The big Cat that made the Audi A8 and BMW 7 Series seem slow

The third-generation Jaguar XJ was introduced in 2003, when the British firm re-engineered its luxury sedan. The four-door gained an all-aluminum and structure that made it lighter than its competitors, a greater interior, and a new engine lineup that included both V-6 and V-8 powerplants. Air suspension was fitted all round, which provided adaptive damping as well as rear self leveling, making the third-gen XJ one of the most advanced and comfortable vehicles in its class. In 2007, Jaguar launched a facelifted version, changing the car’s name from X350 to X358.

The XJ was generally praised for its stately design, plush interior, lightweight design, powerful V-8 engine, and even its pricing, which was quite attractive compared to similar products from Audi, BMW, and Mercedes-Benz. Much like its predecessors, the X350-generation XJ was also used as a base for a couple of ultra-luxury models, including the Daimler Super Eight, Super V8, and Super V8 Portfolio.

The third-generation XJ was replaced by a brand new model in 2010. Unlike the X350/358, the fourth-gen XJ received a brand-new design language that had nothing in common with the original sedan of the 1960s.

Having already covered the XJ Super Portfolio, which was developed specifically for the U.S. market, let’s have a closer look at the XJR, the range-topping model of the third-generation XJ.

  • 2003 Jaguar XJR
  • Year:
    2003
  • Make:
  • Model:
  • Transmission:
    6-Automatic
  • Horsepower @ RPM:
    400@6100
  • Torque @ RPM:
    3500
  • Displacement:
    4196 L
  • 0-60 time:
    5 sec.
  • Top Speed:
    155.3 mph
  • 0-100 time:
    13.6 sec.
  • body style:

Exterior

Although Jaguar called it a brand-new design, the X350 was inspired by its predecessors, including the first-generation XJ. The Brits kept not only the simple side body panels with its subtle coachline and boxy roof, but also maintained the wide and flat front grille, the quad headlamps configuration, features that harken back to the original design of 1968. Even the trunk lid and rear fascia were heavily based on previous models, while the triangular taillights were based on those of the Series 3 model from the 1980s.

However, there were a few features that set it apart from previous XJ models. The bumpers were larger, the roof had a slightly more aerodynamic design, and the front bumper turn signals were moved toward the wheels. Additionally, it received more chrome trim, which gave it a more imposing stance. Overall, the then-new XJ had the same subtle and elegant appearance, but with a more modern touch. And even though Jaguar received some criticism for not straying too far from previous designs, it was the trademark styling that brought more customers into dealerships.

While the styling was evolutionary, the construction was revolutionary. Both the chassis and body were made from aluminum, with some steel used throughout the chassis. The car’s underbody components were bonded together with aerospace-grade epoxy adhesives, while around 3,200 rivets were used to create the new unibody. Aluminum construction wasn’t exactly knew back in 2003, Audi had already used similar technology for the A8. However, the German sedan was significantly heavier than the Jag, tipping the scales at 4,030 pounds in its base trim. The XJ, on the other hand, weighed in at 3,393 pounds.

Interior

Inside, the third-gen XJ was again an evolution of the previous model. The dashboard sported a massive chunk of wood in the center, as well as the twin A/C vents and the small clock atop the center console. The instrument cluster, on the other hand, received a big upgrade consisting of a sportier overall design and redesigned gauges.

The center console was also brand new. Larger than ever before, it housed a big display and several buttons and knobs. The tunnel was widened to make room for more wood and storage compartments, while the steering wheel was moved deeper between the seats. New controls found their way into the door panels, while the steering wheel had a more styling design. The sedan also received new seats and the XJR gained a unique design with 16-way power adjustability for the driver and front-seat passengers.

The seats had more pronounced lateral bolsters to provide the right balance and support for spirited driving. After all, the XJR was the sportiest, most powerful version of the third-gen XJ. Standard features on this model included heated front and rear seats, heated wood and leather steering wheel, power rear sunblind, an Alpine audio system, and radar-based adaptive cruise control.

Drivetrain

The X350-generation XJ was offered with five engines. The base model had a 3.0-liter V-6 with 240 horsepower, while the more expensive trims were sold with either a 3.5-liter V-8 (265 horses), a 4.2-liter V-8 (300 horsepower), and a supercharged version of the latter. Jaguar also offered a diesel in the form of a 2.7-liter V-6 rated at 204 ponies.

Naturally, the XJR received the most powerful unit available.

The blown 4.2-liter V-8 came with 400 horsepower and 399 pound-feet of torque on tap. Connected to a ZF-built, six-speed automatic, the V-8 enabled the XJR to hit 60 mph from a standing start in only five seconds on its way to a top speed of 155 mph. It also needed a respectable 13.9 seconds at 104 mph to complete the quarter mile.

Thanks to its lightweight construction, the XJR was a full second quicker than the E65-generation BMW 750i, which was equipped with a 4.8-liter V-8 with 362 horsepower, and more than a half-second quicker than the V-12-powered 760i, motivated by 438 horses.

It was also significantly quicker than the W220-gen Mercedes-Benz S500. The German sedan had a 302-horsepower V-8 and needed 6.2 seconds to hit 60 mph. It took the S600’s 493-horsepower V-12 to match the XJR’s speed in a straight line.

Not even the new-for-2003 Audi A8 was able to defeat the XJR. The most powerful model, which came with a massive 6.0-liter W-12 rated at a whopping 450 horsepower, needed 5.1 seconds to hit 60 mph.

Needless to say, the XJR was an impressive machine that showed the Germans that a light construction was much more important than a very powerful drivetrain.

Prices

Pricing for the Jaguar JXR began from $75,330, which put it on par with the BMW 750Li, but made it significantly more affordable than the Mercedes-Benz S500. On the other hand, the Jag was more expensive than the V-8-powered Audi A8. For reference, the fancied-up XJ Super V8 Portfolio was priced from $116,000.

Competition

BMW 7 Series

Brand-new for 2003, the E65-generation 7 Series was one of the most advanced full-size vehicles of its era. Designed by Chris Bangle, the E65 was heavily criticized for its radical departure from the styling from the E38, but it eventually became one of the best-selling 7 Series models. Offered with a wide range of inline-six, V-8, and V-12 engine in both gasoline and diesel form, the E65 showcased many innovative technologies, including active anti-roll bars, self-leveling air suspension, the first version of BMW’s iDrive system, and electronic adaptive headlamps. The XJR’s competitors, the 750i and the 760i, began from $75,800 and $118,900, respectively.

Audi A8

Much like the Jaguar XJ and BMW 7 Series, the second-generation A8 was also brand-new for the 2003 model year. The German sedan received a significant redesigned on the outside, upped the ante in terms of luxury inside the cabin, and showcased impressive features. It was the first Audi with four-wheel adaptive air suspension, GSP navigation, a six-speed automatic, and a driver identification system. It also debuted the MMI system and was the first production car to use an adaptive front lighting system. An array of gasoline and diesel engines provided motivation, including classic V-6 and V-8 units, as well as a V-10 and even a W-12. Pricing for the V-8 versions that competed against the JXR started from $67,200.

Mercedes-Benz S-Class

Launched in 1999, the W220-gen S-Class was nearly four years old when the third-gen XJ arrived in dealerships. Much like the 7 Series, it also brought many new technologies to the market. Highlights included the Airmatic air suspension, Active Ventilated seats, keyless entry and ignition, and Distronic, the first radar-assisted cruise control system. The engine lineup included V-6, V-8, and V-12 units, with the biggest units offered in the range-topping S500 and S600 models. The former used a 5.0-liter V-8 rated at 302 horsepower and 339 pound-feet, while the latter had a 5.5-liter V-12 that generated 493 horses and 590 pound-feet of twist. The S500 retailed from $83,900, while the S600 fetched $124,700 before options.

Conclusion

There’s no doubt that the third-generation XJR was a significant departure from its predecessor. Not only more powerful, it was also notably lighter thanks to Jaguar’s then-new aluminum construction. This enabled the XJR to be quicker and sportier than its German counterparts. On the other hand, it wasn’t as innovative as the 7 Series and A8 technology-wise, while its subtle evolutionary styling was proof that Jaguar was living a bit too much in the past.

  • Leave it
    • * Not as innovative as its Audi and BMW rivals
    • * Too subtle design changes
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