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This article is from our archives and has not been updated and integrated with our "new" site yet... Even so, it's still awesome - so keep reading!

Published on Thu, Apr 13, 2006

By: The LACar Editorial Staff


It is a sunny morning on a Southern California freeway. I settle into the driver's seat of the 2006 Jaguar XJ8 Super, and set the cruise control to seventy miles per hour. Mere seconds later, the car slows down for no apparent reason. My first reaction is one of utter dismay. After all, this is a brand new car with less than seven thousand miles on the odometer. And for such a simple device as a cruise control to go bad after such a short period. I press the appropriate control on the steering wheel, but nothing changes. In fact, the car slows down even more. But no sooner I finish grumbling when I detect a pattern. The distance between me and the car ahead remain a constant, and when the freeway traffic slows down, as it does here, the big Jag discreetly slows down as well, while maintaining at the same time a safe space behind the other car. Somebody, something is driving the big Jag - and it's not me. I am merely pointing the car in the right direction. Then the car ahead changes lanes, the road opens, and the big Jaguar elegantly accelerates itself to seventy miles per hour. Just as I ask it to do. In any decent Hollywood movie, a moment like this is usually accompanied by the crescendo of a large choir and organ music, while the protagonist is suddenly bathed in the bright diffused light coming from above. They call it the moment, and for me it just occurred in lane one of the Santa Monica Freeway. In 1769, Wolfgang von Kempelen unveiled a chess-playing automaton called the Turk. It was a maplewood cabinet with a mannequin dressed in cloak and turban seated behind it. The cabinet had doors that opened to reveal internal clockwork mechanisms. When activated, the mechanism appeared to be able to play a strong game of chess. The cabinet was a cleverly constructed illusion that allowed a chess master, a human, to hide inside and operate the mannequin. Consequently, it won most games. Kempelen first exhibited the Turk at the court of Austrian Empress Maria Theresa in 1770, and later took it on a tour of Europe for several years during the 1780s. During this time, the Turk was exhibited in Paris where Benjamin Franklin played it and lost. Guided by this knowledge, after I had arrived at my destination, I immediately commenced my search for the human inside the XJ8.

A detailed reconnaissance under the bonnet reveals a lot of hardware packed by the engineers at the Castle Bromwich plant. The mechanically supercharged 4.2-liter V8 uses an Eaton supercharger, twin high-efficiency intercoolers, a special twin pump fuel system, and forged oil cooled pistons to handle the increased internal loads and temperatures. It produces 400 brake horsepower at 6,100 rpm, and a torque peak of 413 lb-ft. at 3,500 rpm. Alas, a human driver was nowhere to be found. I continued to look around. The 2006 XJ has a simple, cleaner and fresher look. The fascia is adorned with a chrome mesh grille, and body side moldings and front and rear windshield finishers have also been removed. This cat is big. The long version increases the wheelbase by five inches to 124.4 inches, and overall length to 205.3 inches. That's over five and a half yards of pure luxury, folks. Yet, a car this long and eighty-three inches wide weighs only 4,000 pounds. Welcome to the world of aluminum construction for which Jaguar has been so well-known. The big Jag sits on 255/40 ZR 19 Pirelli Zero Assimetrico tires wrapped around nineteen-inch five-spoke wheels. I simply refuse to accept that the civilized driver who helped me so gallantly on the freeway is nothing more than few pieces of plastic and metal and a software program deep inside the all-aluminum body. Such a creation should have a name as opposed to the acronym ACC given by Jaguar (which stands for Adaptive Cruise Control). In the movie 2001, A Space Odyssey the computer was named HAL. Hoping to avoid similar results on board this ship (if you recall, HAL decided to kill all crew members deeming them unworthy of the mission), I chose to name my electronic driver James. With white gloves and cap, and an impeccable behaviour (note the British spelling here) of a true British professional. As in: "Please, take us to the Buckingham Palace, James." "Of course, sir." There are fewer pleasures than sitting in the Southern California traffic inside the XJ8 Super with James in control. I point the Jag down the road, press a button, and James does the rest. He will accelerate to a desired speed, slow down for the traffic ahead, and when the cars come to a standstill, James will emit a discreet beep on the dashboard asking you to take over. I am able to relax, without worrying about the ever changing pace of the cars in front of me. I do not have to develop a tunnel vision staring ahead and constantly worrying that I may not slow down in time. I can even look around because James is taking care of all these annoying details. The supercharged V8 is matched to the advanced ZF six-speed automatic transmission with Bosch Mechatronic shift - an electro-hydraulic shift mechanism incorporated into the main gearbox casing whose adaptive shift strategy is controlled by the main electronic control unit. The gearbox responds both to road conditions and to the way the car is being driven - to give the smoothest shifts and optimum performance.

For those who may find this type of driving too relaxing, there is the J-Gate on the gearbox. Disconnect James, push the lever to the left and up - to the lowest gear - and step on the gas. In a split second, you realize that the letter J is short for the phrase: "Jesus Christ, where did all this power suddenly come from?" By their very heritage, Jaguars have been race-oriented machines, and this XJ8 has plenty of muscle to show. The V8 has an exceptional torque spread, delivering at least 86 percent of the peak torque figure from 2,000 rpm on. As mentioned, the XJ weighs only 4,000 pounds, which means that its power-to-weight ratio rates a 10. The car will accelerate from 0-60 mph in just 5.0 seconds. If you are in a regular Corvette, you will be two-tenths of a second slower. Should you step on the pedal too heavily while trying to merge on the freeway from a ramp, there will be a distant chirp of the nineteen inch Pirellis somewhere from the rear, followed by a short whining sound under the hood, and a polite and reserved James will turn into a raging Mr. Hyde, ready to harm you if you are not attentive. Once your gaze returns from the rear-view mirror to the dashboard, you focus will be the speedometer needle pointing to the middle of the gauge with a number 90 behind it v- as in miles per hour. In fact, the car is so powerful and responsive that under a normal driving conditions a driver has to handle the gas pedal very gently, otherwise the car will accelerate somewhat abruptly drawing a furrowed eyebrow from James. The big Jag comes equipped with the Traction Control and Dynamic Stability Control (DSC) systems. Traction Control combines engine torque control, to reduce engine torque, and selective rear wheel braking using the ABS system, to counteract wheel spin when too much power is applied on a low grip surface. DSC uses engine torque control plus selective braking on all four wheels to counteract either understeer or oversteer if the limits of adhesion are overstepped. As for suspension, this cat rides on CATS (Computer Active Technology Suspension) - an electronic control system that operates by continuously adjusting the damping characteristics to suit the driving conditions. Both front and rear suspensions are mounted on isolated subframes, with rubber and hydraulic bushes to give precise control with maximum noise and vibration suppression. The car sits on pressurized air springs rather than conventional steel coils where effective spring stiffness and ride height is automatically controlled according to the data supplied by three height sensors. If you disengage all this electronics, the car will become far more lively, but will still behave in a predictable manner.

Brakes feature a new Conti-Teves R Performance braking system designed by Teves to give improved performance and pedal feel with more initial bite to 14.0-inch front rotors and12.8-inch rears. Calipers are now made of an aluminum/cast iron composite. While the idea is to give improved caliper stiffness and deliver even better high-speed braking performance, this system requires exceptionally gentle handling - otherwise the bite becomes overly pronounced. The brakes do not have as natural a progression as Brembo braking systems. But back to civilized behaviour. As you sit in the ruched leather seats, your mind naturally wanders as James does most of the driving. You first question what in the blazes do they mean by ruched leather? Ruche or ruching comes form an old Celtic term rusca, meaning bark or rind. It denotes a pleated, fluted or gathered strip of fabric used for trimming usually in rows and especially on women's garments. Now that your tush is no longer linguistically confused, you take stock of "but-of-course" equipment around you. These are the items you expect to find in this category of an automobile, and if you asked James whether the Jag had them he would reply: "But, of course, Sir." The list is long: a tire pressure monitoring system, automatic speed limiter (not to be confused with James), xenon headlamps with power-wash, adjustable foot pedals with memory, sixteen ways to adjust front seats including three stages of heating that also heats the wood/leather steering wheel. Dual-zone automatic climate control with filtration, and lambswool rugs so deep you could loose a silver dollar in them. Dash is stitched leatherette, and burl walnut veneers have Peruvian boxwood inlay. In the rear, the bench seat is electrically adjustable and heated - if need be. It has control for front passenger seat, and sunblinds for rear doors. Speaking of hot and cold, there is four-zone climate control system. Satellite based navigation and 320-watt, 12-speaker Alpine Premium Sound System with AM/FM stereo and six-disc CD changer? Of course. And a rear DVD multimedia entertainment system with twin display screens. When you take over from James, and have to park the car, a beeping signal - first discreet and than progressively louder, will alert you whether your bumpers are too close to any potential source of damage. And at high cruising speeds, the Jag will automatically lower ride height by 0.6 inches to enhance stability, minimize aerodynamic drag and maximize fuel economy. There is also Bluetooth® wireless technology for mobile phone. The monetary value of the preceding paragraph is approximately fifty three thousand pounds sterling, or ninety three thousand United States dollars. One may argue that paying close to a hundred grand for an automobile is excessive, but with the XJ8 Super the folks at Jaguar aim for the segment of the market in which this sum of money for a motor car is not considered anything out of the ordinary. This segment places far greater the emphasis is on luxury, exclusivity, comfort and prestige than on the amount of money spent to achieve it.

A note of caution, though - the members of Thorstein Veblen's leisure class expect only the best, and will quickly abandon the product if it doesn't meet their high expectations. While Jaguar has pedigree that few motor cars can match, the historic (un)reliability of its vehicle systems border on legendary. Or as one industry specialist said: "It broke down a lot, but you looked damn good doing it." In fairness, it has to be noted that JD Power surveys have been very good to Jaguar as of late. Two days later, I am in the same lane one of the Santa Monica Freeway eastbound, in a different car. It is raining and I have to focus all of my attention to penetrate the thick mist enveloping the road and keep the distance from the car ahead of me. And I am thinking of all the things I miss: the ruched leather, the rocket acceleration, the concert hall environment inside the cabin. But most of all, I miss James. SUMMARY JUDGMENT Think of it as an XJ Jaguar from the planet Krypton. For more information on Jaguar products, go to

SPECIFICATIONS Price: $91,995 Engine type and Displacement : 4.2 liter 90 Degree V8 aluminum alloy cylinder head/block, DOHC,, 4 valves per cylinder Horsepower: 400 @ 6100 rpm Maximum Torque: 413 lb-ft @ 3,500 rpm Drive configuration: Front engine / rear drive Transmission type: Six-speed automatic ZF6HP26 with Bosch Mechatronix; driver-adaptive shift Suspension: Front: Independent forged aluminum double wishbone design with 29 mm anti-roll bar; Self- leveling air springs Rear: Independent forged aluminum double wishbone design with 16 mm anti-roll bar; Self- leveling air springs Touring tuned enhanced Computer Active Technology damping; Independent front/rear two stage damping Dynamic Stability Control Wheels and tires: Front - 19 x 8.5, 255/40 ZR 19 Rear - 18 x 8.0 255/40 ZR 19 Brakes: Front - Vented discs 13.98 X 1.26 inches diameter Rear - Vented discs 12.83 X .79 inches diameter Conti Teves 4-channel anti lock with yaw control, active brake booster, electronic parking brake. Dimensions: Overall length: 205.3" Overall width: 83.0" including mirrors 76.5" with mirrors folded Overall height: 57" Curb weight: 4,001 lbs EPA mileage estimates: 17 mpg city, 24 mpg highway Performance: Top Speed: 155 mph, electronically limited 0-60 mph: 5.0 seconds

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