2004 Jaguar XJ8 Four Seasons Test

Don Sherman
Tim Andrew
Full Rear View

This XJ8's commendably light weight-a 600-pound advantage over its competitors-was at the root of favorable remarks about around-town agility. More remarkably, logbook comments repeatedly praised the lack of rattles after 30,000 miles of hammering. Jaguar's aluminum construction also pays efficiency dividends. Thanks to its excellent highway mileage-more than 25 mpg at times-the XJ8's 22.5-gallon tank often provided 500 miles of range.

The most notable service concern we experienced began at 12,000 miles with a flat tire caused by a nail. Apparently in sympathy, a second tire blew catastrophically a few hundred miles later, leaving New York bureau chief Jamie Kitman stranded on a dark and dreary January night. Adding insult to injury was a wrench useful only for rounding off the lug nuts. Upon close inspection, that tool appeared to have been improperly heat-treated, so its lug socket was too soft to maintain shape during use (and, inevitably, misuse). The service manager at our local dealership admitted that "Ford has pulled the part." We replaced the damaged nuts and used a tougher impact socket levered by a breaker bar until the service manager was able to supply an improved factory lug wrench.

Center Console View

Before our tire troubles ended, the Jag suffered another blowout, and a third tire needed replacement because of excess wear. In light of these failures and low scores achieved in cornering and braking tests, the conclusion is that the $800 spent for optional wheels and tires should have been invested in something other than H-rated Continental touring radials.

Other service concerns were warning lamps lighting now and again. The automatic parking brake acted up early on, the low-coolant light cried wolf incessantly, and there was a minor driver's air-bag problem at the end of the third season. Not surprisingly, we warped the brake rotors and inflicted surface cracks in the rear pads after 30,000 miles of heavy-pedal driving.

Considering the intrinsic complexity of the modern ultraluxury car and this generation XJ8's youth, we feel that its reliability was acceptable. We're not alone in that judgment. In J. D. Power's 2004 Initial Quality Study, the XJ was Jag's star player. After the first ninety days of ownership, buyers reported fewer than one problem on average, a score topped only by the Lexus LS430.

Steering Wheel View

Meanwhile, back to the logbook ranting. Road test coordinator Jason Bradley termed the XJ8 an anachronism, fraught with vintage Lincoln DNA. Nonetheless, he preferred this car's overall character to the excessively teched BMW 7-series whose Four Seasons flog overlapped the XJ8's run through our gauntlet. Contributor Kirk Seaman and others compared the quality of interior plastics, especially switchgear, to various low-market Ford vehicles.

Contributor Ronald Ahrens, who lived with the car for thousands of miles, was beset by puppy love. He deemed the XJ8 a true classic-comparable to his favorite Bach cello sonatas-embodying the highest standards of power and roadgoing sex appeal. A feature he admired was the nav system and its voice, which he likened to that of Victoria Tennant. One he loathed, along with most of us, was the Jag's clumsy J-gate shift labyrinth.

Front Hood Ornament View

Online editor Mike Dushane expressed delight in the Jag's 4.2-liter V-8: "What it lacks in refinement it makes up for with great noise and a flexible power band. There's just enough personality to remind you that you're not in a Lexus. Compared with BMW's iDrive, the nav system is a breath of fresh air. Pushing a button-even a chintzy one-steals my heart."

In the end, the yeas and nays for this car were keyed to the age of the beholder. While everyone appreciated the XJ8's refined driving behavior, the younger staff members were distressed by the interior lapses and dated exterior design. Dushane summarized that point of view by calling this car "a modern knight dressed as a sad, old dowager." The more mature respondents were sufficiently enthusiastic about the XJ8's brilliant road manners, deep-seated comfort, and instant recognition that they considered this car's many foibles less consequential. Gillies concluded, "The Jaguar XJ8's interior isn't as well appointed as that of the BMW 7-series, and it's not as capable when driven hard, but I prefer the Jag for everyday use because it's more intuitive to drive and has a superior ride."

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