Not for American consumption, Coventry's big cat with the small purr is nonetheless an impressive piece.
The new Jaguar XJ8 is a very solid competitor in the luxury car market, thanks mainly to its revolutionary aluminum monocoque construction. We have our reservations about the exterior style, which is elegant but too old-fashioned, and the interior, which lacks the superior build quality and styling of the Audi A8, but the car's dynamics and performance are terrific.
Colin Chapman of Lotus always believed that weight is the enemy. He was right, of course. It is easier to make a light car ride well. A light car will accelerate and stop better than a similarly powered and braked but heavier car, and provide more cornering power on similar wheels and tires. Plus, it will return better gas mileage from an equivalent engine. The XJ8 has one of the best ride/handling balances in its class, even if it's not as aggressive as the BMW 7-series or the Audi A8L on twisting roads. It also has similar performance to the 745Li and A8L, despite having less power.
That low weight also means that the six-cylinder XJ6 that's on sale in Europe is a really sweet piece. Using the same DOHC, 24-valve, 3.0-liter V-6 engine that's in the S-type and the X-type, one would think that the much bigger XJ6 would be about as sporty as a tugboat. Yet the 231-hp engine, in concert with a six-speed automatic transmission, is actually quite lively and fun to drive. Independent road tests give 0 to 60 mph acceleration in 8.4 seconds and 30-70 mph in 8.1 seconds, which is plenty lively for everyday driving. Engine refinement is top notch, too, a muted growl permeating the cabin only under hard acceleration.
The 6 feels as if it has slightly better balance and turn in than the XJ8, while sacrificing nothing in ride quality. The steering is a bit light for my tastes, but is quick and accurate. The car's biggest flaw, aside from its bland interior style, is the trunk, which looks large but doesn't have much usable space. (A Vauxhall Astra hatchback takes more baggage.)
The XJ6 Sport we drove comes with standard eighteen-inch wheels and tires, a sport suspension, sport seats, leather steering wheel, and all manner of comfort and convenience features. With the optional CATS adaptive damping, premium sound system, and an electric rear sunblind, the sticker was £ 42,830: remove the British VAT sales tax, and that equates to around $56,000. That runs close to the base price of an XJ8, although this car was far better equipped. We reckon that Jag could sell a few XJ6s in the States, priced at the $50,000 mark, but then that would likely take a toll on S-type sales. Jaguar personnel also feel that it would look like an odd fish in a luxury segment that is solely V-8 powered. That's a shame, because in many ways this is the sweetest car in the XJ range.