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Exterior Design: ****
The Jaguar XJ is stylishly retro, much in the way of a Fila or Izod shirt. The proportions are well matched front and rear, and it is instantly recognizable as a Jaguar. It is also instantly recognizable as something that is related to an X-Type, which is bad. (Fine, the X-Type is an easy target.) At any rate, the XJ is like a good suit: stylish but not overstated.

Interior Design: ***
It's British, so there's lot of leather and wood. The overall feeling is very warm and soft in contrast to the firmer seats and colder design of the XJ's German competitors. But the touch-screen nav system, and even the entire center console, is looking a little bit old, and the radio is frustrating to use.

Acceleration: ****
If not for the cartoonishly quick acceleration of the Mercedes-Benz S600, the XJ Super V8 would be a rocket ship. The engine note is smooth and subdued until you hit the gas, when the noise from the exhaust reaches a pleasing level without any whine from the supercharger.

Braking ****
There's something to be said for brakes that can alternately make your passengers scream, and then get mad at you for a second panic brake when they bruise their legs on whatever part of the interior they just hit.

Ride *****
I'm told the rear seat is similar to airplane travel, because the ride is so smooth and the cabin is so quiet. But the suspension doesn't float like a Buick, it's right about perfect. Give some credit to the weight-saving all-aluminum construction here.

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Handling ****
Again, the aluminum helps. The XJ drives like a much smaller car, even though it's longer and wider than ze German luxo-sedans. The steering is precise and well-weighted.

Gearbox ****
Could the six-speed automatic be smoother? Yes, but that's less a complaint than a recognition of better gearboxes out there. There's a sport mode, and individual gears can be selected by moving through the steps of the J-shaped shift gate.

Audio/Video ****
The rear seat has two DVD screens in the front seat headrests, and rear seat passengers can choose from the trunk-mounted DVD player, one of two auxiliary A/V inputs, or any of the main stereo's sources (CD, CD Changer, AM/FM). The stereo also has digital signal processing to fit the sound to specific seat positions.

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Toys ****
The XJ has one of the best and most useful gadgets in the whole world — an adjustable speed limiter. Say you're in a construction zone, speed trap, or just being followed by Smokey. Set the limiter to the desired speed and the XJ works as normal up to that point and then limits the revs. As for the rest of the car, this is a Jaguar and it's not without its electronic quirks. Turning on the driver's seat heater, for instance, also turns on the steering wheel heater. And where are the cooled seats, power trunk, or any other number of gizmos that are available on the German sedans?

Trunk **
The spec sheet says the trunk is competitive at 15 cubic feet, but the eyes say this is a small trunk. That's because the low trunklid results in a very shallow cargo area of limited usefulness.

Value ****
As we mentioned in part one, the XJ Super V8 is at least $25,000 less than a 12-cylinder German sedan, and it's just as quick. Of course, those missing four cylinders result in a loss of cachet. You're still getting a lot of luxury car for, well, a lot of money, but much less money than for a similar Audi.

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Overall ****
It's not as new, stylish, or well-featured as the Germans', but the XJ Super V8 is a lot of fun to live with, and even more fun to ride in the back seat. No, it's probably not the best, but this car shouldn't be written off like Ford might do with the whole brand.

[by Mike Austin]

Related:
Jalopnik Reviews: 2006 Jaguar XJ Super V8, Part 1 [internal]