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2004 Jaguar XJ, Vanden Plas and XJR

Car Review of the 2004 Jaguar XJ, Vanden Plas and XJR

Base MSRP Range: XJ: $59,995, Vanden Plas: $68,995, XJR: $74,995

Base Invoice Range: Not available
Price Quote

MSRP As Tested: Tested all versions

Versions: XJ, Vanden Plas, XJR

Vehicle Category: Full-Size Luxury Sedans

Engine Location: Front Engine

Drive Wheels: Rear-Wheel Drive Rear-Wheel Drive

Engine As Tested: 4.2-liter, Dual Overhead Cam, V-8 cylinder, 4-Valves per cylinder, 294-horsepower at 6,000 rpm and 303 lb-ft torque at 4,100 rpm

Optional XJR: Supercharged version of the same 4.2-liter engine with 390-hp at 6,100 rpm and 399 lb.-ft. torque.

Transmission As Tested: ZF 6-Speed Automatic

Fuel Economy (city/hwy): XJ: 18/28. XJR: 17/24

Standard Safety Features: Driver and front passenger, front and side airbags, side curtain airbags, 4-wheel disc brakes, "> Antilock Braking System, Traction Control, In-Trunk Emergency Trunk Release, Brake Assist, Rear Obstacle Detection System, Remote Keyless Entry, Power Adjustable Foot Pedals, Fog Lights, Adaptive Restraint Technology (ARTS).

Competition: Audi A8, BMW 7 Series, Infiniti Q45, Lexus LS 430, Mercedes-Benz S Class


Phoenix, Arizona -- We try never to miss an opportunity to drive a great vehicle, on great roads in beautiful places. This was just the experience we had driving the all-new 2004 Jaguar XJ from Phoenix to Sedona, Arizona, and back. As is the case with the previous versions, the XJ is a magnificent vehicle filled to the brim with luxurious amenities and one of the most comfortable and sporty rides of any vehicle on the market.

Vehicle History

The original XJ6 was first introduced in September 1968. Since then there have been six generations of the XJ sedans. The all-new XJ is the seventh generation of the vehicle. Over 800,000 XJs have been built. That's more than half of all Jaguars ever produced.

The XJ was originally conceived as a single model to replace four different predecessors; the Mark 2, 2 versions of the original S-Type and the 420. Sir William Lyons, the founder of Jaguar, had this as his vision for the product line's future in the 1960s. It was also a response to the popularity of sporty GT model coupes in the United States. Eventually the emphasis switched to a large sedan, and the coupe was modified to take on two more doors.

The XJ has maintained a legacy of innovation throughout its production. XJ innovations include; independent rear suspension, anti-dive geometry on the front suspension and first time rack-and-pinion steering on a sedan with power assistance and disc brakes all around, among many others.

Jaguar has maintained their pedigree and reputation for elegance, interior craftsmanship and luxury despite decades of spotty reliability. Reliability has increased dramatically over the past decade under the influence of parent, Ford Motor Company, yet retained the elegant pedigree. As with its predecessors the XJ has an abundance of wood, leather, and chrome styling features and accents. There is no significant loss of elegance as the company implements new technologies.

Changes Over the Previous Model

Although the new version of the XJ looks very much like its predecessor it is a brand new car, top to bottom. One of the most significant changes is the body of the vehicle is now all-aluminum. Jaguar has been building vehicles out of aluminum for a long time. Swallow Side Cars, the company that became Jaguar produced its first all-aluminum vehicle in 1922, a motorcycle sidecar. The aluminum strategy was necessary to accomplish a myriad of planned vehicle improvements. Aluminum's light weight allows improved performance and fuel mileage. For example the new aluminum body shell of the XJ weighs 485 pounds as compared to an equivalent steel version which would weigh 794 pounds, if produced.

The XJ is sixty percent stiffer and forty percent lighter. This means increased rigidity, less corrosion, less stress on the vehicle from reduced weight, a quieter ride, a forty percent larger cabin and a twenty five percent larger trunk (largest trunk in a Jaguar ever.) All this leads to a superior ride, improved handling, increased longevity and thus a higher resale value over time.

Adding to the improved ride quality is the all-new air suspension. This is a feature appearing in more and more luxury cars. It will be in the new Audi A8L which will be introduced around the same time as the XJ. Air suspension has advantages over coil-spring suspension systems such as superior comfort, regardless of load conditions -- the vehicle's full suspension travel is always available to counter rough road surfaces regardless of the weight within the vehicle.

Vehicle Exterior

First, and foremost, the new XJ is recognizable as an XJ. Perhaps the untrained eye might not recognize it as an all-new as it maintains all the design cues that make the XJ distinctive. The undulating hood remains, as do the side-panel beltline accents and the distinctive head and rear lamp shapes. However Jaguar has applied Zenon front headlamps and LED taillight technology to the new version. When test driving the XJ make sure to take note of the beautiful wheels. They add glamour and style.

Vehicle Interior

Ian Callum, Director of Design for Jaguar Cars, describes the new XJ interior as, "classic Jaguar." The interior design is easily recognizable as a Jaguar with lots of soft leather, even on the dash, beautiful walnut veneers everywhere, plush carpeting and their classic center "stack" (center-dash) and console layout.

The vehicle's traditional controls have given way to touch-screen technologies for the climate, audio and navigations systems. Below that the center console contains the sport-mode selection, traction-control on-off switch, followed by Jaguar's J-gate gear selector (allowing manual selection of the second through fifth gears.) The traditional parking brake lever has been replaced with an electronic switch introduced in the 2002 S-Type. When the car is in park the brake engages automatically. Climate, audio and cruise controls also appear on the steering wheel. A rear-seat DVD entertainment system is available on all models (standard in the Vanden Plas) and is part of an optional multimedia package.

Among the most important comfort and safety features of the XJ is the application of the power-adjustable pedals. This comely feature enables drivers of all heights to maintain comfortable and safe seating positions. Because it has memory, multiple drivers can adjust the steering wheel, seat and pedals their preferred position with no more than the touch of a single button; elegance and safety in one. This intelligent feature should be standard on every car on the market.

Ride, Handling and Performance

The new XJ's ride is superb, quiet and smooth, even under heavy acceleration. We didn't realize we had exceeded 100 mph when passing, until we looked at the speedometer. This is VERY easy to do.

The vehicle does as you command. Steering is precise and smooth. There is enough resistance for the driver to get good feedback from the road without it being tiring to drive. The braking in the new XJ is stellar. In the XJR stopping has been taken over-the-top with the addition of larger Brembo ventilated performance disc brakes.

The performance of the normally aspirated 4.2 liter, V8 engine is highly responsive and thus fun to drive. This power plant, standard on the XJ8 and Vanden Plas models, generates 294-horsepower. But for even more driving pleasure try the XJR with a supercharged version of the same engine generating 390-horsepower. This engine will move you from 0 to 60 mph in 5 seconds, competitive with a Porsche Carrerra.

All versions of the XJ feature a 6-speed ZF automatic transmission which shifts so smoothly that at times you think you are driving a car with a Continuously Variable Transmission.


In addition to a wide range of standard front, side and curtain airbags there is Jaguar's ARTS system. The Adaptive Restraint Technology System adapts the deployment of the airbag for the driver and front passenger based on their weights, positioning, whether they are wearing a seatbelt and seated properly, or not. The airbags deploy with the necessary speed and force for the situation at hand, but no more.

In Conclusion

Almost all of the luxury automakers have, or will be, releasing new versions of their flagship models shortly. The new XJ puts Jaguar squarely in competition with the BMW, Lexus, Mercedes-Benz, Audi and Infiniti brands in the American market for ride, comfort and performance. Starting at just under $60,000 for the XJ8, this new Jaguar may just be the value leader in the class.

Editors' Ratings

Pros: Adherence to the Jaguar heritage. Luxurious materials. Unbelievably quiet and smooth ride. Responsive engine.

Cons: Nothing.

Annoyances: Overly large buttons and knobs on the dash. A few cheap plastic buttons, knobs and handles. The occurrence of a few strange stripes on the doors' interior.

Ratings (1-10)

  • Style: 9
  • Performance: 9
  • Price: 8
  • Handling: 9
  • Ride: 9
  • Comfort: 8
  • Quality: 7
  • Overall: 8.43

More Data

Where Built: Coventry, United Kingdom

Major Options: Premium sound, sunblind, 6-CD changer, navigation system, multimedia system, heated seats, heated steering wheel, halogen headlamps 4-zone temperature control.

Seating: 5

Number of Rows: 2

Crash Test Ratings:

  • NHTSA Frontal Impact/Driver Crash Test Rating: Not Yet Tested
  • NHTSA Frontal Impact/Passenger Crash Test Rating: Not Yet Tested
  • NHTSA Side Impact/Front Seat Crash Test Rating: Not Yet Tested
  • NHTSA Side Impact/Rear Seat Crash Test Rating: Not Yet Tested
  • NHTSA Rollover Resistance Rating: Not Yet Tested

  • IIHS Frontal Offset Crash Test: Not Yet Tested

Length in Inches: 200.4

Warranties: 4 years/50,000 miles bumper-to-bumper, 6 years/unlimited miles corrosion, parts and service adjustments for 1 year/12,500 miles, 4 years/50,000 miles free Roadside Assistance, free schduled maintenance for 12 months/10,000 miles.

Weight in Pounds: XJ: 3,766. Vanden Plas: 3,803. XJR: 3,948.

Maximum Payload in Pounds: XJ: 1,200. Vanden Plas: 1,200. XJR: 1,289.

Maximum Gross Vehicle Weigh in Poundst: XJ: 4,850. Vanden Plas: 4,850. XJR: 4,960.

Towing Capacity in Pounds: Not applicable.

Gas Tank Capacity in Gallons: XJ: 22.5. XJR: 22.3.

Destination Charge: $665