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Review: 2004 JagUar XJR Sedan

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Senior Editor

There is something very British about Jaguar. A statement of such obviousness - that it's almost funny, in a very Simon Callow sort of way, you might presume. But that was the immediate reaction from my English / American friend Robin as he slid into the eighteen way adjustable driving seat of the British Racing Green cat. He had a '02 XK and traded it in for a Vanquish (a social climber we would call him back home in Blighty). But Robin is right. When you sit in a Jaguar, you know immediately that it's not a Germanic creation. The wood, the sumptuous leather, the dials and switch gear (yes, I know

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2004 JagUar XJR Console
it's Ford-sourced), but you get my meaning, I hope. The new, seventh generation, XJ is truly a real Jaguar and a masterful one at that. Possessing a great style, a certain Earl Gray classiness, a fluidity of grace and form that few cars can carry off. You may not lust after it quite the same way as an E-Type (which car would you, after all?), but you still catch yourself admiring it in the shop window reflections and as you put it to bed each evening. Fortunately, this ageless design is combined with some of the most advanced engineering this side of the Chinese space agency. Thank Jacques Nasser and his team for the XJ's electronic and aluminum extravagances. At the time when they pushed the green light, Ford had $20bn in the bank and was very gung-ho, buying up brands and spending money dot com fashion. Of course that was a few years back, a lifetime in automotive terms and certainly in stock market prices too. Now this XJ, possibly the most crucial Jaguar to launch in memory, is required to bring the brand back into the black from a $500mm black hole. The competition hasn't been resting either and it won't be easy. But after a week in the fabulous XJR, I would bet that this car will go a long way to restoring Coventry's pride and Detroit's bank balances.

Up from 4 to 4.2 liters, developing 390 hp @ 6,100 rpm/399 lb-ft @ 3,500 rpm and benefiting significantly from a 200 lb weight reduction, the XJR is sports car fast in a straight line and not too shabby round the twisty bits. The standard 19in Pirelli's bite the California tarmac, assisted by new front and rear double-wishbone air leveling suspension and excellent steering feel that allows you to position the car accurately into and out of corners. The R is also equipped with up- rated Brembo brakes and an advanced ABS system - which also works with the Radar Adaptive Cruise Control - that maintains a safe distance and prevents you from creeping up on slower traffic. A significant degree of glee can be added to any trip, especially one that involves spirited driving on tight demanding corners, if you switch off the traction control. I cannot account for the lesser-powered models but the R version has more than sufficient ooommph to blast sideways out of 2nd gear corners, whilst making use of Jaguars famous J-gate six speed ZF automatic transmission. The car remains totally controllable on power oversteer, which is easily adjusted through the wheel or throttle and very serious fun to boot. The R is not all about thrashing around though and Jaguar has stocked it full of entertainment and safety features so the rest of the family are happy and safe. With the HIVAC system you get an easy to use and large touch screen display that controls all the major A/C, heating, radio, SatNav bits; it's one of the best interfaces I've used and BMW should take a look. My test car also had the optional twin rear screens and center consul command center. The excellent picture quality of DVD combined with the premium upgraded 320-watt tailored stereo makes for a very enjoyable movie experience. I tried it with "Saving Private Ryan" and you get a unique intimacy of one-on-one in the rear of a car. I recommend discovering it for yourself. It's fortunate that the car is lighter to start with because a front CD player, rear six-disk player, plus DVD and SatNav equipment all add up - not counting the gubbins to run the 'winter package' (heated seats and steering wheel) and Adaptive Restraint Technology System. ARTS monitors the vehicle dynamics and adjusts the passenger restraints and air bag deployment - of which I counted eight.

With all the extra's this raises the price to over $80,000 Naturally, customers buying this size of vehicle will be interested in space, and here the new XJ is literally head and shoulders better than its predecessor. Rear leg and head room is significantly improved - as is general cabin space and driver legroom - the old car's transmission tunnel sandwiching you in. The overall interior ergonomical design is very pleasing to the eye and all the major and minor controls fall easily into the driver's reach. The boot (trunk) has also been increased by 29% and can fit the all-important 4 sets of golf clubs.

Complaints? Not many. If anything, and Jaguar knows this, they could have been a little more adventurous with the exterior design. The original Mark 3 and XJ's were groundbreaking and really fresh, and of course the E-Type is incomparable. For sure the exterior is civilized and unmistakably Jaguar, but somehow it doesn't communicate the sense of excellence awaiting the driver.

MODEL: 2004 Jaguar XJR sedan

ENGINE: 4.2-liter supercharged V8

HORSEPOWER/TORQUE: 390 hp @ 6,100 rpm/399 lb-ft @ 3,500 rpm TRANSMISSION: 6-speed automatic

WHEELBASE: 119.4 in.

LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT: 200.4 x 61.3 x 57.0 in.

STICKER PRICE: $74,995 (XJ - $59,995; Vanden Plas -