Test Driven: 2005 Jaguar XJ Vanden Plas

Very classy looking car, from the Leaper up front to the chrome trim at the rear.
Jaguar’s been having an interesting decade since 2001.  The XJ’s been redesigned twice, they’ve attempted to branch into the low-price luxury car market (without success), and Ford sold them to Tata Motors of India.  So, while all that’s been going on, how have the cars that they made in the middle of the last decade aged?

Not a single scratch–a nice bonus considering the car’s age.
The test car in question was a black 2005 XJ8 Vanden Plas, with an ivory interior and 18-inch rims.  This was the last generation of XJ built before Jaguar abandoned their classic styling in favor of much more modern, sporty touches we have seen since 2010.  At the time, Jaguar was (and still is) fighting BMW, Mercedes, Audi, and Lexus for buyers in this segment, and the XJ was considered to be a good value, but not in the long-term, as their resale values weren’t up to the others, thanks to reliability issues.  None of this bothered me, as the one I drove was basically trouble-free, even with over 80,000 miles showing.

Gorgeous oak trim and soft English leather are used in good taste on the inside. The J-gate shifter, though, isn’t all that intuitive and feels like a feature more for looks than functionality.
The interior felt new, with seats that felt like they belonged in something more of a sports car.  They’re comfortable enough to belong in the Jag, but have enough side bolstering and back support to be nearly suitable in a much more sporting car, such as their XK or a BMW 6-Series.  The interior itself was beautifully appointed, with rich wood trim (for 15K?  You bet.), soft leather covering most touch points, and slick black piping.  Unfortunately, the interior of this car is rather dated by the standards of even its day—the J-gate shifter, while very nice the first time, gets annoying after a while (and it doesn’t have a manual function), and headroom felt rather limited, while the instrument panel is almost too small for the dash.

It has 300hp, but that’s more than enough to get it going–the XJR’s 390hp is even more satisfying.

After I got on the road, I realized just what this sort of car this is supposed to be.  I could hear a pin drop—the motor is well-hushed at speed, only making its presence known when needed.  Wind noise is of little issue, and tire noise, while evident, isn’t at all bothersome.  The 18-inch wheels firmed up the ride, but not to the point of needing a doctor, while the brakes felt well-balanced.  This is a very smooth automobile—words of praise for the Jag.  Of course, if quickness is what you want, the big Jag doesn’t necessarily disappoint.  With 300hp on tap from a relatively puny 4.2L V8, the Jag grows claws at will—with the traction off and my foot buried in the thick-pile carpet, the rear tires lit up without hesitation.  But of course, after lifting my foot off the gas, all was tranquil again, for the moment.

I didn’t drive one with TV screens installed–but the rear passengers are well-catered to. The picnic tables have a nonslip surface and feel solidly constructed, while legroom is generous.

It handles well for its size—body lean is evident but controlled, grip is acceptable, and the steering is nicely weighted.  The ride feels firmer thanks to the low-profile tires, but it wasn’t at all harsh.  The trunk is large enough for six bod—I mean golf bags, and the rear seats have enough room to fit up to three.  Heated rear seats and rear air vents, a must for this class, were included as well.  The picnic tables, though, are a big selling point here—Grey Poupon and bread, though, don’t come with it, a bit of a shame.  I was also very much impressed with the softness of the seats combined with their ability to hold a driver in the corners—a nice plus.  That said, the roof is still too low.  The hood ornament adds a beautiful touch of elegance to the car, while the big 18-inch rims add a touch of class to the side profile.  Those wheels also bring the car’s style a bit more up-to-date.  The styling itself still screams “blast from the past”, but it still looks great even as Jaguar moves towards a more postmodern language.

Although probably not as dependable in the long term as a German luxury barge, the Jag has a coolness all its own.

There were still some things that worried me.  For one thing, this being a huge full-size V8 RWD behemoth, the gas mileage is horrible—don’t expect more than 25MPG overall on the highway.  Second, it’s a British car, which means your mechanic is going to be buying dinner at Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse each time you bring the Jag in for a repair, which will be more often than one might expect.  The pricetag, though, is pretty nice, and the fact that the car’s dashboard was clean of warning lights certainly helps its case.  But, the fear of British repair costs, combined with a reputation for not aging well, does scare me.  Still, a Jag for the same money as a brand-new Toyota Yaris is something to behold in my book.  This is a big sedan that wears its weight well.

-Al

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6 thoughts on “Test Driven: 2005 Jaguar XJ Vanden Plas”

    1. The car was in Morristown but it’s long since sold. I spoke to the dealer about that a few years ago, someone bought it maybe a month after I drove it.

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    2. This article is from 3 years ago and the car has long been sold by the dealer it was at. We don’t sell cars ourselves at this point. Best of luck in your search.

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  1. I am driving an XJ 8 L 2005 British racing green – it is a fantastic car, smooth, powerful, elegant, I enjoy it more than any other car I drove.

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