Grace, Pace and More Space
Page 1: Intro
With luxury cars - especially stretched sedans - where you sit depends on where you stand. Some owners spend more time in the back seat of their cars, being driven, than they do up front, being drivers. It's a rare car that is equally satisfying in either row. The dual role dilemma makes long wheelbase automobiles difficult to design. What's done to make them more pleasant for passengers in back invariably makes them more dull for drivers in front. Adding space can subtract pace, when you factor in weight gain and balance shift. The newest Jaguar neatly avoids this issue, because it didn't pack on the pounds. The elongated Jag is a mere 53 lb. (1.3%) heavier than the standard wheelbase model.Jaguar marked 2004 with the roll-out of their seventh generation XJ. Much of the attention focused on the car's aluminum skin, and the benefits therein. The lighter, stiffer unibody structure allows the double wishbone suspension to do its thing, without having to compensate for chassis limitations. The XJ's ride/handling bias comes down heavier on the ride side - understandable, given its luxury class status. But, the characteristic Jaguar supple feel is in evidence as well. The XJ is light on its feet for a big car and the feedback through the wheel and through your senses is one of being insulated (from unwanted noise and road harshness) but not isolated (from the road or the car). Ditto on long wheelbase models. The added dimensions inside have done nothing to disrupt the car's balanced feel.
To hammer that point home, the press launch for the XJ lwb included an autocross course. The impromptu track had an impeccable instructor. Sir Jackie Stewart was on hand to advise ham-fisted journalists in the art of navigating the tight course in the stretched Jaguar. Stewart, who in his sixties still drives with a smoothness that would shame silk, definitively demonstrated the agility of the big Jag. And, several hundred miles of wheeling the XJ through city and country roads confirmed the car's ride comfort.Where the last generation XJ came up short - literally - was interior room. The back seat was not big enough to comfortably house adults, particularly adult Americans. That grumble point was erased by the new XJ last year, and it's a complete non-issue in the long wheelbase models. The five inches in length that the lwb models have gained is all found from the b-pillar back. The roofline has been raised .28 inches. The back doors are longer with a wider swing. Collectively, it's a back cabin that provides easy passage, with comfortable ingress/egress. Burled walnut and leather mingle comfortably inside, and Vanden Plas models offer an even plusher cut of hide and carpet. Available back seat options include a multi-media entertainment center, with twin. 6.5" video screens embedded in the front seat headrests. Also offered are fold-down trays. The wood- faced shelves are an elegant blast from Jaguars past, known then as picnic trays, known now as business trays. Practically speaking, the shallowness of tray presents the same problems for would-be laptop use as many airline seats (tough to get full extension of your screen), but it's still a classy touch. Front cabin is first cabin too. Essentially unchanged from other XJ models, it's a well appointed space with - on models equipped with the Navigation system - a busy, but logical, center stack.
Page 3: Comfort
Comfort and luxury is the rule of the day here as well, with a front row view of all that Walnut burl. Depending on your seat position, some drivers will find that they must bob and weave to find good, over the shoulder visibility, due to the wide b-pillar.The addition of a stretched platform expands the XJ line to five models. Joining the short wheelbase XJ and XJR are the long wheelbase XJL, Vanden Plas and Super V8. As suggested by its name, the Super V8 employs a supercharged, 4.2 liter V8, tuned to the tune of 390 hp (@ 6,100 rpm) and 399 lb. ft. of torque (@ 3,500 rpm). All other models run the normally aspirated AJ-V8, rated at 294 hp (@ 6,000 rpm) and 303 lb. ft. of torque (@ 4,100 rpm). The Super V8 fairly bristles with power, clipping off 0-60 runs in a company-claimed 5.0 seconds flat. The standard AJ engine is slow only by comparison. Jaguar's 0-60 time for the XJ8 is a big car brisk 6.3 seconds. In practice, both motors perform admirably, with an even power flow at all engine speeds. The ZF six speed automatic provides silent, smooth gear changes. Gas mileage is good enough to avoid the guzzler tax (18/28 4.2, 17/24 4.2S), and the 22-plus gallon tank means that you won't have to pry yourself out of those comfy seats too often to fill up.
Page 4: Short list
The short list of long luxury cars is short indeed. The ranks are populated by such notables as Audi's A8L, BMW's 745Li and the Mercedes-Benz S500. Add one more member to this elite class, with the roll-out of the new, 2005 Jaguar XJ lwb. Stretched luxury sedans account for about 85,000 sales per year in the U.S. - low in number, high in profile - and the new Jaguar should take its share of this market. In a segment with no bad choices, the Jaguar makes a compelling case for itself. Along with the expected level of luxury you get a strong shot of "Jaguarness". The XJ's ride and handling are such that the buyer faces another tough decision. Drive, or be driven?Page 5: FAQs
What's the new lineup and what do they cost?
XJ8 (swb) $61,495
XJ8 L (lwb) $63,495
Vanden Plas (swb) $70,995
XJR (swb) $75,995
Super V8 (lwb) $89,995
All prices include destination.Who does the XJ lwb compete with?
Direct competitors in this segment are few: Audi's A8L, BMW's 745 Li, Mercedes S500 among them.
Why choose the XJ?
Cabin comfort and appointments, ride/handling balance, Jaguar cache
Page 6: Writer's Notes
Where the last generation XJ came up short – literally – was interior room. The back seat was not big enough to comfortably house adults, particularly adult Americans. That grumble point was erased by the new XJ last year, and it’s a complete non-issue in the long wheelbase models. The five inches in length that the lwb models have gained is all found from the b-pillar back. The roofline has been raised .28 inches. The back doors are longer with a wider swing. Collectively, it’s a back cabin that provides easy passage, with comfortable ingress/egress.