2002 Jaguar XJ8 Vanden Plas (395)


This week I had the pleasure of testing the 2002 Jaguar XJ8. Cars of this class are hard not to like. They are super comfortable, spacious and elegantly appointed. You’ll find women driving this car much more than men. But what about all that power? Women are much too conservative drivers to appreciate 0-60 in about 6 seconds. Isn’t it just the macho guys that are concerned about mechanical design and performance?

However, even the guys will appreciate special features and devices like the rear sensors to alert you of objects in your path while in reverse. It’s especially handy for parallel parking. I suspect we’ll soon find this as standard equipment on most cars in the near future. The cost is minimal for the benefit. The Infiniti Q45 I’m testing now has a rear view camera to assist in a similar fashion. Although it is impressive, the sensors are easier to use effectively. The only advantage with the video version is the safety provided when backing out of your driveway, for example, where it is comforting to be able to glance at the monitor to see if the kids left a tricycle, bicycle, skateboard, etc. behind your car. Not to mention little kids playing or family pets wandering around.

Handling & Performance:

Vanden Plas has a naturally aspirated 4.0-liter V8 engine and you’d have to opt for the XJR to get a supercharged version of the same engine. But performance is excellent in either case. As a side note ABS, anti-lock braking systems, are great but not many drivers know how to use them properly. So I’ll digress a bit to explain ABS. I suggest you read about the use of ABS in your owner’s manual.

In the event of a skid, anti-lock brakes rely on a computer to pump the brakes more rapidly than you could pump them yourself. Using the system means applying firm and steady pressure to the brake. When the ABS kicks in, you will feel a vibration or pulsating sensation on the brake pedal. That indicates the ABS is working properly.

While the ABS is pumping the brakes very rapidly, the wheels will continue turning. This gives you control over the vehicles steering. In other words, you may be able to steer around an obstacle, such as the car in front of you.


Some would note that this basic design, with few changes, has been around for several years. It is recognizable as a quietly elegant automobile.

Fit and Finish:

Detailing on this Jag is as beautiful as the women who drive them. And for the most part controls are where they should be, save one – the gas pedal. I wear tennis shoes a lot and have an average size shoe that kept catching on the side carpeting, which was annoying. But then since most will be driven by women with small feet this shouldn’t be a problem.


If they offer an option for an “Intelligent Cruise Control” on any car you look at, do yourself a favor and test it. It’s great in my opinion. I also like the rear sensing device, but not the TV monitor version.


Not a car for the faint hearted when it comes to opening your wallet. But for luxury and prestige, and the fact that only 240 units will be sent to the US, the price will be acceptable to those in the market for this kind of car. True, the badge is expensive when you consider you could go out and buy 5 Saturn’s with different colors for each day.

Consumer Recommendation:

I list the cars in this class below with ranking noted in parenthesis. But if cost is not a consideration, throw those out the power windows. Pricing not considered I would put this Jag number 2 right behind the Mercedes Benz.

Manufacturer Recommendations:

Take another look at the design and placement of the gas pedal.

The Competition:

(6) Jaguar XJ8 $56-78,000, (4) Acura RL $43-45,000, (8) Audi A8 $62-67,000, (7)BMW 7 Series $68-72,000, (5) Cadillac Seville $44-50,000, (1) Infiniti Q45 $50,000, (3)Lexus LS 430 $54,000,(9) Mercedes Benz S-class $72-115,000, (2) Volvo S80 $38-50,000.

Good News:

Super comfort, elegant styling and first class detail work.

Bad News:

Turn signal resembles a Chinese water torture, says the lady. I wouldn’t go that far but it is a little strange. Very pricey and expensive for transportation.

Standard Equipment:

4.0 liter 290 horsepower V8 engine, 5 speed auto trans, dual and side airbags, ABS brake system, traction control, air conditioning, power windows and door locks, tilt wheel, cruise control, power leather seats, radio with cassette and CD, sunroof, rear window defroster, tachometer, alloy wheels.

Gas Stats:

17 City and 24 Highway MPG.


MSRP $68,330.

Your comments are welcomed. My e-mail is Joe@atthewheel.com.

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