us are traveling on a regular basis.

2014 Jaguar XJL Portfolio AWD

THE BASICS

Price, base/as tested (with destination): $85,695 / $88,283. Fuel economy, EPA estimated: 16 city / 24 highway. Fuel economy, Globe observed: 22.2. Drivetrain: 3.0-liter V-6, 8-speed automatic, all-wheel-drive. Body: 5-passenger sedan.

THE SPECIFICS

Horsepower: 340. Torque: 332 lb.-ft. Overall length: 206.8 in. Wheelbase: 124.3 in. Height: 57.4 in. Width: 74.8 in. Curb weight: 4,153 lbs.

THE GOOD

Jaguar ride, effortless performance, all-wheel-drive.

THE BAD

Expensive to own, operate.

THE BOTTOM LINE

A Jaguar with a rear seat that’s to be used.

ALSO CONSIDER

Audi A-8, BMW 7-Series, Hyundai Equus, Lexus LS 460, Mercedes-Benz S-Class.

2014 Mercedes-Benz E250 BlueTEC 4MATIC Sedan

THE BASICS

Price, base/as tested (with destination): $54,825 / $70,105. Fuel economy, EPA estimated: 27 city / 42 highway. Fuel economy, Globe observed: 42.2. Drivetrain: 2.1-liter turbo diesel, 7-speed automatic, all-wheel-drive. Body: 5-passenger sedan.

THE SPECIFICS

Horsepower: 195.Torque: 369 lb.-ft. Overall length: 191.7 in. Wheelbase: 113.2 in. Height: 57.9 in. Width: 73 in. Curb weight: 4,200 lbs.

THE GOOD

Build quality, ride, performance, fuel economy.

THE BAD

Complex center stack, placement of cruise control stalk.

THE BOTTOM LINE

A car for the person who is willing to pay for a luxury ride but would rather keep fuel costs down.

ALSO CONSIDER

Audi A6, BMW 5-Series, Lexus GS 450h, Tesla Model S, Volvo S80.