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2005 Jaguar XJ8 Super

       Ever wonder what it’s like to be royalty?
     It’s hard to imagine that kind of life — living in an opulent palace, having a courtly staff catering to your every whim, mingling with the world’s finest people, fending off the paparazzi and having your most embarrassing moments show up at the supermarket check-out line.
     OK, so maybe you don’t want everything that comes with the royal life. But having a $90,000 Jaguar in the palace garage could go a long way toward making up for the pictures of your topless wife picking her nose.
     I had the chance to sample the automotive facet of high-class life for a week when Jaguar loaned me an XJ8, the company’s flagship sedan. It’s a big, stylish, incredibly comfortable car that could command attention at the classiest country clubs.
     Only this wasn’t any XJ8. It was the long-wheelbase, Super V8 that seemed to have the back seat from a limo, the engine from a racecar, and the price tag from a real estate development.
     The long-wheelbase version is new for 2005, adding about five inches in length and $2,000 to the bottom line. The standard wheelbase XJ starts at $60,830, making the extra two grand seem like mere pocket change to get the additional legroom.
     Like the standard wheelbase XJ that debuted in 2003, the long-wheelbase version has an aluminum body that offers excellent strength with very little weight. It makes the car feel more athletic than most luxury cars, which is quite a feat considering its supersized dimensions.
     Even though the car is entirely new, it looks remarkably similar to its handsome predecessor. There’s no mistaking it’s a Jag, and the styling thankfully follows the idiom, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

     Also in the Jaguar tradition is a plush interior covered almost entirely in leather and wood, enough to make you feel like a prince whether or not you have the right genes.
     The test vehicle came with every amenity imaginable, including a wonderfully engineered navigation system and a DVD player with video screens in the front headrests. It had lambs wool rugs, heated seats and steering wheel, and an electric rear sunshade.
     It also topped the scales at $89,995 thanks to its Super V8 package, which featured a supercharged version of the XJ’s V8 engine that makes 390 horsepower. That’s nearly 100 horsepower more than the standard model.
     You’d have to be awfully spoiled to call any $60,000 car a bargain, but compared to the German competition, it is. A Mercedes with similar equipment, performance and prestige would cost thousands more, making the gorgeous XJ seem like the blue light special. It also compares favorably to the BMW 7-Series, especially — some people say — in the styling department.
     If you want to be extremely picky — as anyone considering a car at this price should be — the XJ has a couple of downsides. The first is its trunk, which is very long but not particularly deep, allowing only a moderate amount of storage space. The second is its awkward shifter, which makes it too easy to select the wrong gear and make noises that dignified Jaguars just aren’t supposed to make.
     Other than those minor issues, this car is pretty much perfect. It has a shockingly quiet cabin, excellent driving performance, an interior with a serious “wow” factor, and classic curves that will never go out of style.
     Now if only I can convince Her Majesty to loan me Buckingham Palace for a week …


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