2002 Jaguar XJ Photo
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The 2002 Jaguar XJ8 Vanden Plas evokes giant American sedans of the past, with its long hood... Read more »
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by Dan Carney

“I like this car,” pronounced my six-year-old daughter. “It goes softly.” Indeed.

The 2002 Jaguar XJ8 Vanden Plas evokes giant American sedans of the past, with its long hood, genuinely spacious interior, and silent V-8 that effortlessly floats the car up hills, and the most important ingredient – a suspension that prevents the outside world from intruding on the car’s occupants. The big Jag swallowed railroad tracks – railroad tracks – without a hiccup.

The XJ8 also possesses the uniquely Jaguar ability to attract women like raccoons to a campground dumpster. Driving the Vanden Plas attracted smiles, waves and comments from women like we haven’t seen since, well, the XK8 convertible. They lust for the car. If Jaguar could just find a way to bottle the pheromones its cars apparently exude, Ford’s financial troubles would be permanently solved. Schoolgirls stopped to declare, “Your car is very pretty.” Amazing.

Maybe it is the car’s feminine, curving lines. Maybe it is the implication of wealth. There’s a psych major’s thesis in there somewhere.

Blissful cruising

The Vanden Plas differs from the run-of-the-mill XJ8 in that it is five inches longer (202.7 inches vs. 197.8 inches) on a five-inch longer wheelbase (117.9 inches vs. 113.0 inches). It also features Autolux leather seats, front and rear seat heaters, and a booming 320-watt Alpine CD stereo system.

We confess a personal bias to taut, lithe sports cars and sedans, categories that exclude the XJ8. Nevertheless, after a blissful cruise through the Virginia piedmont to historic Charlottesville, we came to appreciate the car’s ability to cruise effortlessly. Jaguar has built a compliant suspension that produces a silky ride without a mandatory Dramamine prescription.

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