Saturday, July 02, 2005

Jag Super 8 is super luxo-sedan


Long-time readers know yours truly is a sucker for three things: big, fast sedans that handle like sports cars, small, fast sedans that handle like sports cars and Jaguar’s exquisite styling. The SV8 gets two of the three.

Essentially a stretched (by five inches in the wheelbase and an inch in the greenhouse) version of the XJ sedan, the SV8 is plenty big enough for five very rich adults to exult in a typically lavish Jaguar passenger compartment, with more than sufficient room front and back to stretch out and serenely enjoy the scenery.

Unless of course you happen to be the driver, in which case you are very likely to be looking way down the road because it is coming at you so quickly you must remember the cardinal rule of safe, fast driving – keep your eyes up.

The SV8 is extremely fast for two reasons: there is a 390 horsepower (according to the Monroney. The Jag web site says its 400 horsepower) supercharged edition of Jaguar’s familiar 4.2 liter V-8 under the hood and Jaguar used lots of aluminum (pronounced Al-you-minee-mum-mate on the Jag factory floor) to drop the curb weight significantly. So much so in fact that the stretched XJ weighs barely 53 pounds more than the standard XJ.

The exterior look of the SV8 is pure Jag, which means the front end combines four round light bezels with those gorgeously sleek curves and a split grille, with wire mesh. The fender arches aren’t as pronounced here as they are on the more visually exciting S-Type, but you don’t hear me complaining, do you?

There are some unique design features, including sculpted power vents in the front wings and 20-inch wheels that fill the fender arches. The overall effect is a lower, leaner and distinctly more aggressive looking sedan, compared to the regular XJ.

The blown V-8 is hooked to a six-speed ZF tranny that moves up and down the gears with a wonderful smoothness that belies the fact that those 390/400 horses are being channeled through the rear wheels at a tremendous rate.

It doesn’t take much gas pedal pressure at all to move the SV8 from rest to 60 mph in just over five seconds. Ease the pedal further at 100 mph and you will see 130 mph on the speedometer as swiftly as the radar cop can throw his Crown Vic into gear and give chase.

In the curves, the SV8 handles like a big, fast, powerful sedan. You know you are behind the wheel of a large vehicle, but those huge tires, huge brakes and comfortably aggressive suspension tuning keep things under control. Ride quality on city and suburban streets is superb.

This is a wonderful vehicle. I just wish I could afford the $89,995 tab at the bottom of that Monroney. Ah well, maybe someday I’ll write that Great American Novel and use some of the proceeds to buy the Ford-owned British marque’s most appealing big sedan.