SHENANDOAH, Virginia — Ripping around broad benders on Skyline Drive, which traces a ridge route high above the Shenandoah Valley, this big sedan behaves itself, its rear wheels throwing muscle into each turn as tires claw for traction on a blacktop surface.
Slip that shift lever down a notch through the manual mode and a supercharged engine whines in braking before the next turn. Now ease throttle after the apex and exit cleanly before punching it into the straightaway.
Then hold on tight. This thing tracks like a cat through curves and soars when set free.
For a big car, and a supreme luxury liner at that, such sport-tinged elation is definitely not what's expected. However, pleasant surprises and driving excitement seem to come together with extensive luxury features heaped into a supercharged variation of Jaguar's XJ sedan, the XJR.
All four of Jaguar’s full-size luxury machines in this series were revamped last year, then armed with the Jaguar V-8 engine which debuted in 1997 in the gorgeous XK8 coupe and convertible. All four sedans also received a pleasing five-speed German electronic automatic transmission.
All handle with more confidence, too, thanks to a stiffer chassis and revised front suspension components lifted from the XK8, along with subtle enhancements for the leather-lined passenger compartment. And all look absolutely stunning.
Sensuous styling for big cars
One look at the sheet metal sections reveals smooth and contemporary contours yet hint at classic shapes from earlier Jaguars. The signature round headlamps, offset by the horizontal slant of a bold chrome grille, mark each prow, as sensuous lines sweep rearward across a long hood and low roof to the definitive rounded tail.
Jaguar's sedans are long enough to measure up to full-size dimensions, although the broad and low stance makes them appear slinky and aggressive.