DETROIT - We were somewhat ho hum when they called and asked us if we were interested in test driving the 2008 Jaguar XJ Vanden Plas. After all the overall body style has been around for more than a generation. But when they pulled it into our driveway we found it not to be the placid sedan we envisioned.
First off, the 2008 Jaguar Vanden Plas looked good, real good. A few styling changes contributed greatly to its sportier image. The front end has been revised and our test vehicle had a chrome dual honey combed grille and new chrome power side vents that looked like gills. There was also a new built in spoiler.
Jaguar was one of the first automakers to use aluminum extensively in the construction of its cars. The body of our test car was lighter and stiffer and more fuel efficient than the model that it replaced. Indeed, a run to Lansing and back was included in our week-long test drive and we still managed to avoid the gas pump.
It was on that run that we discovered several pleasing attributes about the 2008 XJ Vanden Plas, which is the extended wheel base, top of the line model. There is a 400 horsepower supercharged 4.2-liter V8. But our test vehicle had the normally aspirated version of that engine which made 300 horsepower. Mated to a six-speed automatic transmission we had enough oomph to effortlessly get from 80ish to 110 mph in a few seconds.
Our test car's air suspension provided a comfortable ride. It wasn't too sporty as in firm and it wasn't too cushy as in soft. Although our test car had speed sensitive power steering, we would have appreciated a bit more stiffness to give us more of a feel for the road.
That was our only quibble with the new Jaguar XJ Vanden Plas which had superb road manners. It was quiet, responsive, it braked well, provided a cabin that was almost void of wind and road noise, it was easy to drive and it was really comfortable.
We're technophobes, so we were quite pleased with the simple instructions it took for us to engage Bluetooth which turned our cell phone into a hands free car phone. And on the way back from Lansing, it took some fumbling but we got the navigation system programmed and it brought us right to our front door. We particularly appreciated the "Other" button which let us set the city and address as we saw fit.
The navigation system's ability to recalculate the route after we shot by our turn was greatly appreciated too and when giving directions the audio system is completely muted. We once experienced a navigation system that lacked both capabilities and it was definitely a pain.
With a sticker of $81,050, the 2008 Jaguar XJ Vanden Plas was chock full of creature comforts. Heated and air cooled seats, a rear seat DVD entertainment system, rear and side window shadess, power folding mirrors and a premium audio system.
This car was standout as we got the thumbs up from several folks, most of them young which we found interesting because, as we said, the XJ's basic body style has been around for years.
We think the XJ is going to be replaced soon and some of today's contemporary models will join legendary Jaguars as classics. The 2008 Jaguar XJ Vanden Plas has a good shot at joining the club.