Expert Review:New Car Test Drive
New Car Test Drive
Distinctive, luxurious and blissfully uncomplicated.
Feature for feature, the Jaguar XJ sedan represents one of the best values among full-size luxury cars. Jaguar's flagship offers features and comfort comparable to the top-line luxury sedans from Audi, BMW, Lexus, and Mercedes-Benz for thousands less. Yet it makes a strong statement of luxury when it rolls up to a five-star hotel, stronger than some of those other marques muster.
For 2008, the XJ value equation improves further. Also for 2008, the XJ's looks have been updated to match recent Jaguar offerings.
New for 2008: The front bumper and grille are revised, the front fenders add power vents, a small rear spoiler is added, and most XJ models get larger wheels and tires. Inside, the seats are redesigned for better comfort and more rear seat foot room, Sirius satellite radio becomes an option on all models, and heated and cooled seats become standard on three of the five models.
As automobiles tend more toward generic and distinctions get harder to draw, the XJ sedan appears distinctive, even unique. The Jaguar XJ makes a true statement of luxury. Drive up in one of these and you'll be treated like royalty by bell hops and valets. The XJ's lithe, elegant lines ooze class, but not excess. Its cabin retains the charm of an upper-crust clubroom: nicely stuffed seats with piping, lots of polished wood and wool rugs underfoot.
Underway in town or on the highway, the XJ is smooth, quiet, stately and powerful, and it handles winding roads quite well for its size. It's easier to operate, certainly less complicated, than the BMW 7 Series, Audi A8, and Mercedes S-Class. It's less burdened with systems and processes that can frustrate with their complexity. The five XJ models are loaded with sophisticated safety and performance technology, mind you, but all that technology is tucked away in a less obtrusive fashion, and it generally works without annoyance or distraction. The XJs deliver the best EPA fuel mileage ratings in this class, and none carries a Gas Guzzler Tax.
The XJ sedan comes in regular and long-wheelbase versions. They range from the luxurious XJ8 to the opulent Vanden Plas to the powerful XJR. Stretched five inches, the long-wheelbase models offer enough rear-seat room to recline and watch a movie after lunch on a flip-down wooden tray. Yet these longer Jaguars are, for all practical purposes, as quick, nimble and fuel-efficient as the shorter wheelbase versions. The supercharged XJR is the quickest and nimblest of all, but it doesn't add nearly the price premium that competitors' high-performance models require; Mercedes, BMW, and Audi charge big bucks for the premium engines. Yet the XJ is constructed largely from aluminum, lighter and more expensive than steel, and usually associated with Audi. The long-wheelbase XJs are longer yet lighter than their competitors from Germany.
We could point out a half dozen specific things that other cars in this class do slightly better than the XJ. The Jaguars are neither the quickest nor the quietest in the class, and they lack some safety features offered in others. For example, if all-wheel drive is important, you won't find it in the XJ lineup. But that's not important for many buyers. Indeed, the Jaguar XJ might be the friendliest and most charming of the luxury sedans. It's always a treat to drive one.
The 2008 Jaguar XJ is available with a normally aspirated or supercharged 4.2-liter V8, and a short or long wheelbase. All five XJ models seat five, and all are equipped with a six-speed automatic transmission.
The standard XJ8 ($63,835) is powered by the 300-hp, normally aspirated V8, and it's comprehensively equipped. Standard features include leather seats with contrasting piping, heated front and rear seats, Bluetooth cell-phone interface, automatic xenon headlights with power washers. The 140-watt audio system features eight speakers and a single-CD player. Other features include dual-zone automatic climate control; interior air filter; power tilt/telescoping wood/leather-wrapped steering wheel with audio controls; cruise control; 16-way power front seats with lumbar adjustment; power-adjustable pedals; memory for the driver's seat, mirrors, steering wheel, and pedals; heated power mirrors with auto-dimming; power windows and locks; remote keyless entry; sunroof; auto-dimming rearview mirror; universal garage door opener; rain-sensing variable-intermittent wipers; theft-deterrent system; front and rear fog lights; self-leveling suspension; and P235/50R18 tires on alloy wheels.
The XJ8 L ($67,335) is equipped like the XJ8, but its wheelbase is five inches longer, which means considerably more legroom in the back seat.
The Vanden Plas ($76,085) is the quintessential luxury Jaguar, adding British niceties such as a twin-stitched leather dashboard, Peruvian boxwood inlays in the standard burl walnut trim, rear-seat picnic trays and deep-pile lamb's wool rugs. Like the XJ8 L, Vanden Plas is built on the long wheelbase. It comes standard with a DVD-based navigation system, 320-watt Alpine stereo with 12 speakers and a 6CD changer, front park assist, heated steering wheel, heated and cooled front seats, power-folding mirrors, navigation system, power rear sunshade, and P255/40R19 tires.
The XJR ($83,585) is the high-performance model, built on the short wheelbase and powered by the 400-hp, supercharged version of the V8. The XJR also gets a firmer suspension with steel springs, rather than air springs, larger Brembo brakes, R Performance sport seats and special trim inside and out. It also has adaptive cruise control, and Z-rated P255/35R20 tires.
The Super V8 ($94,085) is the luxo-hot rod of the line, sort of a long-wheelbase Vanden Plas XJR, with the 400-hp V8 and Brembo brakes. It also features four-zone climate control, adjustable rear-seats, a front passenger's seat that can be adjusted from the rear, manual side sunshades, and a DVD-based rear seat entertainment system with two 6.5-inch display screens.
Options are few, given the level of standard equipment. A Warm Climate package ($1,350) for XJR and Vanden Plas includes four-zone climate control and rear sunblinds. The Multimedia rear DVD package ($2,950), touch-screen navigation ($2,300) and Alpine audio ($1,200) are offered for models that do not include them. Standalone options include Front Park Assist ($250), heated steering wheel ($400), heated and cooled front seats ($550), high-definition radio ($500), Sirius satellite radio hardware ($450) and a 19-inch wheels ($1400).
Safety features match the class baseline: dual front airbags, front occupant side-impact airbags, curtain-style head protection airbags front and rear, rear park assist, tire-pressure monitor, advanced four-channel anti-lock brakes (ABS) with brake assist, traction control, and electronic stability control. Some other full-size luxury sedans offer driver's knee airbags and rear side-impact airbags. Front park assist is optional; we recommend getting it because it's handy when parking. The XJ's tire-pressure monitor is one of the most sophisticated available, measuring absolute pressure in each tire. Most systems rely on the ABS system to measure tire pressure, which means they measure each tire relative to the other. Theoretically, if all four tire.
The crucial element in the 2008 Jaguar XJ's design and construction isn't visible from 20 paces, or even up close in its lacquer-look paint, but it's one thing that separates the XJ from most other full-size luxury sedans available today: aluminum.
Most automobiles are using more aluminum parts all the time. Aluminum is light, and in most cases, light is good, as long as it's also strong. Many luxury sedans have a couple of aluminum fenders or an aluminum hood; a few have complete aluminum bodies. The XJ, on the other hand, is made almost entirely of aluminum from the chassis crossmembers up. It has a conventional unit-body design, meaning the body and chassis are a single, assembled piece, with some visible elements of the exterior serving as structural, load-bearing components. But the XJ's unit-body is entirely aluminum, with steel subframes that cradle the engine and suspension.
The long-wheelbase Jaguar XJ models, the XJ8 L, Vanden Plas, and Super V8, are the longest cars in this class. They're a fraction of inch longer than the Mercedes Benz S-Class, and 1.4 inches longer than the longest BMW 7 Series. Yet the XJs are also the lightest, thanks to their aluminum intensive construction. Other things equal, lighter means better performance and better fuel economy.
Of course, no one will be thinking about the aluminum when they're sizing-up the XJ in a showroom. We suspect many buyers choose Jaguars for the styling, and there's no mistaking this big sedan for anything other than a Jaguar. The XJ looks as though it's ready to pounce even when it's standing still.
The hood has the traditional curves that flow back from the top edges of four round headlights. The wide grille protrudes forward slightly and the leaping jaguar, called the Bonnet Leaper, sits on top of the hood.
For 2008, the front bumper and lower fascia are redesigned. The bumper loses its chromed rub strips that sat below the headlights, and the fascia now has a smaller lower air intake that looks like an extension of the chromed wire mesh grille. It is flanked by two smaller intakes that also house round fog lights. The look is sportier and better integrated than in previous years, when the lower air intake looked like a wide, elliptical grin.
From the side, the XJ has a high belt line, a trend that can be at least partly attributed to people feeling safer with taller side panels. This makes the side windows appear shallower. The windshield is set at a modern, raked angle. The subtle way in which the belt line edges up as it runs toward the rear gives the car a purposefully crouched look. All the glass is laminated, with two layers separated by an ultra-thin acoustic interlayer, which cuts interior noise and protects trim from the damaging effect of UV radiation. Jaguar also claims that the laminated side glass makes smash-and-grab thefts more difficult.
For 2008, the front fenders add what Jaguar calls power vents, blade-like chrome gills that play off similar elements on the XK roadster and new XF sedan.
The rear is uncluttered and features iconic triangular taillight clusters. Wheel packages range from 18 to 20 inches in diameter. In terms of appearance, bigger is generally considered better when it comes to wheels, though we think the XJR and Super V8, with their 20-inch wheels and chromed power vents might have a little too much bling. Smaller wheels with taller sidewalls tend to offer a smoother ride; larger wheels with shorter tire sidewalls tend to produce a slight decrease in ride quality, or at least more tire noise.
Inside, the 2008 Jaguar XJ exudes tradition and good taste. It may not be as avant-garde or precise as its German competitors or as Zen-like or techie as some from Japan, but it looks and even smells like success.
All XJs feature polished burl walnut trim and contrasting piping on the leather seats. Some have soft, long-pile wool rugs in the footwells, which make you want to ride with your shoes and socks off (even if those rugs are harder to clean and tend to shed). The walnut in the Vanden Plas and Super V8 is hand inlaid with chunks of Peruvian boxwood, and a lighter elm trim is offered on all models at no cost.
The XJ dashboard sweeps across the front of the cabin in a fairly high position. Three primary gauges are clustered in front of the steering wheel, with the speedometer slightly larger in the center, the tach to the left and the fuel and temperature gauges combined on the right. The center stack is surrounded by leather trim in the shape of a horse collar. It features a seven-inch LCD touch screen for managing climate, audio and navigation functions. Jaguar has made the controls easy to operate and avoided the temptation to include a host of gee-whiz computer controls. We find the Jaguar's control center and the touch-screen navigation system easier to operate than the point-and-click devices in the BMW, Audi, and Mercedes cars.
While the XJ is a large car, everything adjusts to accommodate drivers from tiny to almost huge. All seats feature 16-way adjustment, and the foot pedals can be moved up to 2.5 inches at the touch of a switch. The XJR and Super V8 feature more heavily bolstered sport seats. We'd recommend them to drivers who like the occasional blast down a canyon road, but the standard seats are just fine.
The current XJs are roomier than ever. Gone are the days when the unmistakable Jaguar styling brought an obvious (obviously cramped) payback inside, compared to German cars. While the long-wheelbase versions have proven popular with American consumers, they were originally developed for Europe's chauffeur-driven executive class. Five extra inches in the car's length is entirely behind the B-pillars (between the front and rear doors), so inside it means a lot more rear seat room. Plus, the front seats are revised for 2008 to add more rear toe space.
The rear seatbacks recline, and long-wheelbase models have a switch for the person riding in the right-rear seat to power the front passenger's seat forward. This allows plenty of room to stretch out and enjoy the wooden picnic trays that flip down from the backs of the front seats. The Super V8 comes standard with separate climate controls for each side in back, as well as the dual-screen DVD entertainment system. The 6.5-inch LCD monitors are embedded in the back of the front-seat headrests, with a control panel located in the rear center armrest that operates the screens independently. One person can be watching a DVD while the other plays a video game or looks at snapshots from a camera.
The trunk offers 16.4 cubic feet of volume, which is more than the Audi A8 (14.6 cubic feet) and BMW 7 Series (16.3), but less than the Lexus LS460 or Mercedes S-Class (both 18.0). To be sure, we wouldn't expect buyers in this league to choose primarily on trunk size, and the XJ's trunk is large in any case. The XJ trunk will swallow lots of luggage, or at least two big golf bags.
The Jaguar XJ series makes an appealing alternative to the German and Japanese mainstays among full-size luxury cars. Those who embrace the XJ's distinct styling and finish won't pay an obvious price in performance, smoothness or ease of function, and its retail price is attractive relative to obvious competitors.
Most XJ models are tuned with emphasis on a supple ride, which is probably not a bad thing in a big luxury car. Yet all XJ models handle in steady, predictable fashion, and are quite nimble for cars of their size. Indeed, we'd say they offer some distinct advantages over their German counterparts.
One is the XJ's all-aluminum monocoque, or integrated body/chassis. It weighs about 400 pounds less than a similarly sized unit-body fashioned of conventional steel. Rest assured that the aluminum body is as crashworthy and strong as steel (stronger, actually, at a given weight). The Jaguar's body is built in essentially the same fashion as the airframe of a commercial airliner: riveted (with about 3200 rivets) and bonded (120 yards of adhesive) to form a stiff shell that is the foundation for everything the car does. Lighter is better when it comes to handling, fuel economy, acceleration, and braking performance. Greater rigidity contributes to better handling and a smoother, more refined ride.
Tossing the big XJ into tight corners on narrow winding roads, we found it tenaciously grips the surface, with nary a complaint. The power steering is precise without being too heavy, and the XJ goes where it's aimed. The tires stay pressed to the road thanks to its double-wishbone suspension design and Jaguar's Computer Active Technology Suspension, called CATS, which continuously and instantly adjusts damping according to forces pushing the wheels up toward the car. CATS promotes stability and a nice, even body height whether the car is accelerating or braking hard or traveling over an undulating road surface. While all XJs handle well for their size, the long wheelbase models are clumsier, as you can feel the whole car shift in tight corners.
Through several hundred miles on a variety of different roads and surfaces, the XJ was stable at all times, with predictable handling. The only intrusion in the smoothness was a bit more vibration through the steering column than we'd expect in a super luxury car.
The XJs are quick. Benefitting from its lightweight aluminum construction, the XJ8's 300-horsepower V8 boasts acceleration figures that are as good as or better than many: 0-60 mph in 6.3 seconds, according to Jaguar. Power delivery is smooth, there is plenty of acceleration-producing torque at all engine speeds, and the base V8 delivers the best EPA mileage rating in the class for any car that's not a hybrid: 16/25 mpg City/Highway.
The XJ8 engine works nicely with the six-speed automatic transmission, which we consider one of the best in the class, despite a proliferation of seven-speeds. Shifts are smooth, almost seamless during sedate driving, yet positive under hard acceleration. This transmission seems intuitive: In most cases, its electronic brain changes gears at the same moment we would if we were shifting manually.
We've never been fans of Jaguar's J-Gate manual shift selector, however. This device is a throw-back to the days before transmissions had advanced electronic controls, and engineers sought alternative means to give automatics a sportier, manual feel. We find the more familiar up/down sequential manual feature on most other automatics to be more effective than the J-Gate. Regardless, the XJ's power band and the automatic's excellent response make manual shifting seem superfluous, so there's no need to fuss with the J-Gate. Put it in Drive and leave it there. The gears can be controlled with your right foot.
The XJR and Super V8 models add a supercharger that forces more air into the engine for a big increase in power. Indeed, th.
The Jaguar XJ holds its own with the best luxury cars in the world. It's beautiful and stately. It swaths its occupants in traditional British club-room luxury, with contrasting seat piping, lots of polished wood and deep-pile wool rugs, and it spares us the excessive gadgetry. Its rigid aluminum chassis and sophisticated suspension offer a smooth ride and good grip. The long-wheelbase versions offer more rear seat space without significant trade-offs in response or ease of handling. The XJ is attractively priced when compared to Audi, BMW, Lexus and Mercedes.
Contributing to this report were NewCarTestDrive.com correspondents Kirk Bell in Chicago; Larry Edsall in Phoenix; Greg Brown in Las Vegas; Mitch McCullough in Los Angeles; and John Rettie in Santa Barbara, California.
Jaguar XJ8 ($63,835); XJ8 L ($67,335); Vanden Plas ($76,085); XJR ($83,585); Super V8 ($94,085).
Options As Tested
Sirius satellite radio receiver ($450).
Jaguar XJ Super V8 ($94,085).
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