2006 Jaguar Vanden Plas

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$74,330

starting MSRP

2006 Jaguar Vanden Plas

Key specs

Base trim shown

Overview

1 trim

Starting msrp listed lowest to highest price

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2006 Jaguar Vanden Plas review: Our expert's take

By Royal Ford

It is a tough road that Jaguar is driving these days. The automaker’s models are surrounded by bold, powerful sedans, many of which gracefully combine true sporting performance with modern luxury.

Even the 2006 Jaguar XJ Vanden Plas — with 300 horsepower worth of thrust, polished woods, and supple leathers — is going to have difficulty competing.

To stand out in the luxury class, a car needs an identity that says “Look at me — $60,000, $70,000, and $80,000 of pure rolling fun.” It also needs to say: Here is a car for the new millennium.

And that’s where I parked the Vanden Plas in the breakdown lane.

If you are a fan of the stolid old Jaguar and want its traditional form to also incorporate reliable function — something for which Jaguars were never noted — then the XJ Series may seem promising. But if you’ve got the money to drop nearly $80,000 on a car, you’ve probably also got the smarts to shop around and notice some serious competition.

Look at the bold nose Audi has slapped on its line: a snout right out of the 1930s glory days of Auto Union racing. The new Audi line is immediately recognizable as Audi, and yet it is a far bolder car than what Audi was building just five years ago.

Consider the Mercedes-Benz S-Class. It comes with as much as 469 horsepower (302 horsepower is more the standard) and a sleek, modern, redesigned exterior.

Then glance across the other ocean to the Lexus LS 430, one of the finest, most refined luxury cars on the market, with 278 horsepower and more standard comfort and safety features than you’d ever guess an Asian manufacturer would someday offer.

Also think about Cadillac’s new edginess and power, and consider that Porsche will offer its first sedan in a few years.

I’ve been driving small cars of late (Honda Fit, Toyota Yaris), so the smooth, quiet cruise of the Vanden Plas was a soothing experience, to be sure.

With sprawl-out interior room, gracefully sculpted dash lines, burl walnut and boxwood trim, leather seats defined by bold piping, and even fold-down picnic trays in the rear, there was no doubt I was cruising in luxury.

And the 300-horsepower, 4.2-liter V-8 engine had plenty of off-the-line oomph. It got even stronger, with a guttural burble, whenever I pulled out to pass on the highway. The six-speed automatic transmission was smooth, with no delays or lurches in upshift or downshift, and it sensed when I wanted to push the car and let me do so without premature intervention.

Jaguar’s use of aluminum in the monocoque body structure was evident in light handling and taut body control. There was no weighty sense of pull to the side in lane changes, or even in sharp corners in the countryside. Active, adaptive suspension was certainly at the heart of this confident stability. And standard ABS and electronic stability control were there to handle any dances that were too close to the edge.

I did manage to engage stability control a couple of times in the flooding rains we had recently. On a corner, or in a deep puddle where hydroplaning was a threat, it kicked in to protect — with the additional help of power and braking — the car and its occupants.

Also adding protection were the standard front and side air bags and side-curtain air bags.

Despite all these goodies, nothing about the outside of this car says anything except, yep, here’s another Jaguar. That could be a problem.

Americans tend to feel pumped up about their cars, whether it’s the superior sense of environmental awareness some owners of green hybrids project, the outta-my-way attitude of outlandish SUV owners, or the hot-rod mindset the owner of a retro American muscle car, such as the new Dodge Charger, might adopt.

Jaguar has a real problem if a car as fine and wonderfully engineered as the Vanden Plas fails to generate the same level of passion.

2006 Jaguar XJ Vanden Plas

THE BASICS

Base price/as tested: $74,330/$77,095

Fuel economy: 16.7 miles per gallon in Globe testing

Annual fuel cost: $2,609 (at $3.351 per gallon, premium, 13,000 miles per year)

THE EARLY LINE

Can what lurks beneath an old reliable skin attract new buyers who are seeking something hot?

THE SPECIFICS

Drivetrain: rear-wheel drive

Seating: five occupants

Horsepower: 300

Torque: 310 lb.-ft.

Overall length: 205.3 inches

Wheelbase: 124.4 inches

Height: 57.3 inches

Width: 76.5 inches

Curb weight: 3,819 pounds

Nice touch: Dark piping around tan leather seats. Bold and luxurious. Lexus would never dare to do this.

Annoyance: Looks. What do you gain by putting great new engineering under a high-tech aluminum skin whose shape suggests I could have pushed it off the highway dead from the rain decades ago?

Watch for: Jaguar to offer bold designs or retreat to the jungle, where it will howl for the old days with other lost brands.

Royal Ford can be reached at ford@globe.com.

Consumer reviews

Rating breakdown (out of 5):
  • Comfort 5.0
  • Interior design 4.7
  • Performance 4.7
  • Value for the money 5.0
  • Exterior styling 4.5
  • Reliability 5.0

Most recent consumer reviews

5.0

Simply the best driving luxury car on the planet!

This is my 3rd Jaguar Vanden Plas and there is no other car that drives and handles like a Jag. The interior is so comfortable and beautifully appointed. There is nothing else I could even compare to it. I love its traditional 'Jaguar Classic' style... I don't care for the current TaTa re-design that looks like everything else on the road. Finding a well maintained X350 Jaguar will put a smile on your face everyday you have the chance to drive it. They are getting harder to find but so worth the effort.

4.6

Great Gas Mileage

The car has been everything I asked for with over 31+mpg on the highway. Comfort but it does have a BIG car feel. Best buy for any full size luxury sedan period.

4.7

Love It!

I purchased my 2006 Jaguar from a used car seller who specializes in high end cars. It is immaculate, inside and out and drives like a dream. I haven't had one problem and don't expect to. I've done my homework and the car has a great mechanical record, but just to be safe, I purchased a 5 year 120K mile warranty. The ONLY negative is that gas prices are high and it takes at least 91 octane gas. It's been averaging about 20 miles/gallon but expect it to do better with highway miles. I get soooo many compliments and only wanted this body style which they stopped making in 2007.

See all 4 consumer reviews

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