2009 XJ New Car Test Drive
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.
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