Full 2008 Jaguar XJ-Series Review
What's New for 2008
Updates to the styling, inspired by the XK sport coupe, are the most notable changes for the 2008 Jaguar XJ. A new grille and bumpers, front fender vents and newly standard 19- and 20-inch wheels highlight the changes outside. Within, increased rear legroom and the availability of HD radio and cooled seats make the big cat current in this premium class.
In the rarefied air of the ultraluxury sedan, the 2008 Jaguar XJ takes a slightly different tack than the flagships offered by its peers. Rather than emphasizing that the XJ can accelerate as effortlessly as its feline namesake, Jaguar seems to take equal pride in its stately sedan's often quirky English heritage. The sumptuous cabin that's as elegant as a parlor, the decidedly unconventional layout of some controls and the classic hunkered-down body shape fly in the face of the colder, modernistic design edicts of the Jag's chief rivals.
But that's not to say the 2008 XJ is a complete anachronism. There are plenty of high-tech features under that traditional Jaguar skin, such as a lightweight, all-aluminum architecture and a refined 4.2-liter, 32-valve V8 that can be had in either naturally aspirated or supercharged form.
This year brings some styling updates inspired by the XK sport coupe, such as side fender vents and a "growler" badge for the grille. The latter replaces the cat frozen in midleap atop the hood, but if you simply can't have your XJ without the "leaper," rest assured that it's still available as an option. A new grille, new mirrors (with signal indicators), new wheel designs and new bumpers, along with a subtle rear spoiler and revised model script further freshen this XJ generation that bowed in 2004.
The handsome cabin also gets a few new features for 2008, namely the availability of cooled seats and high-definition radio, as well as redesigned front seatbacks that provide more legroom for those in back.
A few of the Jaguar XJ's, um, let's say "charming" idiosyncrasies remain, including ventilation controls that would baffle a cryptologist and the "J-Gate" shifter which, should you choose to change gears manually, operates with all the precision of rebar stuck in half-dried cement. The majority of Jaguar drivers probably won't notice, though, as they're more apt to just leave it in Drive rather than do something as bourgeois as shift their own gears.
All in all, the XJ is pleasant to be around, with confident handling, a plush ride and cat-quick performance. No, it's not the most rational car when all is considered, so if cold logic rules your purchase decision, buy German or Japanese. This car is, quite defiantly, not an Audi, BMW, Infiniti, Lexus or Mercedes. And for those looking for something more classically distinguished and unusual than the status-quo picks in the ultraluxury sedan segment, the 2008 Jaguar XJ is a tempting alternative, especially in the supercharged XJR and Super V8 flavors.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2008 Jaguar XJ series is available in five trim levels: the base XJ8, the XJ8 L (long wheelbase), the supercharged and performance-oriented XJR, the ultra-luxurious Vanden Plas and the Super V8, which combines the plush appointments of the Vanden Plas with the supercharged performance of the XJR.
The XJ8 and XJ8 L come with 18-inch wheels, an adaptive suspension (known as Computer Active Technology Suspension, or CATS), xenon headlamps, rear park assist, full power accessories, 16-way front power seats (with three-stage heat and memory settings), Bluetooth, a moonroof, power-adjustable pedals and of course, plenty of leather and burl walnut trim. Many of the features standard on higher trim levels are optional on the XJ8 and XJ8 L.
Riding on the same wheelbase as the L sedan, the Vanden Plas adds 19-inch wheels, front park assist, power-folding exterior mirrors, a heated steering wheel, a navigation system, climate-controlled front seats, lambs wool footwell rugs, fold-down picnic trays for the rear-seat passengers, an electric rear sunblind and a premium Alpine audio system.
The high-performance XJR is based on the short-wheelbase XJ8 and gets 20-inch wheels, high-performance tires, upgraded brakes, front park assist, power-folding side mirrors, adaptive cruise control, a sport-tuned suspension, navigation system and the Alpine stereo.
Topping the line is the Super V8 that marries the XJR's supercharged engine with the long-wheelbase body style. It also has 20-inch wheels, high-performance brakes, adaptive cruise control and everything else an XJR has. It also has the Vanden Plas' fold-down picnic tables and climate-controlled seats along with a rear DVD entertainment system (with twin display screens) and a four-zone climate control system.
That quad-zone climate control system is an option on the Vanden Plas and XJR, as is the DVD entertainment system. Optional on all trims are high-definition (HD) and satellite radio service.
Powertrains and Performance
All 2008 Jaguar XJ models employ a 4.2-liter V8. All but the XJR and Super V8 have a naturally aspirated version of this engine that makes 300 horsepower and 310 pound-feet of torque. A supercharger on the XJR and Super V8 trims pumps output up to 400 hp and 413 lb-ft of torque. A six-speed automatic is the sole transmission, and it sends power to the rear wheels. Using the manual-shift mode of the latter is an exercise in frustration, as the lever's action is rather sloppy, making it hard to select gears. Fortunately, the gearbox does fine when left to its own devices, furnishing smooth and quick changes.
All XJs are quick, but the supercharged versions are thrilling – we've timed a Super V8 at just 5.6 seconds for the 0-60-mph sprint. Non-supercharged XJ8s did the same sprint in less than a second more.
Front-seat side and side curtain airbags are standard, as are antilock brakes and stability control. The XJ features Jaguar's "Adaptive Restraint Technology System" that monitors the positions and weight of the front seat passengers to determine how and when to deploy the various airbags.
Interior Design and Special Features
Chief among the draws of a 2008 Jaguar XJ is its handsome cabin that has all the charm of an old-world parlor. Of course, there is the beautiful wood, soft leather and sparkling chrome accents expected of a Jag. Modern conveniences such as acoustic laminated glass and multiadjustable, climate-controlled front seats do their best to coddle occupants. The cabin is indeed serene at speed, though some larger folks may find that those fancy seats just don't fit them. Also, in contrast to all the plush surroundings, some of the Jag's controls are confusing and have a cheap feel to their operation.
Operating in virtual silence, with a suspension system tuned more for grace and dignity than corner-carving, the Jaguar XJ-Series sedans have a personality unique among high-end luxury sedans. But with their lightweight construction, active suspensions and eager V8s, they're also surprisingly rambunctious when you let them run. If you want a Jaguar, there really aren't any substitutes.