U.S.: Jaguar XJR
Car & Driver
If the numbers prove correct, it could be a case of a cat among a bunch of pigeons.
BY BARRY WINFIELD
PHOTOGRAPHY BY DAVID DEWHURST
Highs: Finally, a Jag even tall people can fit in.
Lows: The evolutionary styling is so subtle that hardly anyone will notice the changes.
The Verdict: Grace, space, and pace are now honest claims for the big cat.
Jaguar's engineers are happy to point out that the seventh-generation XJ-series cars are the first aluminum monocoque structures to be built at Castle Bromwich since the Spitfire fighter aircraft during World War II. It's perhaps no coincidence, then, that these XJ Jaguars are built using aerospace techniques (in this case bonded and riveted sheetmetal with extruded and cast aluminum structural members) instead of around a space-frame concept (like Audi's A8), which was considered unnecessarily complex.
The result, they say, is a car some 200 pounds lighter than its predecessor, with an interior nearly 20 percent larger and a structure 60 percent stiffer. Lighter is obviously better; lighter and more rigid are better yet, providing a more stable platform for the suspension and powertrain. And when you have nearly 400 horsepower to harness, as does the supercharged XJR model tested here, a stiff structure is essential.
Although the 2004 XJR wears an all-new aluminum body, the car's powertrain—a force-fed 4.2-liter V-8 and a six-speed automatic transmission—has already been sampled in XKR and S-type R variants, so we suspected it would provide strong and smooth thrust. And it did. The Eaton blower spins five percent faster than in the previous XJR, blowing 13.1 pounds of boost down the engine's 16 eager little inlet throats, helping churn out 399 pound-feet of torque at a relatively low 3500 rpm.
Obviously, the light weight of the car (just 4000 pounds) helps acceleration, but the propulsion provided by nearly 400 pound-feet of torque has to be felt to be appreciated. In the XJR, a dab at the throttle picks up the car and wafts it away from other vehicles on a virtual wave of torque.
The smooth V-8 pedals through a plush six-speed ZF transmission, and careful electronic calibration has the two whirling in well-orchestrated unison. When cruising at normal speeds, the engine responds to a hard jab at the pedal with a brief pause as the autobox digs for an appropriate ratio, then it thrusts the occupants back into their seats with another long surge of acceleration.
But just as with the S-type R we tested in our May 2002 issue, Jaguar's published specs seem to run into literal contradictions. Maximum power is reported to be available at 6100 rpm, yet the tachometer is redlined at 6000, and the automatic transmission shifts at that point. Nonetheless, our car swooped to 60 mph in 5.3 seconds (in its press materials, Jaguar promises a 5.0-second time) and on through the quarter-mile in a respectable 13.9 seconds at 104 mph.
That puts the car right into the hunt with the Mercedes S55 AMG and BMW 760Li, at a base price—$74,995—that's $30,000 to $40,000 lower than those esteemed models'. (The unboosted XJ8 starts at $59,995 and should perform on par with entry S-class and 7-series models.) If this Jaguar can live up to the promises of greatly improved quality and reliability that Jag officials—and the car's extended durability trials—suggest, this will truly be a case of a cat among the pigeons.
Certainly, the XJR held up well during its short tenure in the C/D realm, starting and performing reliably, and showing evidence of more careful assembly and painting processes than Jags of yore. Only the curious behavior of a front distance sensor hinted at electronic malfeasance.
This radar-based sensor, which works as a device that informs the adaptive cruise-control system to maintain safe distances behind other vehicles or as a simple following-distance warning device when the cruise control is deactivated, would occasionally return to duty and emit warning beeps even when switched off. It's possible this is normal, with the sensor abandoning a state of passive scrutiny at a preset threshold, in which case it is simply annoying rather than defective. If so, we really have no evidence to suggest that the new XJs will be anything but rock solid.
For people concerned about the vulnerability of the all-aluminum body, Jaguar's engineers insist that the bake-hardened alloy used on the car's outer skin is more resistant to dings than normal steel panels and that high-ductility alloy provides better protection in collisions. In addition, the XJR features bolt-on front and rear structures for quick and simple replacement of damaged extremities.
Lighter the new car may be; noisier it is not. Quieter camshaft drive chains and tuned induction paths have helped reduce engine noise, and numerous procedures and material applications throughout the car have made the new XJR especially calm inside. Even the Eaton blower's noise is subdued until operating at high speed and full throttle. Like a singer in a chorus awaiting a cue, the blower saves its song for high-performance driving. Then, to confirm the contribution it's making to the car's greatly hastened progress, the whine suddenly rises above the mellow growl of the V-8.
Even wind noise is low in the new XJR, thanks to careful body sculpting and triple door seals. Enthusiasts might consider the new XJs too quiet, but Jaguar devotees will undoubtedly appreciate the levels of refinement. The suspension is a case in point. By using air springs, Jaguar engineers have provided automatic ride leveling and quite remarkable body-motion control without having to use particularly firm spring rates.
By eliminating the steel coils in conventional springs, the Jag people have also removed one of the paths that conduct vibration into the body. In this category of car, it seems air springs are becoming par for the course. Considering how well the XJR handles and corners, the ride is remarkably civil. Even here the sense of lightness prevails. The XJR glides over imperfections and only jogs a bit when confronting bad pavement breaks. Special plastic wheel-housing liners help reduce the sounds the tires make in their war with bumps, but the 19-inch 40-series Pirelli P Zeros on our car did relay the roar of rough road texture into the cabin when the surfaces got grainy. Just not loudly.
Some feedback is good, particularly since the isolation from noise and vibration is already enough to have you chafing behind traffic that's moving at 90 mph. The XJR's combination of poise and tranquillity means that cars ahead are never going fast enough. Just as well, then, that the steering has good on-center feel along with equally good off-center response. There is so little lost motion between the wheel rim and front tires that abrupt inputs produce startlingly digital responses from the car's nose.Learn to finesse the steering in this car—not a difficult task—and you will find a rhythm on a winding stretch of road that engages your attention very agreeably. Since the car enjoys good handling and grip along with a deceptive ability to carry great speed, you risk the less-delighted attention of local law-enforcement personnel, too, but that's the downside of contemporary high-performance technology.
The upside is that this XJR has Jaguar's CATS adaptive damping, with the shocks mounted so their tops are isolated from the car's body structure. These are constantly readjusted according to driving conditions to help balance the wide comfort and control spectrum of the XJR. Dynamic stability control (DSC) is probably a necessary watchdog in a car that builds speed so effortlessly, but it can be switched off if so desired.
After watching Mike Cross, Jaguar's chief engineer for vehicle integrity, perform spectacular high-speed power slides on video, we feel doubly convinced that the DSC isn't there just to compensate for an incomplete chassis-tuning exercise. And after stopping from 70 mph in 164 feet (averaging 1.00 g of deceleration in the process), we know the giant Brembo rotors and their four-piston calipers are well up to the job of stopping this two-ton projectile.
Like many of the cars offered in this price stratum, the XJR has all the bells and whistles. It has elaborate safety systems with automatic deployment of airbags and belt tensioners based on the readings of various sensors. It has a killer Alpine stereo with 12 speakers. It has xenon headlights and LED taillights. It has 16-way power-adjustable front seats. It has leather and wood and good British interior charm.
But most important, it now has room for tall drivers and tall passengers and their luggage. In this league, that might be a lot more important than an aluminum body. But isn't it nice now to have it all?
The Spitfire airplane helped save Britain from the Germans. The first all-aluminum vehicle to be built at the Castle Bromwich plant since the Spitfire may well do the same for Jaguar. The big cat's cabin is now opulently trimmed and spacious enough to comfortably sprawl in. The alloy body rests lightly on a composed and cosseting suspension with tires that claw the pavement. The power from the R's supercharged V-8 is fierce. If buyers forgive its J-gate shifter and been-there styling, the XJ will put Jaguar back in the luxury-liner battle for the first time in two decades. —Aaron Robinson
This car looks so familiar from every angle that the huddled masses may not recognize it as all-new. But put an adult in the back seat or an enthusiast in the left front, and the improvement is spectacular. With a power-to-weight ratio that slots between those of the awesome V-12-powered BMW and Benz sedans, this XJR sprints with the squillionaire class. Its seemingly billet-milled aluminum chassis is tuned to dice through twists or traffic with an agility usually reserved for the 5-series and E-class realm. Now, if our fritzing cruise-control sensor turns out to be a fluke and Jaguar can approach Lexus quality, it should grab market share like a Korean upstart. —Frank Markus
Jag's emperor has some new clothes, and they're bigger, stiffer, and lighter. Unfortunately, they look nearly identical to the old threads, a fact that would dissuade me from dropping 75 large on this new cat, especially when a BMW 745i, although frumpy, at least looks new. Imagine picking up some friends and hearing, "Nice Jag—is it new or used?" On the upside, the XJR is a delight to drive. It's fast, smooth, quiet, and surprisingly agile, and it pampers its occupants in a decadent interior. And with a price some 30 grand less than a Mercedes S55's, it's a relative bargain. Still, spend that much cash on a new car, and it should be obvious that it's new. —Ron Kiino
C/D TEST RESULTS
Zero to 30 mph: 1.9
40 mph: 2.9
50 mph: 4.1
60 mph: 5.3
70 mph: 6.9
80 mph: 8.6
90 mph: 10.6
100 mph: 12.8
110 mph: 15.6
120 mph: 19.1
130 mph: 23.4
140 mph: 28.6
150 mph: 38.5
Street start, 5-60 mph: 5.6
Top-gear acceleration, 30-50 mph: 2.8 50-70 mph: 3.2
Standing 1/4-mile: 13.9 sec @ 104 mph
Top speed (governor limited): 155 mph
70-0 mph @ impending lockup: 164 ft
Fade: none light moderate heavy
EPA city driving: 17 mpg
EPA highway driving: 24 mpg
C/D-observed: 16 mpg
INTERIOR SOUND LEVEL
Idle: 41 dBA
Full-throttle acceleration: 73 dBA
70-mph cruising: 65 dBA
Vehicle type: front-engine, rear-wheel-drive, 5-passenger, 4-door sedan
Price as tested: $76,445
Price and option breakdown: base Jaguar XJR (includes $665 freight), $74,995; nonstandard paint, $1000; front parking aid, $250; headlamp washers, $200
Major standard accessories: power steering, windows, and locks; A/C; cruise control; tilting and telescoping steering; rear defroster
Sound system: Alpine AM/FM-stereo radio/CD changer, 12 speakers
Type: supercharged and intercooled V-8, aluminum block and heads
Bore x stroke: 3.39 x 3.56 in, 86.0 x 90.3mm
Displacement: 256 cu in, 4196cc
Compression ratio: 9.1:1
Engine-control system: Denso EMS with port fuel injection
Emissions controls: 3-way catalytic converter, feedback air-fuel-ratio control, EGR
Supercharger: Eaton M112 Roots-type
Waste gate: external bypass valve
Maximum boost pressure: 13.1 psi
Valve gear: chain-driven double overhead cams, 4 valves per cylinder
Power (SAE net): 390 bhp @ 6100 rpm
Torque (SAE net): 399 lb-ft @ 3500 rpm
Redline: 6000 rpm
Transmission: 6-speed automatic with lockup torque converter
Final-drive ratio: 2.87:1
Gear ... Ratio ... Mph/1000 rpm ... Max. test speed
I ... 4.17 ... 6.5 ... 39 mph (6000 rpm)
II ... 2.34 ... 11.6 ... 69 mph (6000 rpm)
III ... 1.52 ... 17.8 ... 107 mph (6000 rpm)
IV ... 1.14 ... 23.7 ... 142 mph (6000 rpm)
V ... 0.87 ... 31.1 ... 155 mph (5000 rpm)
VI ... 0.69 ... 39.2 ... 155 mph (3950 rpm)
DIMENSIONS AND CAPACITIES
Wheelbase: 119.4 in
Track, F/R: 61.3/60.9 in
Length: 200.4 in
Width: 73.2 in
Height: 57.0 in
Ground clearance: 5.1 in
Curb weight: 4000 lb
Weight distribution, F/R: 52.5/47.5%
Fuel capacity: 22.3 gal
Oil capacity: 8.0 qt
Water capacity: 14.1 qt
Type: unit construction with 2 rubber-isolated subframes
Body material: bonded and riveted aluminum stampings, extrusions, and castings
SAE volume, front seat: 56 cu ft
rear seat: 50 cu ft
luggage space: 17 cu ft
Front seats: bucket
Seat adjustments: fore and aft, seatback angle, front height, rear height, lumbar support, thigh support
Restraint systems, front: manual 3-point belts; driver and passenger front, side, and curtain airbags
rear: manual 3-point belts, outboard curtain airbags
General comfort: poor fair good excellent
Fore-and-aft support: poor fair good excellent
Lateral support: poor fair good excellent
F: ind; 1 control arm, 1 lateral link, and 1 diagonal link per side; air springs; 2-position electronically adjustable shock absorbers; anti-roll bar
R: ind, unequal-length control arms and a toe-control link, self-leveling air springs, 2-position electronically adjustable shock absorbers, anti-roll bar
Type: rack-and-pinion, power-assisted
Turns: lock-to-lock 2.8
Turning circle curb-to-curb: 38.4 ft
F: 14.4 x 1.3-in vented disc
R: 13.0 x 0.6-in disc
Power assist: vacuum with anti-lock control
WHEELS AND TIRES
Wheel size 8.5 x 19 in
Wheel type cast aluminum
Tires Pirelli P Zero Asimmetrico, P255/40ZR-19 96Y
Test inflation pressures, F/R 32/34 psi
My first car was a 67 Mustang Coupe, 2nd one was a 67 Cougar XR-7, 3rd one was a 66 Mustang Coupe. Why did I get rid of these cars for ? I know why, because I'm stupid, stupid, stupid.
My next Ford.....