Can you find true love for $70,330? Probably not. But that sum will buy you what might be the perfect Jaguar luxury sedan – a 2005 Jaguar XJ-Series Vanden Plas.
I’ve been over some of this ground before, so pay attention.
I had a week in the 2004 Jaguar XJR in the summer of 2003 and, last fall, I reviewed the 2005 Jaguar Super V8. Like the Vanden Plas, both of those vehicles are part of Jaguar’s potent XJ-series of sedans.
The XJR and the Super V8 were equipped with super-charged, 4.2-liter V-8 engines with 390 horsepower – enough juice to flatten your nose on hard accelerations. They were great fun, but came at a cost – about $90,000 in the case of the Super V8. What if you want an elegant-looking, head-turning Jaguar sedan for a more reasonable price – something that exudes class, that has substantial pop but not so much that you feel the equal of NASCAR star Jeff Gordon?
Look no further than the 2005 Vanden Plas. Even the name sounds classy, right?
For trivia buffs, Vanden Plas was the name of a coach-building company that traced its roots back to Belgium in 1870. Over time and company acquisitions, naming rights ended up with Jaguar. Vanden Plas is also the name of a German progressive metal band, but my guess is the sober-thinking folks at the Jaguar plant in Coventry, England, aren’t going there.
Anyway, back to the car. It’s a beauty. Limo-like lines stretch over a lengthy, 124.4-inch wheelbase. The Vanden Plas stretches out to 205.3 inches overall, which translates to plentiful room for five passengers inside.
Inside, luxury flows like spring snowmelt in the Sierra Nevada.
Front seats have 16-way power adjustments. Soft-grain leather and burled walnut surfaces give the cabin the look of a well-appointed den. Thick wool rugs cover the footwells. A 320-watt Alpine audio system can hold seven CDs and serves up concert-hall-like sound quality.
The rear seatbacks have substantial “business trays” that can be folded down to hold a laptop computer or that light lunch you’ll be enjoying while someone else handles the driving chores.
The engine is a 4.2-liter, 32-valve V-8, but it’s not the rocket booster found in the Super V8 and XJR. The tested Vanden Plas had a horsepower rating of 294, which was plenty robust for the driving tasks at hand.
Its handling in most driving conditions was velvety, but I was surprised that the nearly 3,900-pound car had some significant sway on high-speed corners and slalom runs.
What’s up with that? I hate it when my back seat passenger’s Grey Poupon slides off the folding tray and stains the plush carpet.
An active suspension, a stability control system and a six-speed automatic gearbox added up to an enjoyable ride, and it was fun to drive. Although body sway raised its ugly head now and then, road bumps were swallowed up before they reached the passenger compartment.
Through the steering wheel, the Vanden Plas actually feels bigger than it is. I had no problem with it as I like a firm feel in the wheel when I’m driving. Happily, steering response is immediate and smooth, and a short driver easily can handle the chore with the standard power-adjustable foot pedals.
The tested Vanden Plas came with a somewhat pricey, $2,300 navigation system that took only a little time to master.
Overall, the Vanden Plas provides what you expect from a $70,000-plus investment in a motor vehicle. Performance fans will likely put up more cash for the XJR and Super V8 models, but that’s no knock on the Vanden Plas, which has a more subtle elegance all its own.
About the writer: The Bee’s Mark Glover can be reached at (916) 321-1184 or email@example.com. 2005 Jaquar Vanden Plas at a glance Make/model: 2005 Jaguar XJ-Series Vanden Plas. Vehicle type: Five-passenger, rear-drive, four-door, luxury sedan.
Base price: $70,300 (as tested, $74,595).
Engine: 4.2-liter V-8 with 294 horsepower at 6,000 revolutions per minute and 303 foot-pounds of torque at 4,100 rpm.
EPA fuel economy: 18 miles per gallon city; 27 mpg highway.
Transmission: Six-speed automatic with overdrive and special features.
Steering: Power-assisted rack and pinion with speed-sensitive feature.
Brakes: Power four-wheel discs with anti-lock and special braking-enhancement features.
Suspension: Independent, aluminum double-wishbone front and rear (with anti-roll bars, self-leveling air springs and adaptive damping front and rear).
Cargo volume: 16.4 cubic feet.
Fuel tank: 22.5 gallons.
Curb weight: 3,856 pounds.
Track: 61.3 inches on front; 60.9 inches on rear.
Height: 57.3 inches.
Length: 205.3 inches.
Wheelbase: 124.4 inches.
Width: 76.5 inches.
Tires: P235/50R18 all-season radials.
Assembly site: Coventry, England.