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A New Breed of Cats
2004 Jaguar XJ Vanden Plas
By Alain Gayot

In short: A beautifully packaged pure-breed delivering a
constant flow of luxury, comfort and power with a mind on safety.

Every few years we experience a leap in technology. The 2004 model in the Jaguar XJ series is one of these landmark moments. Think Jaguar and luxury all you want, then think again. Of course, a first-hand experience like a test drive is a true tell. Here is what a few days with our new pet revealed.

A cursory look can't tell you what's at the heart of this beautiful beast. Yes it has CATS (Computer Active Technology Suspension), DCS (Dynamic Stability Control), ARTS (Adaptive Restraint Technology System), ACC (Adaptive Cruise Control), EBA/ABS braking and yes, a rain-sensing windshield wiping system and an electronic parking brake. By now you have figured out that the car is loaded with electronic features. But what's revolutionary is the envelope for the high tech package: a lightweight monocoque aluminum body—the only one on the road today. This type of construction is borrowed from the aerospace industry, using layers of aluminum sheets and thousands of rivets to hold it together. There are also magnesium crossbeam components adding to the car's rigidity and further lessening the weight. The result is a body that is stiffer by 60 percent and lighter by 40 percent compared to a typical steel model.

Getting in and out has been made easier; the doors open wider and are lighter, and the fully adjustable seats (16-way) conform to your memorized settings.

The ride is where we truly fell in love with the car. Its road-handling abilities are very reassuring, as the CATS helped the automobile stick to the ground in cornering and also lowered it at high speeds. Compressors constantly adjust the suspension for passenger weight and road condition. This is a sure-footed cat, quiet and firm, yet comfortable, pleasant in town and a real pleasure on the open road. We hear that in the XJR there is plenty of power—due to the supercharger—, but we never lacked it in the Vanden Plas that shares the same power plant configuration as the XJ8.

Safety comes first. Another benefit of this construction is that not only is it lighter but also stiffer, carrying less kinetic energy into a crash. More technological advancements have tapered the animal's thirst. In fact, at 18 city mpg / 28 highway mpg, this is the most fuel-efficient car in its class. An optional DVD navigation system is available for the electronically inclined navigators at $2,000.It's hard to find something not to like, but in vain we kept trying to make a comfortable use of the right armrest. Get into on if these and you might find yourself purring.

Warranty/Service: four years/50,000 miles—complimentary during warranty period.

Price as tested: $68,995

Technical Specifications

Performance Data

- 90° V8, aluminum alloy cylinder head/block, DOHC, 4 valves per cylinder; 4.2 litre
- Horsepower (SAE): 294 @ 6,000 rpm
6-speed automatic ZF (no manual)

front, driver and passenger airbags. front side, seat mounted, driver and passenger side curtain. Adaptive Restraint Technology System (ARTS)

Top Speed: 121 mph

Acceleration: 0-60 mph
6.3 sec.

Braking 60-0 mph: 115 ft

Fuel Economy:
18 city / 28 highway

Computer Active Technology Suspension (CATS)

Read a review of the 2008 Jaguar Super V8

Check out other Jaguar models

See all of our Automobile Reviews

Visit the Jaguar website

Photography: AlphaMedia


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