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2006 Jaguar Super V8 Review

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PHOTO (select to view enlarged photo)


2006 Jaguar Super V8

SEE ALSO: New Car Buyer's Guide for Jaguar

In a world where automobiles are increasingly alike, no matter where their origin, there will always be a Jaguar. And Jaguars will always be undeniably British. One look at the styling, both exterior and interior, and there is no doubt as to any Jaguar's origin.

At the top of the Jaguar lineup is the XJ sedan. It comes in regular and long-wheelbase sized, with the long-wheelbase models stretched five inches. All of that extra length goes to rear-seat legroom, and the car's style is such that it's not readily apparent from the outside.

The current XJ, introduced for model year 2004, is remarkably aluminum-intensive. The lightweight material is used for all of the monocoque structure - and it's as close as a four-door sedan can be to being a true monocoque as much of the external skin is stressed, a technique first used by Jaguar in the racing D-Types of the 1950s. Aluminum also is used for most of the suspension pieces, and the engine block and heads. The result is a strong and lightweight vehicle.

The XJR, the short-wheelbase supercharged high-performance model, has been successful since before the current generation of XJ debuted. So why not a high-performance long-wheelbase XJ? And so the Super V8 was born.

The Super V8 is a true executive stretch limo, with one of the finest rear seats in automobildom. But the need for a chauffeur is debatable. With 400 horsepower in a car that, despite an almost decadent amount of luxury, weighs only 4,000 lbs, it can accelerate and brake as well as many sports sedans. And thanks to its suspension design and materials, and variable-rate air shocks and the eCATS adaptive damping system, the big cat can run with them in the corners as well - in total comfort, with a high degree of class and refinement.

I was recently privileged to drive a Super V8 for a week, and found it to be superbly comfortable and capable. At part throttle, it was every bit the exemplary English luxury car, quiet and civil, with an ambiance that could only be imparted by Jaguar's use of burled wood and leather. If it was music, it would be a classical piece from the era of powdered wigs, performed perfectly. At full throttle, the soundtrack changes to hard rock as the supercharger kicks in with a fierce scream. After my week with the car, I was able to take a couple of laps on a local race course with it. At a fast touring pace - fast enough that I'd be gambling with my driver's license on the street, the eCATS system worked magic. The car felt right at home, as it did everywhere else. As with all of Jaguar's other offerings, it has character, something often lacking from modern cars.

APPEARANCE: The XJ's proportions are such that the five-inch stretch to the rear of the passenger cabin, and the associated slight bulge to the roofline, are barely noticeable. The styling is an evolution and refinement of classic Jaguar lines introduced on the original XJ6 of the late 1960s. Quad round headlights faired into the bodywork on the front fenders go back to the Mk. X of the mid-60s, and the current XJ's grille and general body shape are more than slightly reminiscent of its namesake. Which is perfect - classic styling is that which is timeless, and the Jaguar XJ is a fine example.

COMFORT: No other approachable manufacturer today does interiors in the classic manner of Jaguar. You'd have to go a class or two above the Super V8, to the ultra-premium marques, to get anything comparable to its quintessentially British luxury. In a class where the simple, almost austere, high-tech post-modern look dominates, Jaguar does it the old-fashioned way, with opulent stitched leather and plenty of polished walnut veneer. Instruments and controls are easy to see and use - even the standard navigation system. It, and the car information system and some climate functions are controlled through an adequately-large touch screen. Well-marked hard buttons around the screen, and soft buttons on-screen, make everything easy to understand and use, unlike the single-button interfaces found in some of the Super V8's competitors. Heated, power-adjustable front seats are nothing out of the ordinary - although the Super V8's provide excellent comfort and support, even lateral support - but heated, power-adjustable outboard rear seats are. And since all of the long-wheelbase stretch goes into the passenger cabin, rear knee room, not exactly cramped in the short-wheelbase car, is increased by 4.5 inches. Add heat and an adjustable back angle, and a DVD entertainment system with screens in the back of each front seat headrest, and burled-walnut faced fold-down tray tables, and there is a strong temptation to hire a chauffeur and enjoy a life of luxury in the rear seat.

SAFETY: First-rate handling and braking and a good stability-control system give the Jaguar Super V8 a high degree of active safety. The Adaptive Restraint Technology System (ARTS) uses various sensors to monitor the occupants and their positions, and control the front and front side airbags. Side curtain airbags protect both front and outboard rear passengers. The tire pressure monitoring system uses radio transmitters in each tire - including the oft-forgotten spare - to detect low tires.

RIDE AND HANDLING: Think the Super V8 is a stately executive limo? Think again. While it is supremely comfortable and softly suspended, at slow speed, it changes its personality as speed increases. The lightweight aluminum monocoque structure provides a rigid base for the fully-independent double wishbone suspension, and aluminum suspension members reduce unsprung weight, improving response at all speeds. The spring and shock tuning is softer than in the short-wheelbase XJR, befitting the Super V8's more luxurious nature, but computer control of both the self-leveling air springs and enhanced Computer Active Technology (eCATS) real-time continuously-variable shock damping system increases both spring and shock stiffness with increased suspension load. This becomes noticeable at highway speeds, when the car begins to feet tighter and more athletic. On the track, driving about 7/10ths with cornering speeds ranging from 30 to 90 mph, the big cat felt solidly planted and stable, with great road manners. The Super V8 could be chauffeur-driven, but why let the hired help have all the fun?

PERFORMANCE: The Super V8's power secret? Add a Rootes-type supercharger with an intercooler to cool the compressed air to the Jaguar 4.2-liter AJ-V8. Maximum boost of 13 psi means an even 400 horsepower at 6100 rpm and 413 lb-ft of torque at 3500 rpm. Boost seems progressive - at light throttle there is only a gentle push, but at anything approaching wide-open throttle there is a screaming while that will be music to vintage motoring enthusiast ears and occupants are shoved back in their seats. The old saying is ``an iron fist in a velvet glove,'' but given the Super V8's construction, consider it a high-strength aluminum alloy fist in a velvet glove.

CONCLUSIONS: The Jaguar Super V8 is a different kind of executive stretch limo.

2006 Jaguar Super V8

Base Price			$ 91,330
Price As Tested			$ 93,395
Engine Type			dual overhead cam 32-valve supercharged
			        and intercooled aluminum alloy V8
Engine Size			4.2 liters / 256 cu. in.
Horsepower			400 @ 6100 rpm
Torque (lb-ft) 			413 @ 3500 rpm
Transmission			6-speed automatic
Wheelbase / Length		124.4 in. / 205.3 in.
Curb Weight			4,001 lbs.
Pounds Per Horsepower		10.0
Fuel Capacity			22.3 gal.
Fuel Requirement	        91 octane unleaded premium gasoline
Tires				P255/40 ZR19 Pirelli P-Zero
Brakes, front/rear		vented disc / vented disc,
				        ABS, brake assist,
				        and DSC standard
Suspension, front/rear		independent double wishbone with
				        aluminum control arms,
				        self-leveling air springs, eCATS
				        adaptive shock damping
Drivetrain		        front engine, rear-wheel drive

EPA Fuel Economy                 miles per gallon
                                        city / highway / observed
		                         17 /      24 /    16

0 to 60 mph			est. 5.7  sec

Chrome wheels				$ 1,400
Destination charge			$   665