Jaguar XJ Super V-8 – a true tale of power, prestige and elegance

By Jim Meachen and Ted Biederman

Perhaps more than any other nameplate, Jaguar seems to evoke the greatest emotions among those of us driving Toyotas, Fords, Chevrolets, Volkswagens and Hondas.

When we win the lottery we’re going to buy a Jag. Keep your ears open and you will here that refrain. Jaguar, the car made for dreams and for those with a fair amount of disposable income via lottery or other means.

Indeed, Jaguar’s long-running reputation as a curvaceous, luxurious cat of a car survives more nicely than ever into the 21st Century. And while few will find one in their garage and the many will have little contact with Jaguar other than seeing one on the street or encountering pictures in a magazine.

It’s not like Jag’s are strictly for the snob set, after all there are lots of expensive cars out there pricier than the Jag. Jags are just emotional – they’re elegant, they bring with them some stature more meaningful than rich. Jags are sporting cars – they have dash – more David Niven or Cary Grant then Donald Trump.

Through triumphs and tragedy – good or bad Jags have always had panache.

The Jaguar as adored in its home country as it has been here – and just as rare a fine, has historically been known for its potent engine, supple ride and opulent interior.

Never mind that the Series Jaguars were less than they should have been and forget the image of Jag was somewhat tarnished with the 2002 appearance of the entry-level X-Type, a compact-sized sedan that can be purchased for just a couple grand north of $30,000. The X-Type has been improved over its original, but unlike BMW and Mercedes, which successfully market cars from one end of the luxury segment to the other, an entry-level Jaguar just doesn’t resonate with the Jaguar perception. In truth it’s an okay car; but really not a Jag as perceived by the minions.

Jaguar still lives up to its image, however, in the top-of-the-line XJ sedan. It’s a marvel of body engineering, traditionally elegant yet wonderfully sporty and fully living up to the emotion and pureness of what a contemporary Jag sedan should be.

And if you had to pick one Jaguar XJ to most impress it would be the XJ Super V-8. The long-wheelbase sedan has everything in place to keep the Jag image polished to the nth degree. A few miles in the XJ Super V-8 would surely reinforce the prospective lottery winner’s determination to buy a Jag when he or she hits it big.

The Super V-8 combines a long-wheelbase chassis with a supercharged 4.2-liter V-8 generating 400 horsepower. Luxury and power have been synonymous through the history of the automobile, and Jaguar blends the two in a mouth-watering package.

The XJ Super V-8 is as lavish as the top-end Mercedes and BMW and carries a top-end price, as well. Be prepared to shell out $91,995 for the Super V-8, sans options. Load up the Jaguar with all the extras available and the price will just miss six figures.

What you get is a stunning array of features including supple leather chairs, a generous display of walnut wood accents, fold-down walnut-finished tray tables for the second-row passengers big enough to hold a laptop, twin 6.5-inch DVD screens placed in the back of the front head restraints, 16-way power-heated front seats and power-adjustable rear seats, four-zone automatic climate control with individual seat-to-seat settings, an ear-pleasing 400-watt Alpine audio system, Bluetooth wireless connectivity, a DVD navigation system and thick lamb’s wool floor mats.

What your 90 grand also purchases are a library-quiet interior, plush but supportive seats, more power than your neighbor kid’s Mustang GT, a marvelous luxury ride with sports sedan aspirations, a slick-shifting 6-speed automatic transmission and a full assortment of safety equipment.

This seven-generation XJ was introduced in 2004 and is built in a modernized plant in Castle Bromwich, England, utilizing aluminum body panels and aluminum underbody components. The aluminum components are fastened together with aerospace-grade epoxy adhesives and thousands of self-piercing rivets.

The advantage to this revolutionary manufacturing process is less weight, which improves performance and fuel economy while producing a 60-percent stiffer body structure. The weight reduction amounts to 200 pounds from the previous generation – a significant number in the world of autos.

The supercharged 4.2-liter V-8 generates 400 horsepower, a gain of 10 from 2005, and 413 pound-feet of torque.

This power is directed through a new 6-speed automatic transmission which can also be found in the XK coupe and convertible and the S-Type. Shifts are transparent and when kick-down is demanded it is instantaneous.

Jaguar says the Super V-8 is capable of 0-to-60 performance in 5 seconds flat. That’s sports car performance out of a long sedan – make sure your chauffeur has a racing license if you’re so inclined to be driven.

The Jaguar’s self-leveling air suspension, called CATS for Computer Active Technology Suspension, gives the sedan a pliant ride while maintaining remarkable cornering ability.

Jaguar loyalists will surely be pleased that that the latest-generation XJ retains its basic classic shape, but in a profoundly modern way. A bit shapelier than its predecessor and with what appears to be a slightly shorter front end than older models; the classic Jag lines remain stunningly elegant.

With this pure shape, it appears Jaguar has succeeded in the neat trick of having it both ways — keeping its core buyers happy while attracting new and younger customers.

The interior, while larger, retains its prestigious look with the classic U-shaped center stack, large areas of wood and leather, controls that are soft to the touch and easy to use, and gauges that are easy to read. Materials are of good quality and the fit and finish is excellent.

We do wish many of the controls — such as audio pre-sets — were not imbedded in the navigation system. It makes them less accessible and difficult to use. Elegance and simplicity should ride shoulder to shoulder. On the plus side, the navigation system is easy to use and offers up-to-date street information.

We also wonder why a car costing nearly $100,000 continues to carry the multi CD and DVD changers in the trunk? There is a single CD player in the dash.

As you might imagine, the XJ is loaded with safety features: Active safety includes ABS with emergency Brake Assist, traction control and Dynamic Stability Control.

Jaguar protects its passengers with passive safety called Adaptive Restraint Technology System. This includes dual-stage front airbags, side airbags for the front-seat passengers, side-curtain airbags for both front and rear and a sensing device that determines the size of the front-seat occupant and whether to automatically deactivate the airbag.

One feature we discovered worked to perfection was rain-sensing automatic windshield wipers. One trip was made through a heavy downpour, which turned to light showers, and then to a misty rain with intervals of no rain. The wipers responded from a single swipe to high speed, each at the appropriate time.

The long-wheelbase XJ adds five inches to the sedan’s overall length (205.3 inches) and about a half inch to rear-seat legroom, which we found to be as good as any sedan we’ve tested including the long-wheel base Lincoln Town Car, which is a gargantuan 16 inches longer than the Jaguar.

There are three basic XJ trim levels — the XJ8 in both regular and long wheelbase, the Vanden Plas regular wheelbase, and the Super V-8 long wheelbase. Prices start at $61,830 for the base XJ8 with the standard 4.1-liter V-8 generating 300 horsepower.

New for 2006, is a Super V-8 Portfolio edition with a base price of $115,995. Only 250 of these specially equipped models are being produced and Jaguar is sold out.

The XJ Super V-8 is one of the most prestigious and powerful cars in the world. It is a statement of elegance. If you can afford one – bless you. If you can’t – buy a lottery ticket. The world is full of aspirations found.