2007 Jaguar XJ Expert Review:New Car Test Drive
New Car Test Drive
Distinctive and blissfully uncomplicated.
Feature for feature, the Jaguar XJ sedans represent one of the best values among full-size luxury cars. It offers features and comfort comparable to the top-line luxury sedans from Audi, BMW, Lexus, and Mercedes-Benz for thousands less. Yet it makes a strong statement of luxury when it rolls up to a five-star hotel, stronger than some of those other marques muster.
For 2007, the XJ value equation improves further, with front and rear heated seats and Bluetooth wireless cell phone capability standard on all models.
As automobiles tend more toward generic and distinctions get harder to draw, even at the top of the market, the XJ sedan seems unique. It remains a true statement of luxury. Roll up in one of these and you'll be treated like royalty. The XJ's lithe, elegant lines ooze class, but not excess. Its cabin retains the charm of an upper-crust clubroom: nicely stuffed seats with piping, lots of polished wood and wool rugs underfoot.
Underway in town or on the highway, the XJ is smooth, quiet, stately and powerful, and it handles quite well for its size. It's easier to operate, certainly less complicated, than the BMW 7 Series, Audi A8, and Mercedes S-Class. It's less burdened with systems and processes that can frustrate with their complexity. The five XJ models are loaded with sophisticated safety and performance technology, mind you, but all that technology is tucked away in a less obtrusive fashion, and it generally works without much annoyance or distraction. The XJs deliver the best EPA fuel mileage ratings in this class, and none carries a gas-guzzler tax.
The XJ sedan comes in regular and long-wheelbase versions. Stretched five inches, the long-wheelbase models offer enough rear-seat room to recline and watch a movie after lunch on a flip-down wooden tray. Yet these longer, roomier Jaguars are for practical purposes as quick, nimble and fuel-efficient as the shorter wheelbase versions. The supercharged XJR is the quickest and nimblest of all, but it doesn't add nearly the price premium that competitors' high-performance models require.
We could point out half-a-dozen specific things that other cars in this class do better than the XJ. The Jaguars are neither the quickest nor the quietest, for example, and they lack some safety features offered in others. If all wheel drive is important, you won't find it in the Jaguar XJ. But none of that may amount to much for many buyers. Indeed, the Jaguar XJ might be the friendliest and most charming of the luxury sedans.
The 2007 Jaguar XJ sedan is available with a normally aspirated or supercharged 4.2-liter V8, and a short or long wheelbase. All five XJ models seat five, and all are equipped with a six-speed automatic transmission.
The standard XJ8 ($63,585) is powered by the 300-hp, normally aspirated V8, and it's comprehensively equipped. Standard features include heated front and rear seats, Bluetooth cell-phone interface and Xenon headlights with power washers, which are often options, even in the full-size luxury class. The standard leather seats have contrasting piping. The 140-watt audio system features eight speakers and a single-CD player, and 18-inch wheels come standard.
The XJ8 L ($67,085) is equipped like the XJ8, but its wheelbase is five inches longer, which means considerably more legroom in the back seat. It also comes with an electric rear sunblind.
The long-wheelbase Vanden Plas ($74,835) is the quintessential luxury Jaguar, adding British niceties such as a twin-stitched leather dashboard, Peruvian boxwood inlays in the standard burl walnut trim, rear-seat picnic trays and deep-pile lamb's wool rugs. It comes standard with a DVD-based navigation system and a 320-watt Alpine stereo with 12 speakers and a six-CD changer.
The XJR ($79,930) is the high-performance model, built on the short wheelbase and powered by the 400-hp, supercharged version of the V8. The XJR also gets a firmer suspension with steel springs, rather than air springs, larger Brembo brakes, 19-inch Sabre alloys wheels with Z-rated performance tires, R Performance sport seats and special trim inside and out. It comes with the Alpine audio and Jaguar's touch-screen navigation system.
The Super V8 ($91,335) is the luxo-hotrod of the line, or the long-wheelbase Vanden Plas with the 400-hp V8 and Brembo brakes. It also features four-zone climate control, adjustable rear-seats and a DVD-based rear seat entertainment system with two 6.5-inch display screens.
Options are few, given the level of standard equipment. A Warm Climate Package ($1,350) includes four-zone climate control and rear sunblinds. The Multimedia Package ($2,950), touch-screen navigation ($2,300) and Alpine audio ($1,600) are offered for models that do not include them. Single options include Front Park Control ($250), Sirius Satellite Radio hardware ($450) and a range of special wheels ($1,200-$4.500)
The XJ's standard safety features match the class baseline: dual front airbags, front occupant side-impact airbags, curtain-style head protection airbags front and rear, advanced four-channel anti-lock brakes (ABS) and electronic stability control. Some other full-size luxury sedans offer driver's knee airbags and rear side-impact airbags.
The XJ's tire-pressure monitor, however, is one of the most sophisticated available, measuring absolute pressure in each tire. Most systems rely on the ABS system to measure tire pressure, which means they measure each tire relative to the other. Theoretically, if all four tire loose pressure at the same rate, the system might not report a pressure loss.
The crucial element in the 2007 Jaguar XJ's design and construction isn't visible from 20 paces, or even up close in its lacquer-look paint. But it's one thing that separates the XJ from most other full-size luxury sedans available today.
Most automobiles are using more aluminum parts all the time. Aluminum is light, and in most cases, light is good, as long as it's also strong. Many luxury sedans have a couple of aluminum fenders or an aluminum hood; a few have complete aluminum bodies. The XJ, on the other hand, is made almost entirely of aluminum from the chassis crossmembers up. It has a conventional unit-body design, meaning the body and chassis are a single, assembled piece, with some visible elements of the exterior serving as structural, load-bearing components. But the XJ's unit-body is entirely aluminum, with steel subframes that cradle the engine and suspension.
The XJ L and other long wheelbase models are the longest cars in this class. They're a fraction of inch longer than the Mercedes Benz S-Class, and 1.4 inches longer than the longest BMW 7 Series. Yet the XJs are also the lightest, thanks to their aluminum intensive construction. Other things equal, lighter means better performance and better fuel economy.
Of course, no one will be thinking about the aluminum when they're sizing-up the XJ in a showroom. We suspect many buyers choose Jaguars for the styling, and there's no mistaking this big sedan for anything other than a Jaguar. The XJ looks as though it's ready to pounce even when it's standing still.
The hood has the traditional curves that flow back from the top edges of four round headlights. The wide grille protrudes forward slightly and the leaping jaguar, called the Bonnet Leaper, sits on top of the hood. The rear is uncluttered and features iconic triangular taillight clusters.
From the side, the XJ has a high belt line, the trend at least partly because people feel safer with taller side panels. This makes the side windows appear shallower. The windshield is set at a modern, raked angle. The subtle way in which the belt line edges up as it runs toward the rear gives the car a purposefully crouched look. All the glass is laminated, with two layers separated by an ultra-thin acoustic interlayer, which cuts interior noise and protects trim from the damaging effect of UV radiation. Jaguar also claims that the laminated side glass makes smash-and-grab thefts more difficult.
All XJs now feature the wire-mesh grille introduced on the high-performance XJR, though the R model still sports a unique body-color grille surround and other design tweaks that give it a more aggressive look. These include thin-spoke, 19-inch wheels.
Wheel packages range from 18 to 20 inches in diameter. For appearances sake, we generally say bigger is better, and that applies with the XJ. On the other hand, larger wheels (and therefore shorter tire sidewalls) tend to produce a slight decrease in ride quality, or at least more tire noise.
Inside, the 2007 Jaguar XJ exudes tradition and good taste. It may not be as avant-garde precise as its German competitors or as Zen-like or techie as some from Japan, but it looks and most importantly smells like success.
All XJs feature polished burl walnut trim and contrasting piping on the leather seats. Some have soft, long-pile wool rugs in the footwells, which make you want to ride with your shoes and socks off (even if those rugs are harder to brush off or clean). The walnut in the Vanden Plas and Super V8 is hand inlaid with chunks Peruvian boxwood, and a lighter elm trim is offered on all models at no cost.
The XJ dashboard sweeps across the front of the cabin in a fairly high position. Three primary gauges are clustered in front of the steering wheel, with the speedometer slightly larger in the center, tach to the left and fuel and temperature gauges combined on the right. The center stack features a seven-inch LCD touch screen for managing climate, audio and navigation functions. Jaguar has made the controls easy to operate and avoided the temptation to include a host of gee-whiz computer controls. We find the control center in general, and the touch-screen navigation system in particular, far preferable to the point-and-click devices in German competitors.
While the XJ is a large car, everything adjusts to accommodate drivers from tiny to almost huge. All seats feature sixteen-way adjustment, and foot pedals can be moved up to 2.5 inches at the touch of a switch. The XJR and Super V8 feature more heavily bolstered sport seats. We'd recommend them to drivers who like the occasional blast down a canyon road, but the standard seats are just fine.
The current XJs are roomier than ever. Gone are the days when the unmistakable Jaguar styling brought an obvious (obviously cramped) payback inside, compared to German cars. While the long-wheelbase versions have proven popular with American consumers, they were originally developed for Europe's chauffeur-driven executive class. Five extra inches in the car's length is entirely behind the B-pillars (between the front and rear doors), so inside it means a lot more rear seat room.
The rear seatbacks also recline, and there's a switch provided for the person riding in the right-rear seat to power the front passenger's seat forward. This allows plenty of room to stretch out and enjoy such things such as wooden picnic trays that flip down from the backs of the front seats. The Super V8 comes standard with separate climate controls for each side in back, as well as the dual-screen DVD entertainment system. The 6.5-inch LCD monitors are embedded in the back of the front-seat headrests, with a control panel located in the rear center armrest that operates the screens independently. One person can be watching a DVD while the other plays a video game or looks at snapshots from a camera.
The XJ's trunk offers 16.6 cubic feet of volume, which is more than the Audi A8 (14.6 cubic feet) and BMW 7 Series (16.3), but less than the Lexus LS460 or Mercedes S-Class (both 18.0). To be sure, we wouldn't expect buyers in this league to choose primarily on trunk size, and the XJ's trunk is large in any case. It will swallow lots of luggage, and at least a couple really large golf bags.
The Jaguar XJ series makes an appealing alternative to the German and Japanese mainstays among full-size luxury cars. Those who embrace the XJ's distinct styling and finish won't pay an obvious price in performance, smoothness or ease of function, and its retail price is attractive relative to obvious competitors.
Most XJ models are tuned with emphasis on a supple ride, which is probably not a bad thing in a big luxury car. Yet all handle in steady, predictable fashion, and are quite nimble for cars of their size. Indeed, we'd say they offer some distinct advantages over their German counterparts.
One is the XJ's all-aluminum monocoque, or integrated body/chassis. It weighs about 400 less than a similarly sized unit-body fashioned of conventional steel, which is the equivalent of leaving two good-sized passengers at the curb. Rest assured that that the aluminum body is as crashworthy, as strong, as steel (stronger, actually, at a given weight). The Jaguar's body is built in essentially the same fashion as the airframe of a commercial airliner: riveted (with about 3200 rivets) and bonded (120 yards of adhesive) to form a stiff shell that is the foundation for everything the car does. Other things equal, this rigidity and reduced weight promote a better-riding, better-handling car.
Toss the big XJ into a tight corner on a narrow winding road and you'll find that it tenaciously grips the surface, with nary a complaint. The power steering is precise without being too heavy, and the XJ goes where it's aimed. The tires stay pressed to the road thanks to its double-wishbone suspension design and Jaguar's Computer Active Technology Suspension (CATS), which continuously and instantly adjusts damping according to forces pushing the wheels up toward the car. CATS promotes stability and a nice, even body height whether the car is accelerating or braking hard or traveling over an undulating road surface.
Through several hundred miles on a variety of different roads and surfaces, the XJ was stable at all times, with predictable handling. It didn't matter whether we were in the standard or long-wheelbase versions. The only intrusion in the smoothness was a bit more vibration through the steering column than we'd expect in a super luxury car.
The XJs are also quick, and again we see the value of aluminum. The XJ8's 300-horsepower V8 is down on power at least a bit to all its competitors, yet its acceleration figures (0 to 60 mph in about 6.3 seconds, according to Jaguar) are as good as or better than many, thanks to relatively light wieght. In the XJ, the V8 engine delivers plenty of acceleration-producing torque at all engines speeds, and it also delivers the best EPA mileage rating (at 18/27 mpg City/Highway, equal to the Lexus LS460) in the class.
The engine works nicely with the six-speed automatic transmission, which we still consider one of the best in the class, despite a proliferation of seven-speeds. Shifts are smooth, almost seamless, during sedate driving, yet positive under hard acceleration. Most importantly, the transmission is almost intuitive. In most cases, its electronic brain decides to change gears at almost the precise moment we would, if we were doing the shifting with a manual.
We're not fans of Jaguar's J-Gate manual shift selector, however. This device is a throw-back to the days before transmissions had advanced electronic controls, and engineers sought alternative means to give automatics a sportier, manual feel. We find the more familiar up/down sequential manual feature on most other automatics to be more effective than J-Gate. Regardless, the XJ's power band and the automatic's excellent response make manual shifting seem superfluous.
The XJR and Super V8 models add a supercharger that forces more air into the engine, raising both horsepower and torque by at least 100 units. This propels the XJR from 0 to 60 mph in 5 seconds.
The Jaguar XJ line holds its own with the best luxury cars in the world, and it's attractively priced compared to Audi, BMW, Lexus and Mercedes. This sedan is both beautiful and stately. It swaths its occupants in traditional British club-room luxury, with contrasting seat piping, lots of polished wood and deep-pile wool rugs, and it spares us the excessive gadgetry. Its rigid aluminum chassis and sophisticated suspension offer a smooth ride and good grip. The long-wheelbase versions offer more rear seat space without significant trade-offs in response or ease of handling.
Contributing to this report were NewCarTestDrive.com correspondents Larry Edsall in Phoenix; Greg Brown in Las Vegas; Mitch McCullough in Los Angeles; and John Rettie in Santa Barbara, California.
Jaguar XJ8 ($63,585); XJ8 L ($67,085); Vanden Plas ($74,835); XJR ($80,835); Super V8 ($91,335).
Options As Tested
Sirius satellite radio receiver ($450); 20-inch Sepang spoked alloy wheels ($4,500).
Jaguar XJ Super V8 ($91,335).
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