The decision makers at Jaguar have been busy over the years making subtle changes to the XJ Series but in truth it would be very difficult to notice any of those changes. They have clung to the design of the original XJ since it debuted in 1968 and that has been both a blessing and a curse. It is hard to fathom what the intended goal has been over those decades: was it to increase sales by enticing a new era of drivers or cling to the past and satisfy only those who admire the past? The Jaguar XJ8 is an attempt, apparently, to do both.
So what can be said about the XJ8? It features a bigger engine than previous 6’s for one. A standard 4.2-liter V6 engine kicks out 300 horsepower for the XJ8 in all models after 2006, and the supercharged models, the XJR and Super V8, feature 400 horses coming out of the stables. Now consider that with the fact that the same, classic, some-would-say antiquated six-speed automatic transmission and J-gate shifter is on all models and you begin to understand the conundrum.
The interior is stately to the point of feeling like you should be drinking brandy and admiring the library, and technology has been added to accompany the lush and finally-trimmed interior, but the switches and buttons have been put in ridiculously awkward positions making it somewhat of a body-contortion exercise whenever you need one of those technological additions. In other words, if you want to use the adaptive cruise control or the navigation system, be prepared to follow the Beatles advice by twisting and shouting.
In a step that can only be described as radical by British standards, the XJ8 was made lighter by using aluminum in construction and the wheel-base was lengthened, but the suspension was still soft and improved steering and handling were only experienced in the two supercharged models.
As always, this European import car delivers one of the quietest rides of any luxury sedan. That was true with the original XJ in 1968 and it is still true today. As always, Jaguar has a distinct “feel” to it, as if prestige could actually be felt by the senses. As always, the beautiful interior and classic lines scream history and all that is wonderfully memorable about Great Britain.
But while competitors (most notably the Japanese) are embracing the future and in fact re-defining it, Jaguar seems to have a death-grip on the past and it may eventually be their downfall. The year is 2011, not 1968, and regal and tradition has been replaced by comfort, styling, and functionality by most of the other major car manufacturers. It remains to be seen if this is a blessing or a curse for the Jaguar XJ8.