First, the good news. The Jaguar XJ Super V8 is as fast as its V12-engined competitors for more than $25,000 less. (You could pick up a used X-Type with the spare change, but why would anyone do that?) At any rate, the long-wheelbase XJ comes with the supercharged, 4.2-liter V8 found in the sportier XJR (and the Range Rover Sport), and it puts out 400 horsepower. That's 38 horses down from its nearest competitor, the BMW 760Li. But the Jaguar is all aluminum and, unlike the similarly constructed Audi A8, the result is significant weight savings. The XJ tips the scales at a feathery — as feathery as a large sedan can get — 4,001 pounds. In terms of power-to-weight-ratio, the only German luxury sedan that tops the XJ is the Mercedes-Benz S600.
The weight savings pays off in more than just speed. Fuel economy is better than all the V12s too. But the best part is that the XJ drives like a much smaller car; one could almost consider it nimble. In fact, the XJ is longer and wider than its competitors.
Unfortunately, the added length does not pay its dividend in rear-seat legroom. And the rear seat is the place to be in the XJ Super V8. We'll get to that, but not before we cover some additional bad news.
For starters, this platform is going on four years old; it's a veritable antique in product-cycle terms. However well the XJ drives, its chassis rigidity is not on par with newer offerings. Features and interior lag behind the competition as well. Where are the massaging seats and bi-xenon headlamps? Why hasn't the navigation system been updated since 1999?
Perhaps we're being too picky, but the XJ feels a touch dated. That said, it does have plenty of features like Bluetooth phone, active cruise control, and rear-seat DVD monitors. Which returns us to the rear seats, which, as good as the XJ drives, offer the best chairs in the house. All four seating areas in the Super V8 have lambswool floormats — a ridiculous but very cozy indulgence. The back seats, with adjustable lumbar and recline, also have fold-down trays. And the rear-seat occupants can control the main radio or listen to their own entertainment through (corded, not included) headphones.
All of the windows have double-laminated glass, and the XJ is so quiet and smooth that the comparison to first-class airline travel would only be unfair if you consider that the XJ is probably more comfortable than that of an airliner's luxo-section. One reviewer's sister enjoyed the back seat so much she called it the best car ever. Her brother doesn't quite agree. It's a good car, and a great value, but it lacks the gee-whiz gadgetry and over-the-top luxury of the German competitors. That said, anyone who is looking to both drive and be driven should give the XJ Super V8 more than a passing glance. [by Mike Austin]