Inside the new Jaguar
While the outside may be plain, the XJ Super V8 is special under the skin
Take a seat in an electrically adjustable lounge chair. Fold down the richly buffed picnic tray and, if you choose, watch whatever is on the screen built into the back of the leather lounge chair in front of your seat.
Did I mention that we'll be traveling from 0-60 miles per hour in five seconds?
But don't worry, all will be smooth, quiet, and elegant inside the 2007 Jaguar XJ Super V8.
There is a remarkable market out there for super luxury sedans like this one. They feature horsepower approaching or topping 400, expensive leathers, finely polished woods, jet-like launches, and Autobahn-worthy top ends.
I have long held to the "it's not what's on the outside that counts" philosophy, and so should Jaguar with this rendition of its high-class sedan. That's because the outside does nothing to advance the Jaguar brand into bolder markets occupied by competitors like Mercedes-Benz, BMW, and Audi. Sure, the grille has a nice mesh weave and its longer wheelbase sets it apart from others in the XJ lineup. But it's a look that will appeal to a dwindling band of loyalists, not potential new buyers. Under the skin -- from the power plant to interior amenities -- this car is in a class with all of the above models.
The 4.2-liter V-8 engine is supercharged and intercooled to the romp of 400 horsepower and 413 lb.-ft. of torque.
It provides a launch that could be problematic in a rear-wheel-drive car without standard stability control. You can still chirp the tires, induce a bit of rear-end wiggle, but it won't let you get into trouble.
At higher speeds it cruises virtually silently (laminated side glass with acoustic layers helps). Kick it in to pass, however, and there is the subtle screech of the supercharger sucking air. It is accompanied by a bottomless pit of torque that rockets the car into the passing lane, past whatever it is you want to place in your rear view mirror, and quickly back into the travel lane so as not to be overexposed to roadside radar.
The six-speed automatic transmission is transparent. Put it in drive and let the car do the rest. Or, if you want to play in manual mode, a Bosch Mechatronic lets you take over.
Independent suspension front and rear is quietly aided by self-leveling air springs. Sport and comfort settings are available through a button on the center console. If I have a complaint, it is that I did not find the sport mode stiff enough. There ought to be a bigger gap between the two, with sport winning out.
Brakes are antilock with boost assist, and rely on 13.98-inch discs up front and 12.83-inch brakes in the rear.
The body is an aluminum monocoque with magnesium crossbeam and steel subframe support.
It does not drive like a heavy car, and that leaves driver and occupant wrapped in what feels like a light lap of luxury.
When you look at a leather dash and see that its seams are double-stitched, you know you're not in just any car. The piped leather seats are firm and supple at the same time, automatically adjustable front and rear (16 ways for the driver), and heated. Rear seats are individual buckets.
At your feet are lambs wool rugs. The interior appointments feature walnut burl veneers that gleam with luxury.
Four-zone climate control is standard as is DVD navigation, rear DVD entertainment screens, a 12-speaker Alpine sound system, Bluetooth technology for mobile phones, folding picnic trays, and MP3 connections.
Standard safety features appropriately include dynamic stability control, ABS, tire pressure monitoring, driver and passenger front and side air bags, and front and rear side curtain air bags. Even the rich need protection.
But the rich can afford face- lifts, and the Jaguar sedan lineup needs one. While I believe that beauty is on the inside when it comes to people, I also hold that it does not necessarily apply to cars.
Fortunately, Jag execs say, the exteriors of the next wave of sedans will bear more resemblance to the gorgeous XKR sports car we reviewed recently than this stodgy XJ Super V8.
Shop it against:
You could go for a V12 and romp into $120,000-plus territory, but get back into competitive territory in this group by sticking with the 360-horsepower V-8.
The cost? How much do you want to spend: $90,000-$170,000 is quite a range. To stay in the 90s, you'll have to stick with the 382-horsepower V8. But even once-stodgy Benz has jumped over the design bar Jag has yet to clear with its sedans.
It's got a 450-horsepower V-10 derived from the Lamborghini Gallardo (Audi owns Lamborghini). Roomy, quiet, and fast. The price starts at around $95,000.
LEXUS LS 460L
A Lexus with 380 horsepower? You bet, and it will be quiet, luxurious. Ask yourself if the $30,000 or more you would pay for a competing model in this group would be worth it, since this one is priced in the 60s.