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Jaguar XJR (2001)

SEE ALSO: Jaguar Buyer's Guide

by John Heilig


MODEL:  Jaguar XJR 
ENGINE: 4.0-liter supercharged V8 
HORSEPOWER/TORQUE: 370 hp @ 6150 rpm/387 lb-ft @ 3600  rpm 
TRANSMISSION:  Five-speed automatic 
WHEELBASE: 113.0 in. 
LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT: 197.8 x 70.8 x 52.7 in. 
STICKER PRICE:  $69,355 

I have always had an affinity for Jaguars. I think they have always had their own style and their own panache. Even in the days when Jaguar reliability and quality were questionable, Jaguars were special. I recall that when I bought my Jaguar, a 3.4 sedan, somebody told me that I should have bought two. One to drive while the other was in the garage for repairs. Jaguar's reliability and quality problems are long behind them, especially since they have become part of the Ford family of fine cars. Ford brought some discipline to the production line of Jaguar and did a great job.

The XJR sedan is essentially the XJ series, which is a long, low sedan in classic Jaguar manner. It has the classic Jaguar grille with a "leaper" hood ornament. Inside, it's all leather and wood luxury and seating for five. Behind this is an excellent trunk of 12.7 cubic feet that will carry the luggage for those five people as far as they want to go.

Under the hood is a supercharged DOHC 4.0-liter V8 engine. In normally aspirated form, this engine produces 290 horsepower, which isn't bad. Put the blower on it and horsepower increases to 370, making the XJR a car that leaps off the starting line. If you're at a traffic light and you want to get ahead of the car next to you (for whatever reason) the XJR is the car to do it in. Acceleration is phenomenal. All this is accomplished while you're sitting in absolute luxury.

Power reaches the rear wheels through a five-speed automatic transmission. It has Jaguar's "J" gate. On the right side of the "J" are P, R, N, and D, for Park, Reverse, Neutral and Drive. On the left side are 4, 3, 2. Essentially this replaces the sequential touch-shift gearboxes that are so rife in other vehicles these days. Some thought must be put into which gear you want in this case, but then you should put some thought into your shifting anyway. The advantage is that you can upshift or downshift two gear levels, which you can't do in the sequential shifters.

I had an opportunity to drive the XJR at Pocono Raceway on the road course, shifting all the way. Again, I had to think about which gear I wanted to be in, just as in a manual transmission car, but it was nice to have the ability to control which gear the car was in, rather than let the "automatic" do it for me.

The steering wheel is a leather-and-wood combination that is beautiful and a pleasure to hold. This makes the XJR a pleasant car to drive as well. In addition, there is wood trim on the dash and door panels, as in any good luxury car. The shift knob is also wood, giving the XJR the feel of the old sports cars. I remember replacing the rubber or plastic shift knob on my MG with a wood one I carved myself, to give it more style.

Jaguar has taken the lead, or accepted the challenge of other luxury car manufacturers and placed an analog clock in the center of the dash. It is a classic Jaeger instrument that looks as if it was lifted from a 1950s Jaguar, as are the rest of the instruments on the dash. All the instruments are white-on-black with a slight green tint for night lighting.

Up front are traditional bucket seats that did a good job of holding me in the seat, even though I tended to take some corners at a high rate of speed. I felt that the seat would hold a heavier person quite well.

Handling is exquisite. Jaguars have always been known for the engines and their handling, and the XJR is no exception. The front suspension is fully independent, with unequal-length upper and lower wishbones and steel coil springs. The XJR adds sport-tuned shocks and springs and an anti-roll bar. In the rear is a fully independent suspension with wishbones using the driveshafts as upper links. It, too, has sport-tuned shocks and an anti-roll bar.

It's easy to think of the XJR as simply a supercharged Jaguar sedan and concentrate on the engine and all the power available. In reality, though, the XJR is an XJ sedan, luxurious , comfortable, and yet capable of serious driving. It is a car that an enthusiast can get behind the wheel of, push his or her foot to the floor, and know that the car isn't going to do something surprising. It's a beautiful automobile and a beautiful car to drive.