Jaguar's XJ Defines High-Tech Quality

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Physician's Money Digest, September15 2003, Volume 10, Issue 17

The all-new Jaguar XJ is substantially magnesiumand aluminum. We've been test-driving and writingfor over 25 years and have driven nearly everyaluminized unit-body car. We were swept away by theXJ, whose secret lies in the components' assembly.

Cat's Inside and Out Purr

The "leaper" hood ornament has been updated toappear more aggressive. From the outside to the heart,this car is thrilling. The XJ models are just a touch over200 inches long, with a wheelbase of just under 120 inches.The XJ8 model is the least expensive, the Van den Plasis the most luxurious, and the XJR is sporty and luxurious.The Jaguar has a pleasantly British interior, with anoverstuffed-chair feeling. When you combine the exteriorlook with the interior texture, design choices, and colors,you find everything well executed. The genuine wooddash is most attractive. The analog gauges are traditional,with white letters on a black background.

All V8 engines have a displacement of 4.2 litersand the XJR is equipped with a supercharger. Fromthe V8, to the ZF 6-speed automatic, to the uniquepropeller shaft, to the independent rear suspension,the driveline is of the finest quality.

Within the transmission is a Bosch mechanitronicbrain. Leave it in drive and it anticipates what you wantto do and how you want to do it by how your foot usesthe accelerator pedal. Use Jaguar's traditional J-gateshifter for ultimate response and control.

It's easy to be enthusiastic about the structure anddriveline. The thorough joy of the air suspension is thebest I've ever felt. Antilock brakes are standard, as is theoutstanding Teves brand Stability Control System.

The geometry and attractive cast-aluminum suspensionsystem help everything come together well, but it'sthe way this car rides on air that makes it special.

Mandatory Test Drive

Expansion joints on suspended highways andbridges or pavement breaks and potholes are a giveawayto the suspension and structure of all vehicles.When you test-drive this vehicle, find some expansionjoints to hit repetitively, so that you can feel the sturdinessof the structure combined with the way theshocks and air springs swallow up the road.

During your test drive, if you're thinking of buyingthe R model, pop the hood and ask the salesperson toshow you the supercharger on top, with the sexy twinair-to-liquid intercoolers. The R model will rocket youto 60 miles per hour in around 5 seconds, with a limitedtop speed of 155 mph. Expect highway fuel economyto be in the high 20s, depending on your characterbehind the wheel and your choice of horsepower.

While the car is easy to slip into and drive away in, asyou learn it, it learns you, and you build an intuitive relationshipwith it. For example, it's quite easy to train thetransmission to function the way you like using your footor the gearshift. In addition, the touch-screen navigationis pleasant, easy to use, and understandable.

For safety, the upper portion of the dashboarduses nonreflective earth tones that usually match thesteering wheel, with a pleasant deviating color on thelower portion. The doors are easy to open, with sensiblecontrols in traditional places. The steering wheelhas well-situated thumb controls. Its center controls anavigation system, climate control, and audio system,which is simple to use between the voice controls andtouch screen. It's a bit complex at first, but after aweek of ownership, you'll be a natural at all the specialfeatures that enhance your driving experience.

Your intelligence is rewarded by your intimate abilityto control all features of the car. While the back seatroom is certainly not as long as Audi's new A8L, it's stillgracious. Convenient storage places abound. The leatherseats wrap and support you so pleasantly in the turns, yetstill provide easy entries and exits.

The parking brake is electric. It's aswitch you pull up as you would a handbrake, but it moves about an inch. Tounlock, you push down about an inchfor it to release. If you need to stop inan emergency, quickly pulling it uplocks your rear wheels by using a specialcaliper on the rear brakes. (You cansee it on the rear wheels at about 2o'clock.) It's the kind of feature an engineeringmind appreciates.

Thoughtful features abound. Whenyou lock your car, the mirrors fold againstthe body, so British and naturally human.The interior is pleasantly lit. The exteriorXenon headlights with high-intensity,light-emitting diodes at the rear create anattractive nighttime signature.

If you're considering a luxury orsporty sedan and your price rangeapproaches $55,000 to $70,000, this is amust test drive. And even if you weren'tthinking of spending that kind of money,test drive this car for the experience. Takea little time to feel it out. If you appreciatecars, it will be worthwhile. When youdrive up to the yacht club, you won't needto make excuses to people who spenttwice the money for another product.Your cat's much more fun.