2008 Jaguar XJ Photo

2008 Jaguar XJ - Review


Heads of state, top-level business executives and the independently wealthy are the typical purchasers of limousines such as the Jaguar XJ Super V8, the BMW 7-series and the Mercedes S-Class, and they heavily favor the German offerings if sales figures are any indication. But just being rich and powerful doesn’t make them right. Certainly, the BMW and Mercedes sedans offer impressive features, capable platforms and what many consider attractive styling. But they lack what the Jaguar has in spades - character.

That’s not to say the XJ isn’t an attractive and feature-packed car, however. Radar-adaptive cruise control, satellite radio, dual headrest DVD players, airplane-style seatback trays, supple expanses of leather and luxurious deep-pile wool carpeting are spotted on the briefest of glances at the vehicle’s spec sheet. But that’s not where the charm of the XJ lies. The atmosphere in its cabin, the feeling you get looking at it from across a parking lot, the shoved-back-in-the-seat acceleration when driving with a heavy foot - these are the things the XJ does so well.

To really understand the XJ Super V8, it helps to understand where the car fits in the Jaguar lineup - and that’s essentially right at the top. Featuring all of the luxury amenities of the Vanden Plas plus most of the performance features of the XJR, the Super V8 is Jaguar’s ‘best of both worlds’ offering. The car does an admirable job in both of its split-personalities, a surprising result as compromise cars are usually disappointing. The Super V8 continually raises expectations - its constantly-adjusting air-ride suspension offers both fantastic ride quality and precise handling, for example. Likewise the car’s high-speed stability is so great that rear-seat passengers will have no reason to suspect a 100mph (160km/h) dash is anything but a sedate 50mph (80km/h) cruise.

The styling of the car may incorporate features reminiscent of the 1970s, but it’s an all-modern machine that equals or exceeds the BMW and Mercedes in technical ability. All-aluminum construction means lightweight despite its tremendous size, tipping the scales at just 4,006lbs (1,820kg) and stretching the tape measure to 205.3in (5.21m). At just an inch shy of seven feet wide (2.13m) it’s not a narrow car either. It will easily fill any parking spot you might find short of an RV park or all-night truck stop. But the doors are surprisingly accommodating, rarely impinging upon the next-closest car’s space, lightening the worry of damaging the car’s fabulous metallic paint.

A 4.2L supercharged 90-degree V8 engine turns out 400hp and 413lb-ft of torque, with the peak twist available at a reasonable 3,500rpm. Forced induction isn’t a common feature on moderate-displacement eight-cylinder ultra-luxury limousines, but it should be. The XJ Super V8 provides a level of acceleration and performance that belies its size and its market segment. Sub-six-second 0-60mph (96km/h) times and strong throttle response throughout the rev range make the car eminently driveable. You’d have to upgrade to the S600’s V12 engine or an AMG model to find more power in the Mercedes S-Class, and the V12 is the only engine BMW offers with more power as well - but upgrading to V12 engines is a costly proposition.

The route between Los Angeles and San Luis Obispo involves a particularly enjoyable and tortuous stretch of mostly two-lane blacktop called San Marcos Pass Road, or at least the route can accommodate that stretch, if one is so inclined. Your humble reviewer was most certainly so inclined.

Arriving into the area just as night fell on the foothills, settling into a comfortable yet brisk pace was an easy task. The road-holding ability of the chassis was impressive, aided by the massive and grippy 20in high-performance summer tires on the Callisto alloy wheels. Sweeping bends are the Jag’s sweet spot, as once the suspension takes a set, only indelicate application of the throttle or sawing at the wheel will unsettle it. Approaching tight curves presents the opportunity to exercise the ample power of the 14in brakes, which though large are dwarfed inside the rim of the huge alloy wheels.

Despite the sporty demeanor and throaty V8, fuel economy is surprisingly good, averaging 18.7mpg over a fairly evenly mixed array of highway, suburban and urban driving throughout our stay with the car. The EPA estimates for the car are 15mpg in town and 22mpg on the highway, putting our final figure right in the middle of that range. It’s not an econo-hatch, but for 400hp and 17ft of luxury style, it’s an exceptional performance.

So the XJ Super V8, with its supercharged engine, electronically-limited 155mph top speed and performance-oriented exterior image lives up to the hype. But this is an executive limo, not a sports car, right? How is it when not being relentlessly flogged through the night?

Simply brilliant. On the open highway, activating the lane-departure warning system and radar-adaptive cruise control enables smooth and safe cruising no matter the conditions. The conservative-but-adjustable radar setting allows ample room in front of the car for emergency stops, brakes smoothly but swiftly if another car cuts too closely in front, and accelerates equally well to pace when the way ahead is clear. It’s a really brilliant system and at least the equal of any other on the market in terms of functionality and smoothness.

Inside, the story is much the same. Rear-seat legroom is fantastic, which is a definite must for this class of vehicle. In fact, the right-rear seat controls offer the favored position the option of moving the front passenger seat about at will with only the press of a button. Ride quality has been mentioned as excellent, but it’s worth expanding upon the subject. Around town, the car soaks up bumps and dips readily, though the steering wheel never feels truly vague or numb. It seems to almost float down the highway when cruising at constant speed - there need be little worry over spilled drinks as long as the driver restrains his right foot and his desire to point the car abruptly toward the next bend.

The dual nature of the car’s handling is as impressive as its capability - the very large XJ Super V8 combines its supple ride when at a leisurely pace with responsive and confident handling when pushed with subtle finesse. This is no doubt the work of the air suspension, but the system operates completely transparently, so you’d never know it was there if it weren’t for the impossible range exhibited in the car’s tuning.

Flip down the rear center armrest, which houses the rear-seat cup holders, plus the telephone, stereo and DVD controls, and you have complete access to all the systems requisite to hold a serious business meeting, address colleagues from the road or review a presentation or proposal. Let down the seatback trays and the car becomes a full workstation, complete with writing surface - though it would certainly easily double for a lunch table should one find the need to eat on the go. Front-seat passengers aren’t left as afterthoughts, however, and appropriately so - in America, this car is at least as likely to be driven by the owner as it is to be piloted by a chauffeur. Comfort and accommodation are equal to the back seat, though leg room for the passenger isn’t quite as ample.

Comfort and style run hand-in-hand through the cabin, with the leather-upholstered surfaces appropriately soft to the touch and completely devoid of the chemically-treated slickness common in cheaper materials, and polished burl wood trim to offset the high-quality plastics and metal pieces used to accent the interior. It’s not the design of a 21st-century science experiment, or a vision of the future of corporate motoring. Instead, it’s an homage to hand crafted luxury and classic styling.

Like all cars, it has a few rough spots, however. The fit and feel of the gear selector, for example, is a bit flimsy and imprecise compared to the rest of the controls in the cockpit, though only the driver will notice this minor flaw. Similarly, the front sun visors are among the cheapest Ford Motor Company has to offer, despite the nearly $95,000 MSRP. Rear passengers have to make do with manual sun shades, which once pulled from their rests can be fidgety to secure and even more so to return to their place.

Another point of possible improvement is the satellite navigation system. Though it functioned admirably once set to a destination, finding that destination and avoiding routes no longer available due to construction or other alterations often required manual intervention and the assistance of an iPhone 3G. Finally, the all-aluminum construction, which turned out to be such a benefit to the performance and handling, may have something to do with the relatively high level of noise transmitted through the cabin.

Look past these inconveniences and you have a car that functionally equals the German class-leaders but does so with a style and panache they can’t approach. There’s surely a lot to be said for the technical excellence of precision engineering, but it doesn’t warm the heart or send shivers up the spine like the passion that drives the Jaguar XJ Super V8.
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Comments (13)
  1. If lacking character is the trade off for some gawd awful sub par 90's interior design, quality and fit and finish, color me a characterless connoisseur. Hideous.

  2. true true, this reads like an advert not a review.

    Anyone with their right mind would buy a 7 an S or an A8. Outside of California those who can afford to run a supercharged V8 saloon can afford to buy a V12 too.

  3. I'm sorry, but this is the only Jaguar left that actually looks like what a Jaguar is supposed to look like.

  4. Agree 110% with Don.
    This is what a Jag is supposed to look like. I'm sure this car will satisfy 99.9% of the people it targets as customers...

  5. Where do I start?

    First off this car is bar none better than the competition on so many levels.

    Level 1- Its the lightest in its catagory. The Audi A8 is also aluminum but weighs the most!

    Level 2- The entainment system is the best in the category. Fact- Mecedes scraped their system in the current S-Class when Jaguar launched their system. It really is that much better.

    Level 3- You can adjust the radio, AC, etc. without having to read the owners manual.

    Ultimately what holds Jaguar back is their absolute awful product offering of the 1970's under BL rule. If people would let go of their perceptions and give this car a chance they would realise what they are missing.

    As for Jaguars customer base its in the same boat that Cadillac was, their customers are to old and instead of buying a new Jaguar they worry about who to will their old Jaguar too since they can no longer drive. Another problem was that Ford was afraid to break the mold and go out side of the box which ultimately hurt sales and has put Jaguar its current situation.

    Fortunately the new XF is attracting a younger and wealthier demographic, the X-type is dead and buried (at least in the U.S.) and the XJ8 replacement will be a truly stunning machine much like the above car only with styling more inline with the category.

  6. Level 1 - the centre console design is about 73,000 years old. Why it hasn't been updated is beyond me.

    Level 2 - the plastic. who buys a $100,000 car and wants black plastic. They could have at lease put in faux wood.or something to make it look luxurious.

    Level 3 - The only reason you don't have to use the owners manual is because the people who will buy this car bought one in 1937 and it hasn't changed since then. It is just a simple case of locating the right button.

    Level 4 - Mercedes Benz do still have their rear-in-car-entertainment system, it's a $3,200 option.

    What this car needs is the XF full front grill and rear end but with some headlmpas without the gap.

  7. i like this car. I own both a BMW 745LI and Jaguar xj8l and i must say I like the Jaguar better than the BMW.

  8. SteveSteve - could you please link us to the $3200 rear seat option on the S-class? I can't find anything on the mbusa.com website.

  9. SteveSteve- I know they have the rear seat option thats the one they launched after scrapping the first one which never made it into the car once they saw Jaguars!!!!!!!

    Regarding what this car needs, read the last paragraph of my post!

    I would suggest you try living with the 7 Series, S-class and XJ8 for a week and also park your predujudice's. Trust me the Jaguar is the better car by a long shot its just wearing the wrong clothes.

  10. to admin it's when you configure the car online but its not working on the us site atm for my laptop only the UK site

    glad you agree about the 'wrong clothes' I can't comment on living with an s class but it is according to clarkson the best in the class...I have however been regular passenger in both a 2004 760li and more recently a 2007 4.2tdi A8 which were my dads cars and they are great the audi is a perhaps the more thought out of the two with the cubby spots in the door for folders etc but the 7 series was by far the fastest and had the most professional interior

    if I were to buy one it would be a 7 series and just have it without the run flats which my dad had replaced due to...well anyone who has experienced run flats knows why

  11. wrote 760li it wasn't the extended version just a 760i

  12. Great Article - love the Jag!

  13. I can tell you one thing I just bought a 2010 Mercedes and can not wait to go an get rid of it for another XJ8 my last 3 cars were XJs so I said I will try a mercedes. Mercedes does not even compare to the Jaguars. They are in a class all by themselves.

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