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Kelley Blue Book ® - 2004 Jaguar Vanden Plas Overview

Vehicle Overview from Kelley Blue Book

KBB.com 2004 Jaguar Vanden Plas Overview

All-Aluminum XJ Is Bigger, Faster and Better Than Ever

Jaguar knows that the luxury market is rapidly changing around them; the exquisite styling and plush wood and leather interiors that once were the hallmarks of the luxury brand are now common place in even the most inexpensive import sedans. Luxury today means so much more than a smart interior and racy body, it involves true state-of-the-art engineering that permeates all aspects of the car's design. In the new XJ, Jaguar has stretched the limits of this definition by incorporating an all-aluminum body that uses rivets and special bonding adhesive to replace the traditional welds used on steel frames. The process gives the new XJ an amazingly rigid and vibration free foundation that is also much stronger than its steel counterpart found on the previous XJ; the use of aluminum also greatly reduces the overall body weight of the vehicle, allowing for larger, more complex suspensions and heavier onboard systems without sacrificing fuel economy, ride or handling.

If you place the new XJ side-by-side with last year's model, the differences immediately become apparent. Though the familiar styling cues are in place, the new XJ looks much more like an enlarged version of the X-Type sedan than previous XJ models. Gone are the low roof and side sills, tapered trunk and narrow midsection. The new XJ shuns all of these traits in favor of a much taller design that vastly increases interior volume in all directions, most noticeably in the area of rear seat headroom. The design also gives the XJ one of the largest trunks ever offered on any Jaguar model, an important bragging right for anyone who has owned an XJ in the past. The XJ has not lost all of its family lineage and retains such signature styling cues as the curvaceous hood, four round headlamps, tapered rear-end and hood-mounted Jaguar emblem affectionately known as a "leaper." What got shelved in the process includes the traditional top-mounted fuel filler door, the long front and rear overhang and the chromed window frame and B-pillar trim.

Jaguar will continue to offer the XJ in the three trims that currently exist: the XJ8, Vanden Plas and super charged XJR. Power for the normally-aspirated XJ8 and Vanden Plas models comes from a refined 4.2-liter V8 that churns out a 294 tire-ripping horses. The V8's power is masterfully managed by what is arguably the best automatic transmission in the industry, the fabulous six-speed ZF automatic. With the ZF in firm control of the engine's enormous torque, the XJ feels incredibly well heeled, delivering seamless shifts and outstanding fuel economy for a full size car (an EPA rated 18-mpg city/28-mpg highway). For the true enthusiast, Jaguar offers the brilliant XJR that adds a supercharger to the 4.2- liter engine and with it, an additional 104 horsepower to the stats sheet. Where a run in the XJ8 is exhilarating, a day spent jockeying about in the XJR is a heart-pounding thrill-ride that borders on the insane. Punch the accelerator to the floor and the XJR's instantaneous acceleration will jam you back into your seat and have you holding onto the steering wheel for dear life as you're whisked from 0 to 60 in a scant 5 seconds flat. So long as you stand on the gas, the XJR does not let up the slightest and you can easily find yourself in trouble with the law, so we suggest you drive wisely.

So much power in an ordinary sedan could prove a problem once you've happened upon the first sharp turn, but in the new XJ, a remarkably capable chassis highlighted by an adaptive rear-air shock suspension keeps the XJ planted in a way the old model never could. Gone is the floating up/down sensation that plagued previous XJ models, especially at high speeds. The new system is as solid as a rock, yet returns an appropriately smooth ride befitting this car's status. All new 17-inch alloy wheels look smart and provide the added traction the XJ needs to safely round turns and perform avoidance maneuvers; the XJR gets even more aggressive 19-inch tires that further improve handling but also somewhat diminish the luxury soft ride of the base XJ.

We'd be remiss if we didn't mention some of the Jaguar's more prominent luxury car features. The new front seats are now wider with better lower thigh and back support and include four-way power lumbar support. In the rear, you'll find a vastly larger passenger space with ample head and legroom for six-footers. The handsome dash builds on the current model's design by retaining three circular gauges but expands the center console and center stack to make room for the new optional LCD navigation screen. Vanden Plas models offer two small LCD display screens built into the rear of the front seat headrests; rear seat occupants can watch movies, play video games or tap into the navigation route to see where they are headed. XJR models offer a set of advanced sport seats in black and red leather and feature dark gray wood in place of the traditional burl. We generally liked the new XJ's interior treatment, though we think the generic cloth headliner could be done in something a bit more upscale, perhaps similar to the Alcantra-lined interior found on the Lexus LS. Still, with pricing for the XJ8 beginning under $60,000, it's hard to quibble with all the big Jaguar has to offer.

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