2007 Jaguar XJR

Although major revisions (through the X300 and, particularly, the X308 updates) kept the Mark 2 competitive in some areas against its rivals, the basic design dated back to 1986 which meant the car was very quickly being outclassed and losing ground to its rivals, many of which were now two generations advanced from the original competitors of the Mark 2 XJ. For example, since the model had been unveiled in 1986 (at the same time as the BMW 7 Series E32), BMW had launched Mark 3 (E38) and Mark 4 (E65) versions of its 7 Series in 1994 and 2001 respectively – all while Jaguar was still producing the Mk 2 XJ.

In early 2003, the all-new third generation XJ (known as X350) arrived in showrooms. While the car’s exterior and interior styling were traditional in appearance, the car was completely re-engineered. The new car also saw the return of the fabled XJ6 badge, and with it 6-cylinder power, albeit in a V-configuration.

Like the Audi A8’s, the X350’s chassis and body are constructed from aluminium. While some steel is used in some places throughout the chassis, the X350 has a stressed aluminium monocoque/chassis similar in general design to a conventional steel structure, but with two differences; its underbody components are bonded together with aerospace-grade epoxy adhesives while around 3,200 self-piercing rivets are used to create the new XJ’s unibody. This differs from the A8’s construction which uses an aluminium spaceframe to which aluminium panels are then attached.

However, the aluminium Audi A8 weighs a comparatively high 1,830 kg (4,000 lb) (3.0 V6 TDi) compared to 1,539 kg (3,390 lb) of the (3.0 V6) XJ.

On its own, the current XJ’s bodyshell weighs about the same as a contemporary BMW MINI. If the car were made of steel, it is estimated that it would weigh 40% more.

Some of the styling features that distinguish the X350 from the previous XJ include the outer headlights, which are larger than the inner headlights, and wheels which are pushed out further towards the corners of the car (due to an increased wheelbase), both like the original Mark 1 XJ. Also, the X350 dispenses with the separate “sixthlight” rear side window of its predecessor, reverting back to two side windows with quarterlight glasses mounted in the rear doors, like the Mark 1. Moreover, beginning in 2004, changes have been made to the distinctive chrome side window frames of the XJ, where the use of chrome in the areas in between the front and back doors has been discontinued, in effect hiding the B-pillars. The curve in the rear door and rear screen resembles that of the Jaguar saloons of the 1950s and 1960s.

The V8 engines remained in the new model, but were now the revised and more powerful versions found in the 2003 S-Type. The 290 bhp (216 kW) 4.0 litre and 370 bhp (276 kW) 4.0 litre supercharged engines from the X308 Mk II were replaced by the S-Type’s 294 bhp (219 kW) 4.2 L and 400 bhp (298 kW) 4.2 L supercharged units respectively, while a new 3.5 V8 was also introduced for the European market. Derived from the 3.2 engine of the previous model, it produced 265 bhp (198 kW).

The 240 bhp (179 kW) 3.2 L V8 from the previous model was replaced by the 240 bhp (179 kW) 3.0 L V6 from the X-Type and S-Type. The V6 powers the XJ6, while the XJ8 is powered by a naturally-aspirated V8. The XJR is powered by a supercharged 4.2 L V8. The XJ6 and the XJ TDVi are the only X350 models not sold in the Americas.

In 2005 Jaguar introduced the diesel-powered XJ TDVi. The XJ TDVi features the same Ford-Peugeot-developed 2.7 litre twin-turbo V6 found in the S-Type. The model produces 204 bhp (152 kW) and 321 lb·ft (435 N·m) of torque, earning it praise as the most refined diesel engine to be found in any car, anywhere, with electronically controlled engine mounts in order to minimise vibration.

Despite some critics’ concerns that the XJ’s styling is dated, the general consensus is that the X350 is an efficient car featuring sharp and agile handling, a smooth ride and powerful engines, particularly the V8 and diesel engines.[citation needed]

The Super V8, also known as the Daimler Super Eight, is the fastest and most expensive model, with the XJR a close second. The Super V8, which debuted in the 2003 model year in the new X350 body style, was essentially a long-wheelbase, supercharged XJ8 with the more upscale Vanden Plas, or Daimler interior. Its primary competitor was the Mercedes-Benz S55 AMG. A distinctive wire mesh grille and chrome-finished side mirrors set the Super V8 and the XJR apart from the less expensive XJ saloons. In 2005, the Super V8 model was replaced by the Daimler Super Eight in all markets outside of North America. The Daimler Super Eight is essentially the same car, but with the addition of a different grille, boxwood inlays into the wood veneer and several other interior luxuries as standard. Daimler’s US equivalent is no longer known as the Vanden Plas, but the Super V8. The Vanden Plas name is used on models that would be known as Sovereign elsewhere.

All North American XJs come standard with a a 300 hp (224 kW) naturally aspirated engine. A 400 hp (298 kW) supercharged from 4.2 L V8 engine is optional. The valvetrain has a dual overhead cam design with four valves per cylinder. The top speed is limited electronically.

In early 2005, Jaguar announced its most exclusive, powerful and expensive XJ saloon since ceasing V12 production. Called the 2006 Super V8 Portfolio, it is a limited-edition trim level of the flagship Super V8 saloon. It debuted at the New York International Auto Show in March 2005, and is the most expensive Jaguar saloon produced to date, with a base price of US$115,995. The Portfolio features added power as well as exterior and interior enhancements, including a DVD player and 7-inch screens in the rear headrests. The Super V8 Portfolio, aimed at North American markets, became available in August 2005. It is available in only two new, limited colors: Black Cherry and Winter Gold.

The Super V8 Portfolio is powered by Jaguar’s supercharged 400 hp (300 kW), 4.2 L, 32-valve, AJ-V8 engine. Top speed is 155 mph (249 km/h) and the Portfolio has a 0-60 mph acceleration time of under five seconds

The Jaguar XJR is an iconic car. No wait. I mean, it’s an ironic car: an automobile with a huge gap between expectation and reality. For example, you expect a leather-lined British luxury sedan to literally reek of class. The XJR smells of… nothing. You expect the torch bearer for Jaguar’s performance heritage to handle corners with cat-like reflexes. It doesn’t. And yet, the XJR perfectly embodies the Jaguar creed of “pace and grace”. Truth be told, the XJR is both more and less than it seems.

On the more side, the XJR will pleasantly disappoint anyone expecting dodgy electrics, rusting panels and faulty mechanicals. While JD Power’s Initial Quality Survey is more about customer satisfaction than build quality, the brand’s ascension to the second place slot is a reasonable reflection of the XJR’s reliability. No part of the sports sedan seemed predisposed to rot, break, fall off or fail. It’s a thoroughly modern machine.

Her best angle. Also on the more side, the XJR is one Hell of a quick car. Give those 390 supercharged horses a prod and the XJR charges down a straight with monumental rapidity– and keeps on going. While there are a few cars of this bulk that can muster a sub-five second sprint to 60, not many offer the XJR’s tremendous in-gear shove. With 399ft.-lbs. of torque at 3500rpm, you can morph from double to triple digits with neck-snapping ease. The supercharger whines like a detuned strimmer, but the sound soon forms a neurological pathway to your adrenal glands.

The British luxofighter rides on the company’s thoughtfully-named CATS (Computer Active Technology Suspension). The system continuously adjusts the XJR’s shock absorbers to match the vehicle’s speed and the prevailing road conditions. The car still floats like a butterfly and stings like a butterfly. If only Jaguar’s chassis gurus had attached the suspension computer to the gear-holding Sport button, to firm things up by 20% or so. Sadly, surprisingly, Jag’s top cat is a comfort-biased machine that’s easily flustered by a combination of broken surfaces and lateral G’s.

Ho-humIf comfort it is, then comfort it is. Considering the amount of leg and head room in the outgoing XJR (somewhere between slim and none) the new [for-’03] model’s generous accommodations are a real bonus. The XJR still feels a bit snug compared to, say, all of the competition, but the extra interior volume adds mightily to the fast Jag’s sense of occasion. There’s something marvelously decadent about going like stink in an elegantly-tailored, loose-fitting car.

Yes, well, the XJR is also loose-fitting in areas where it should be tight. In fact, a close examination of the XJR reveals a startling lack of attention to detail– especially for a car that costs $83k. You can fit an entire magazine into the panel gaps on either side of the hood. The plastic covering the radiator is both poor and poorly attached. Ditto the carpet lining the trunk lid. The carpets underfoot are a sad (if hard-wearing) departure from the plush Wilton fabric of days gone by. The felt-like material lining the roof and surrounding the cupholders, and the plastic topping the dash, also err on the side of the industrial.

The big Jag has CATS’ claws, but it ain’t enough to out handle the competition. I could go on. So I will. The texture and design of the key (a part nicked from the Euro-spec Ford Mondeo) is so down market that handing it to a parking valet feels like an act of betrayal. Though intuitive, the touch-screen display is more dated than Colin Farrell. The gauges are po-faced. The driver’s door won’t open without a fight. Etc.

To be fair, for every sybaritic distraction, there’s an equal and opposite delight. The stereo is magnificent. The seats are supportive during press-on driving, yet mileage friendly for the long haul. The headlights are brighter than an Oxford scholar. And so on. But we are talking about a car that costs some $10k more than a fully-loaded, anally retentive Lexus LS, or the same as the equally rapid, immaculately constructed Mercedes E55 AMG Station Wagon. Not to put too fine a point on it, you’d be perfectly within your rights to expect more from Jag’s finest.

Scribbled on May 13th 2008 in Jaguar, Jaguar XKR
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