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By Jim Flammang
November 20, 2002
Vehicle Overview Jaguar is giving its largest sedan a serious makeover. Unveiled at the Paris Motor Show in late September 2002, the next-generation XJ goes on sale in 2003 as a 2004 model.
Meanwhile, the rear-wheel-drive XJ Series sees only modest changes for the 2003 model year. The main change is that two limited-edition option groups have been added. The Sovereign Package, which is available for the standard-wheelbase XJ8, includes a 320-watt Alpine premium sound system, heated front and rear seats, a wood and leather steering wheel, and boxwood inlaid walnut veneers. The R1 Performance Package for the XJR consists of a Brembo braking system with four-pot calipers, cross-drilled rotors and stainless-steel-braided brake hoses, along with 18-inch BBS two-piece alloy wheels. The XJ8 and Vanden Plas sedans are fitted with all-season Michelin tires, which replace the previous Pirellis.
The XJ Series lineup still includes the base XJ8, XJ Sport, extended-length Vanden Plas, XJR and Super V8, which is an extended-wheelbase supercharged sedan. The XJ Sport sedan that was added for 2002 combines the standard XJ8 powertrain with a sport-tuned suspension, sport seats and 18-inch tires.
Styling is highlighted by a long, low profile, four round headlights and the signature Jaguar vertical-bar grille up front. Alloy wheels hold standard 16-inch tires, but 17- or 18-inch tires are installed on the sport-oriented models. Front and rear fog lamps and a power sunroof top the long list of standard equipment.
High-grade leather and generous burl walnut wood trim combine to create an elegant motoring abode for five occupants, who also benefit from quite an array of comfort and convenience features. Most of the extra length in the long-wheelbase models is evident in the backseat. Adults have room to cross their legs, and wider rear doors ease entry and exit.
Posh comfort features in the Vanden Plas and Super V8 sedans include a wood and leather-wrapped steering wheel, premium soft-grain leather upholstery, lambs wool floormats and inlaid burl walnut wood trim. Jaguars traditional walnut picnic trays fold out from the front seatbacks. Cargo capacity is a modest 12.7 cubic feet, but the trunk is squarely shaped.
Under the Hood
Jaguars 4.0-liter V-8 engine is rated at 280 horsepower in the XJ8, XJ Sport and Vanden Plas models. The supercharged 4.0-liter V-8 cranks out 358 hp in the sporty XJR and Super V8. Both engines team with a five-speed-automatic transmission.
Traction control, antilock brakes and side-impact airbags for the front seats are standard. A reverse parking control system warns that the car is approaching an object while backing up.
Piloting an XJ is a uniquely memorable experience even more so if its the extra-elegant Vanden Plas, which is a sweet motorcar. After a momentary delay at start-up, the Vanden Plas bounds ahead with surprising haste for a heavyweight. Passing and merging are handled with refined ease, and the automatic transmission reacts with exceptional smoothness.
Handling is top-notch for a luxury sedan, permitting the XJ to behave with suitable British manners and an utterly superior ride. Visibility is excellent in all directions. All seats are lushly comfortable and supportive. Assembly quality is excellent, and an XJ gives the impression of being formed as a single, solid unit.