1999 Jaguar XJ Page 1

Glamour, sensuousness, elegance and curved lines are the essence of a Jaguar. Every one of the aforementioned is oozing from the Jaguar XJ8. But with the XJR, one more very important element is added to the equation — blazing performance.

And a good bit of it, too. The XJR brandishes 370 horsepower and 387 lb-ft of torque through the rear wheels. Those figures better the XJ8 by 80 horsepower and nearly 100 lb-ft of torque. This substantial increase in output is courtesy of an Eaton supercharger and a pair of intercoolers, one for each bank of the V-8's cylinders. At a mere 1600 rpm, the XJR's supercharged motor is already producing more torque than the normally aspirated engine of the XJ8 at its peak. All this power is produced using a remarkably small four-liter engine displacement.

With such equipment, the XJR rockets to 60 miles per hour in 5.3 seconds, according to the company. While many vehicles today are capable of comparable feats, no other can conduct the task with the degree of style and grace the XJR exhibits.

Feline ferocity

The supreme elegance of this car, coupled with such a ferocious engine, make driving it an altogether unique experience. Four 18-inch Pirelli P Zero tires are assigned the task of anchoring the XJR to the pavement. Their 255-millimeter width does a fine job of increasing the car's limits on smooth surfaces. However, they impart a subtle wander to the car's steering on crowned or rutted pavement. Nonetheless, their existence represents a fair compromise in exchange for the car's monstrous power.

On smooth highways, the XJR is at its best, devouring mile after mile with astonishing ease. But as the pavement turns twisty, the XJ chassis begins to show its age. Dips and undulations upset the feel of the car enough to remind the driver how fast the car is actually traveling.

Nevertheless, although its chassis may lack the precision of some German competitors such as the Mercedes E55, the XJR's interior easily surpasses all other cars in its class. An abundance of Connolly leather and walnut trim give the interior a rich, luxurious feel. Soft, surprisingly supportive seats coddle the driver and front passenger, while seat heaters and automatic climate control further enhance the comfortable interior of the XJR. A 240-watt Harman Kardon audio system connected to a trunk-mounted six-disc compact disc changer provides added aural enjoyment to the car's passengers.

While on the subject of the trunk, take note that with XJR's slender exterior lines, trunk space is sacrificed. Certainly there is room for two golf bags, but the slender form of the XJR's tail prevents a deeper trunk. In general, style seems to come before function with this automobile. Rather than lament that aspect of the XJR, we applaud it. Too few automobiles put a premium on grace and elegance these days.

British heritage, international roots

Interestingly, while the XJR has a purely British heart and soul, its engine is backed with a Mercedes-Benz five-speed automatic transmission reconfigured to withstand the torque output of the XJR's engine. Despite efforts to reinforce the drivetrain, it was still necessary for Jaguar engineers to program the engine control computer to limit torque during engagement of the first transmission ratio.  Even so, once the traction control system is deactivated, simply stomping on the accelerator pedal is all that is necessary to summon plumes of smoke from the rear tires.

While such behavior is not typical of a gentleman's car bestowed with a chrome leaper hood ornament, it is befitting of the XJR. Although the rest of the car is admirable for its character, the supercharged four-liter engine is our favorite part of the XJR. We can't wait to sample it in the XKR coupe or convertible when they reach our shores in the near future. And we salivate at the thought of this engine under the bonnet of the new S-Type. Both of these vehicles have more modern chassis that are probably better suited to coping with the power the XJR's engine is capable of producing.

But as a more sporting alternative to the XJ8, the XJR is exactly the right automobile. If sensuousness, elegance, character and performance are something you desire in an automobile, the XJR is an excellent choice.