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Kelley Blue Book ® - 2003 Jaguar Vanden Plas Overview

Vehicle Overview from Kelley Blue Book

KBB.com 2003 Jaguar Vanden Plas Overview

Low slung. Stealthy. Silent. Lightening-quick. These are all words used to describe the big cats of prey and fittingly, they can also be used to describe the most potent cat known to man: The Jaguar XJR sedan.

Built from the same platform as the current XJ8, the XJR shares much of that vehicle's signature Jaguar styling cues. From the outside, you'll notice how low and long the XJR seems, as though its roof were about a foot shorter than the average sedan. This roofline—combined with the high doorsills—gives the XJR its cat-like stance, low and ready to pounce. Further styling differences set the XJR apart from its plusher cousin such as the body-colored grille, monochromatic trim and stunning 18-inch alloy wheels. When taken all together, the XJR package clearly turns a cuddly kitty into a ferocious BMW-hunting predator.

At this price level, looks alone won't win you any friends; you have to have the goods to back it up. Though the standard 4.0-liter V8 found in the XJ would be acceptable to most, the neurotic speed freaks from Jaguar racing insisted that the XJR be faster—much faster—than the base XJ sedan. To accomplish this, Jaguar has supercharged the V8 resulting in final output of 358 horsepower. For those wondering, supercharging is like turbo charging, only a belt-driven blower, not an exhaust driven impeller, generates the extra air forced into the intake. The supercharger makes itself known every time you hit the gas causing the big Jag to launch itself like a wild animal set free. The XJR is not just fast, it's freaky, scary fast. Deep down inside, you know that nothing on four wheels that doesn't also have wings and a jet engine should move this quick; it's simply awesome. Power is handled by Jaguar's newly improved J-gate five-speed transmission. This new automatic is the best yet from Jaguar, providing instantaneous upshifts and imperceptible downshifts.

Though you could spend the rest of your life content to rule the world of stop light drag racing, you'll be delighted to learn that the XJR can do more than just go fast in a straight line; it can dance too. The Fred Astaire of four doors gets its agility from a thoroughly reworked suspension setup that includes an aggressive set of sport-tuned shocks and springs and a reworked version of Jaguar's computerized ride and stability system known as CATS. Compared to previous XJRs without these enhancements, the 2003 is much more stable at high speeds as well as in tight corners. The XJR is so low to the ground it's almost a given that it will hug the road; but the XJR does more than just hug the road, it engages it. You'll feel at ease moving this big sedan at high speeds for a number of reasons, the primary one being the firm steering control that telegraphs back every intention of the big 18-inch Pirelli tires. As good a performer as the XJR is, it will still remind you that it's a rear-wheel drive car prone to oversteer when pushed too hard. If you reach that point—and we hope you are either on a very isolated road or supervised track—the XJR's traction control will intervene to reduce power while you work with the suspension to bring the car back under control.

Performance brilliance or not, a Jaguar is not a Jaguar if it does not also surround you with the best luxury money can buy. The XJR certainly strives for this goal, but it is somewhat hampered by its aging design. Where newer performance sedans offer an abundance of head and legroom, the XJR is rather stingy with both. Persons over six feet tall will find the rear seat accommodations rather tight and up front you'll need to move the power seat to its lowest setting to avoid rubbing your head on the fine alcantra roof liner. Legroom is also tight, but not in the way you might think; the XJR has plenty of legroom when it comes to stretching out, but its large transmission tunnel gobbles up more than its fair share of the front foot wells, forcing your feet to remain close together. We should point out that this is the last year for the current XJR; a brand new model will be arriving by summer that promises to be much more accommodating to large American frames.

If the interior dimensions of the XJR do not pose a problem for you, then it's clear sailing the rest of the way. Fine leathers and beautifully polished wood cover the dash, doors and center console gushing aristocratic heritage with every stitch, seam and seal. The dash design is clean and relatively straightforward, with most of the controls packaged tightly together in upper section of the center console. The XJR features a standard DVD-base navigation system that places the view screen directly in the center of the large wood-faced dash, somewhat reminiscent of the old console color televisions; well, reminiscent for those old enough to remember console color televisions.

Standard equipment includes— well let's just save time and say everything in the Jaguar parts bin. The only option is the R1 sport package that adds two-piece BBS rims and larger, cross-drilled Brembo brakes.

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