By Jon Rosner, Fri, 19 Nov 2004 08:00:00 PDT
After months of driving an interesting assortment of Japanese, Korean, American, German, and the occasional Italian car it's almost hard to keep one's bearings. It is not often that one car that does everything well, nothing badly and looks good while doing it. The Jaguar Vanden Plas fits that description.
From the very earliest Jaguar SS 100 of the 1930s through the svelte, Lemans winning 1950s race cars and their street counterparts, to the XKE, now in several modern museums, and the lovely recent models, Jaguars have always looked just right.
There were flaws though, there always are with any car. From the late 1960s until Ford purchased Jaguar in the 1990s quality control was a non-issue, it simply did not exist at Jaguar. The standing joke was that you bought two Jaguars in hopes that you could keep them on the road. But they sold, because design and style almost always trump quality and durability when customers are considering the purchase of a luxury car.
The truth is that the more expensive the car the more emotional appeal, that is ~ the way the car makes you feel ~ is the critical issue.
Back to the Vanden Plas, the lines of the car are graceful, the view over the long hood hints at brute force under the cover of shape that reminds me of an artisan carved mahogany table. The interior is simply sumptuous and truly comfortable, the lower half of the seats slides back and forth for perfect fit no matter how long the driver's legs. And the upper half offers superb lower back support that make driving any distance a relaxing pleasure.
Even the defroster builds up speed rather than jarringly coming on full force right away. Set the headlights on automatic, set the wipers on automatic, the rearview mirror automatically dims at night. Tune in a favorite radio station, this unit picks up stations clearly at great distances, and done.
And speaking of incremental improvements it takes a bit to say, but the shut lines between exterior panels and the fitments to the interior not only match the best Japanese standards they do it with a sense of flare and beauty that simply seems to escape the ability of any cars makers outside of Western Europe, save for Cadillac which also, to its credit, has finally got its act together in terms of quality control.
At our daughter's daycare Ms. Kelly said "now that's the car I want to test !" Miss Connie also though the car was quite nice. And it wasn't just the teachers and the "peanut gallery" who admired the Vanden Plas. The reaction of people who saw the car, and showed emotion, was markedly different than the last German car I had. This car produced smiles and a few thumbs-up where the glances at the German car felt like envy and jealousy.
The on the road behavior of the Vanden Plas was superb. Ride, handling and braking were at or close the best tested ever. Undulating corners were taken at purposely excessive speeds in an attempt to upset the chassis and ride. There was no slowing down for speed bumps nor steeply angled driveway, the result ? No reaction, the car simply stayed the course and handled every nasty little trick that was tossed at it. And all this made sense.
At the last Western Automotive Journalist test day at Mazda Laguna Seca Raceway the new lighter, more aluminum intensive Jaguar performed flawlessly on the track, feeling very balanced and able to hold its own against other luxury cars while still offering a greater sense of comfort.
The child safety seats were a breeze to install, the cavernous trunk held almost as much as the Honda Pilot did with its useless third seat folded down. Where the best gas mileage for mid-size Honda SUV was under 19 mpg and the V6 Honda Accord sedan with a six speed manual returned 22 mph the Vanden Plas turned in a remarkable 21 mpg.
No surprise given that the six speed automatic kept the engine running between one and two thousand rpm at all times except for when you put your foot into it, when it roared and flew.
One of the worst blindspots on any modern car. Turn to look to see if there's a car to you left when switching into the fast lane and all you see is the B-pillar that the driver's door locks into. The rear windows leave a quarter moon shape piece protruding when rolled all the way down.
At $75,000.00 it's out of the range of all but luxury car buyers, BUT with the fact that servicing and ownership costs are running far lower than the average car in it's class your author still has a few thoughts of getting one.
The 2005 Jaguar Vanden Plas is the benchmark for luxury class and comes highly recommended.