1991 Jaguar XJ6

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    Expert Reviews 1 of 2

By 

Orlando Sentinel

There is something so very intoxicating about sitting in the driver's seat of a Jaguar XJ6 and looking over the length of the hood.

That long hood, with a slight bulge in the middle, has just a trace of the shape worn by another famous Jaguar, the XKE.

Soft curves blend cleanly into one another. The edges of the fenders arc gently upward, as if to provide reference points to the driver.

These things, along with the XJ6's muscular flanks, give the car its unique character. Other luxury sedans look bland in comparison. When it comes to styling classic shapes, few companies rival Jaguar.

Can you think of any old Jaguar that isn't considered a classic?

For so many years, Jaguar has survived - sometimes even thrived - on graceful styling alone.

Can it still?

After spending a week driving the XJ6 Sovereign, I am not so sure.

The world is different today. Japanese luxury sedans, packed full of the latest technology, are changing the old order.

It appears as if Toyota's Lexus and Nissan's Infiniti are setting the standards, not only in price, but also in performance and quality.

The Germans have made it clear they are not going down without a fight.

Andthen there is Jaguar - on the fringes of mass appeal - lacking the technical sophistication of German and Japanese offerings but surviving on a tradition of building incredibly beautiful automobiles.

There always have been compromises involved with the company's vehicles. In the old British Leyland days, you bought a Jaguar and knew that it wouldn't be as dependable as other expensive cars.

How an independent Jaguar, under the leadership of Sir John Egan, turned that around in the 1980s is one of the great automotive stories. Nowadays when you buy a Jaguar, you get dependability but not the latest in performance and technology. That may change now that Ford owns Jaguar.

There's no question that this year's XJ6 is the finest luxury sedan Jaguar has ever built. But is it good enough?

ENGINE PERFORMANCE

The aluminum 4.0-liter, DOHC 24-valve straight six in the XJ6 has its roots in a design that dates back to just after World War II. Fuel injection and other modern necessities have made this engine, which develops 223 horsepower, supremely smooth.

But it is not a star performer. To get the 3,979-pound Sovereign to hustle, the driver must really flog the engine while manipulating the J-Gate shifter - an appendage connected to the four-speed automatic transmission that allows the gearbox to be shifted manually. Doing so yields a 0 to 60 mph time in a respectable nine seconds.

It is, however, no fun to drive the XJ6 this way.

The ZF transmission comes with a button on the console that allows the driver to select the ''sport'' mode. This delays the shift points and delivers better acceleration. Still, the XJ6 is, for the most part, smooth and easy in its performance.

HANDELING

I've thought for years that the XJ6 is a luxury sports sedan.

It isn't.

Nowhere in the company's press materials is it claimed that the XJ6 is anything but a luxury car. I've always thought - maybe because of the famous XKE and other sports cars - that Jaguar's handling under pressure was legendary. I found it to be ordinary.

I was surprised when I pointed the big cat at a tight curve at 45 mph and realized too late that I wouldn't make it without some serious maneuvering and braking.

The XJ6 reminded me of the Lincoln Town Car I drove earlier this year. The Jaguar, like the Lincoln, is comfortable to the nth degree. It is in its element on flat, straight roads. It can handle gentle, sweeping curves with ease. But you can't blast through curves in the XJ6 the way you would in a BMW or Infiniti Q45.

Four-wheel power disc brakes equipped with ABS stop the car quickly and without fuss. The rack and pinion steering has a nice, heavy feel to it, and the turning radius isv rytight for such a large car.

The suspension does an amazing job of dispensing with the trauma caused by minor potholes and speed bumps. You simply don't feel them.

FiIT, FINISH, CONTROLS

No one has been putting wood and leather into automobiles longer than the British. And no one does it better.

The XJ6's leather seats are peerless. Firm, comfortable, aromatic and adjustable in a multitude of ways, these are the best seats I've seen in a luxury car. The grain of the leather is perfectly consistent throughout the car's interior.

The polished burl walnut wood trim on the dash and console is beautifully matched. The glove box door is made of a single piece of wood that must be at least an inch thick. It closes with a solid click that no piece of Japanese, German or American plastic can duplicate.

It is clear that the perfection of theXJ6's wood and leather interior is a source of immense pride (and tradition) at Jaguar. Though the car may not stack up in other areas such as technical sophistication, it won't be outdone on the interior.

There is plenty of foot, leg and head room for both front and rear passengers. Visibility is excellent.

Instruments - speedometer, tachometer and a full complement of analog gauges - are easy to read, nicely spaced and flanked by two rows of warning lights. The odometer is not a part of the speedometer. Instead, it is part of the car's computer system and is displayed in a digital readout.

The air conditioner is powerful and easy to use. For better than 600 miles the car ran perfectly. Nothing malfunctioned. What impressed me most were the positions of the needles of all the pertinent gauges. They were always where they were supposed to be and never varied.

Of all the luxury cars I have driven this year, none has turned heads and attracted more admiring glances than the white Jaguar.

Even though such cars as the Lexus LS 400 and Infiniti Q45 have muscled their wayinto Jaguarterritory, there are two things they don't have: tradition and powerful, emotional styling.

It's wonderfully chic to say, ''Let's go for a ride in the Jag.''

It's not the most advanced machine on the road, but if you are interested in a luxury car rich in tradition, strong on looks and offering good value for the money, there is no substitute for the XJ6.


    Expert Reviews 1 of 2

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