2007 Jaguar XJR Road Test Review
For nearly 40 years, Jaguars expensive XJ sedans have been a paragon of upscale motoring - smooth and powerful, comfortable and capable, refined and relaxed.
What they have not been for many of those years is a paragon of reliability. But that word slowly joined the Jaguar lexicon after the iconic British manufacturer was purchased by Ford in 1989. And reliability was bolstered after Jaguar moved the XJs from in-line six-cylinder and V-12 engines to modern V-8 power in 1998.
Ford ownership has also resulted in the introduction of one more descriptive term exciting. It comes in the form of a power surge that turns the quietly purring Jaguar into an aggressive, sometimes snarling jungle cat.
The excitement began in 1995 when Jaguar introduced its first XJ-R. Its supercharged, in-line six-cylinder engine produced 322 horsepower. A more potent XJ-R hit the road in 1998 when a supercharged V-8 engine was introduced.
Today, the XJ-R sedans generate 400 horsepower, 100 more than the standard-issue 4.2-liter V-8. Mated to a smooth-shifting, six-speed automatic transmission, the burly powerplant can now hurl the XJ-R from a stop to 60 mph in five seconds.
But the power surge is only part of the reason that the XJ-R comes across as something akin to the NASCAR version of the XJ-8. Where once there was only a murmur from the engine compartment, there now is a subdued rumble which grows in volume as the V-8 races toward maximum output.
The usually compliant suspension has been tightened to boost responsiveness to driver inputs at a slight sacrifice in ride quality. Chalk that up to an air suspension system controlled by CATS (Computer Active Technology Suspension). CATS monitors road conditions in milliseconds and continually adjusts suspension stiffness to optimize both ride and handling.
The power steering, too, seems to have acquired added precision and big Brembo disc brakes stand ready to bring the two-ton sedan quickly to a halt. Add to all of that a set of low-profile performance tires and the result is a Jaguar that can easily take in stride more performance than most drivers will ever ask of it.
Fortunately, the performance orientation does not detract from the understated elegance that has been the hallmark of the XJ design that has endured with minor changes for nearly 40 years.
On the outside, the mesh grille, aluminum power vents and polished alloy wheels set the XJ-R apart, but do not clash with the vehicles basic lines.
Inside, the leather-covered bucket seats, firmer than expected, hold the driver and front-seat passenger protectively in place. But, they turn out to be quite comfortable for the long haul and blend nicely with the rest of the interior. Aluminum trim meshes harmoniously with the highly polished wood veneer.
While the design of all XJ sedans exudes old-world charm, the vehicles actually incorporate the most modern construction techniques. The entire body, including all exterior panels, is made of aluminum and uses bonding techniques employed by the aerospace industry. The result is a stronger, more rigid car that weighs about 440 pounds less than a comparable steel-bodied sedan.
The lower weight increases gas mileage and performance, but nobody should think of buying a Jaguar simply to save fuel. I averaged between 13 and 20 miles per gallon of premium fuel, compared with the EPAs generous estimate of 17 miles per gallon in the city and 24 on the open road.
As one should expect from a car affordable only to buyers in the upper income echelons, the XJ-R comes with a lot of high-tech and luxury amenities.
Standard equipment includes a navigation system, 320-watt sound system with Bluetooth connectivity, dual-zone climate control, adaptive cruise control, an audible system that warns of an impending collision with objects in front of and behind the car and heated front and rear seats with 16-way power controls. A rear-seat entertainment system with dual rear television screens installed in the front head restraints costs $2,950 extra.
The latest in safety features are incorporated, too. All XJs have front and side airbags for driver and front-seat passenger plus side curtain airbags for all outboard passengers. The front seats have strong, energy-absorbing magnesium frames.
In addition, the Advanced Restraint Technology System determines the severity of a crash, the position of the driver and front-seat passenger and the usage of seat belts. It uses the information to determine the power at which airbags are deployed.
Base price of the Jaguar XJ-R is $80,835. With the multimedia package and delivery charge, the bottom line rises to $84,450.
Still, the Jaguar has some imperfections and eccentricities that should not go unmentioned. The J-shaped gate for the automatic shifter makes for awkward manual gear changes. Form out-trumps function for back seat passengers who may find themselves cramped when a tall driver extends the front seat rearward. The adaptive cruise control applied the brakes abruptly when it automatically slowed the test car to keep the speed synchronized with surrounding traffic. The trip computer, message center and navigation screen are hard to read when the driver is wearing sunglasses.
In the final analysis, though, the XJ-R is a fascinating blend of timeless sophistication and modern technology. It gives the gracefully aging sedan spunk without destroying its core attributes.