Redesigned for 2004, the seventh generation of Jaguar's rear-wheel-drive luxury sedan was longer, taller and wider, and rode a longer wheelbase than its predecessor. The new XJ delivered greater headroom, legroom and shoulder space. New aluminum-intensive construction promised high strength, robustness and dynamic responses.
An extended-wheelbase XJ8 L joined the group for 2005. A long-wheelbase Super V8 flagship with posh Vanden Plas features and a supercharged V-8 also became available.
For the 2006 model year, a limited-edition Super V8 Portfolio long-wheelbase sedan takes over the top spot. Models with the 4.2-liter V-8 get a boost to 300 horsepower (400 hp when supercharged). All XJ models gain a Conti-Teves foundation for increased stopping power, laminated side glass, a chrome mesh grille and available Bluetooth wireless connectivity. A tire-pressure-monitoring system and driver-selectable Variable Speed Limiter are standard, while Sirius Satellite Radio is optional.
Jaguar's lineup also includes a regular XJ8 and a high-performance XJR.
Overall, the XJ sedan has a slightly more cab-forward profile than pre-2004 models, with the wheels brought closer to the corners. The front overhang was shortened, and the windshield isn't as steep. Oval headlights flank a grille made up of intersecting bars.
A self-leveling air suspension and Jaguar's Computer Active Technology Suspension system are standard. Regular models are 200.4 inches long overall and have a 119.4-inch wheelbase, while extended-length sedans have longer rear doors and measure 205.3 inches long overall on a 124.4-inch wheelbase.
Each XJ sedan seats up to five occupants. A higher roofline in this generation helps increase interior space, and all models have power front seats and leather upholstery.
Power-adjustable pedals complement an electronically adjustable steering column. An electronic parking brake is installed. The interiors are trimmed in traditional burl walnut veneer and Piano Black finish. Vanden Plas sedans contain fold-down picnic tables.
Under the Hood
In normally aspirated form, Jaguar's 4.2-liter V-8 now produces 300 hp. XJR and Super V8 models hold a supercharged 400-hp version of the V-8. All models use a six-speed ZF automatic transmission.
In addition to an occupant-sensing system for the front passenger seat, the XJ has side-impact and side curtain-type airbags. Four-channel antilock brakes incorporate emergency brake assist. A Dynamic Stability Control electronic stability system intervenes as needed to enhance handling. Reverse Park Control is standard.
The elegant, effortless XJs are more enjoyable on the road than most large sedans. Driving pleasure is augmented by genteel comforts and a smooth, refined powertrain.
Passing and merging acceleration falls short of ferocious, but civilized responses make up for any lack of all-out performance. Downshifts on upgrades are easygoing but not instantaneous. Although the XJ is very quiet, its lush exhaust note approaches a snarl when pushed hard. These sedans corner well, but body lean is noticeable during relatively vigorous driving. The air suspension absorbs the vast majority of road imperfections. Front occupant space is abundant, but some controls aren't intuitive.
The XJR and Super V8 add an extra helping of vigor, but it's not always evident in ordinary driving. But push hard on the pedal, and acceleration approaches breathtaking levels and the supercharged powertrain reacts potently after a brief delay. Jaguar's automatic transmission seems eager to get from one gear to the next and doesn't diminish the driving experience. The supercharger emits a rich-yet-subtle whine even during moderate acceleration. Added tautness in the XJR's suspension is evident, but ride quality doesn't suffer much.
With the new Super V8 Portfolio edition, you're paying for exclusivity more than extra features or performance. It's quick and wholly refined, but the total driving experience differs little from a regular Super V8. Bright power vents on the front fenders look almost like add-ons and might not appeal to everyone.