Wheels - Jaguar’s new XJ Super V8
Beauty and the Beast
If there’s nothing as desirable as the unobtainable, the new Jaguar XJ Super V8 Portfolio should be at the top of all executive car purchasers’ shopping lists. Just 145 of the rare beasts are going to find their way into the United States this year, and every last one of them has already been sold. So, unless you are on first-name terms with your local Jaguar dealer, all you are going to be able to do is stand and stare as this graceful, strong animal wafts past your outstretched arms.
Starting with the rapid and luxurious XJ Super V8 as its base, the Portfolio adds a range of exclusive and tastefully executed features that propel it to well above the $100,000 mark into an arena with some brow-furrowingly serious competition. The Audi A8L W12, BMW 750iL, and the new Mercedes-Benz S-Class are all resident in this territory. All are fearsome, even crushing, opposition for the Portfolio if judged purely on technical sophistication.
But if you throw in emotional appeal, the three German “bahnstormers” start to lose ground like they’ve run out of gas to the seductive new Jag. While they make a play for your mind by offering mind-melting levels of new technology, the Portfolio (which features just as much new tech as the best of them; it just doesn’t trouble the driver with it as much) runs away with your heart.
Instead of focusing its attention on blinding its audience with science, the Portfolio spends its time conveying what a truly class act it is.
It does this way before you even get into it. Just seeing it crouching on the Tarmac on the Portfolio-only polished alloy Callisto 20-inch wheels immediately signals your brain that something special is in your presence. Look a bit further and you notice the beautiful aluminum air ducts behind the front-wheel arches, the larger tailpipes, the vintage logo on the center of the rims, and the classically subtle black cherry paintwork, too.
But that’s far from where it finishes. Reach for the door handle and you reveal an interior completely upgraded for this most special XJ. All of the surfaces that are normally covered in regular leather are swathed in rich, conker-colored hide made especially for the Portfolio. The headlining is also new, made of a soft suede-like cloth that extends all the way down the internal pillars.
The backseat retains the Super V8’s two-seat-with-a-center-console setup. Both seats are individually adjustable, and the center armrest contains a broad range of controls that allow rear-seat passengers precisely to control the audio, visuals, and temperature of their environment. A twin-screen DVD system is standard.
Up front, the goodies continue. Most noticeable of these is the music system. In place of the standard sound package is a 15-speaker Dolby Surround Sound II system that articulates the most demanding music in crystalline clarity. There’s also satellite radio — one of the only options — if you so wish. This sits in a dash made of low-luster black walnut wood, which is accented by an aluminum gear-change surround and more of that conker-colored leather on the shift knob.
Apart from this restrained array of tasteful touches, the Portfolio also offers all the detail improvements common to the rest of the 2006 XJ range. These run deep into the cars’ spec sheet and have a noticeably pleasing effect on the whole driving/owning experience.
First is the mesh grille, now standard on all XJs, which gives the cars a more purposeful countenance. Then there are the bigger brakes both front and rear that make for surer and faster stops. All glass is now flush-fitting and sound-deadening material more extensive. These two measures drop in-car noise levels to a point where your passenger’s breathing pattern can become irritating.
On the technology side, all XJs now feature the latest Bluetooth wireless technology. This seamlessly allows you to leave your cell phone in your pocket or briefcase yet use all of its functions via the car’s controls. If you haven’t experienced this type of in-car comms progress, you will be impressed when you do.
But what impresses you most about the XJs is still the one feature that puts the real distance between them and all the other cars: the way it drives. It’s not just that it’s nearly 1,000 pounds lighter than some of its competitors, or that it has continuously adjustable air suspension, or 400 hp, or any of the other individual features.
No, it’s the way you can thread this big, luxurious sedan down a sinuous road at speeds that would trouble a pure sports car that really sets it apart. The steering feel is mechanical, linear, and precisely weighted. The suspension keeps the tires firmly on the road — and you in your seat. And the throttle and brakes give exact metering of speed through corners. It all adds up to something you love to drive — slowly or as fast as it will go.
The Portfolio’s inch-larger wheels, which should reduce ride quality, instead improve turn-in without any noticeable payoff in harshness. What they also do is make sure that no one mistakes the Portfolio for any other car in the XJ range.
While this is a wonderful thing for all of the 145 people who have their names on the paperwork for the limited-edition car, it’s going to be a constant — and painful — reminder to all those who missed the chance of owning one of these rare creatures.
To rework the phrase, the Jaguar Super V8 Portfolio proves that nothing is as unobtainable as the truly desirable.
Jaguar Super V8 Portfolio: $115,995