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08-12-2004, 12:25 PM
Some time ago I promised to post my take on the X350 XJR compared to 2003 and before XJR. As usual, life has been hectic, and I haven't taken the time to post my impressions.

First, some background. I have always been a fan of European cars, having owned BMWs, Mercedes, Jaguars, and even Lotus. My personal Jaguar ownership history consists of a '68 E-Type 2+2 4.2 (which I dearly wish I still had), a '99 XK8 coupe, and an '02 X-Type 3.0. My parents have been driving XJ8s and XJRs for several years now. Most recently, they bought a 2004 XJR (X350) to replace their 2003 XJR. Having had the opportunity to drive both cars within a short time frame, I would like to compare and contrast them.

At first glance, a casual observer might not even notice the difference between the 2003 XJ8/XJR and the 2004 XJ8/XJR unless they were parked side-by-side. There are many differences of course, but Jaguar did a very good job of having the design of the X350 be the next logical evolution in their long history of gorgeous cars rather than trying to make some sort of statement or taking off in a 'bold' new design direction like certain other marques have done in recent years.

When examined side-by-side, the X350 is noticeably bigger than its predecessor in almost every dimension. The most obvious difference is its height. It has higher hood and trunk lines as well as a taller roof. This results in more room for the occupants and more storage space. In fact, the standard wheelbase X350 has almost as much rear seat leg room as the older XJ8/XJR's long wheelbase model! The older XJ8/XJR does appear to be a bit lower and sleeker, but the X350 still has those classic Jaguar sexy lines.

The aluminum construction in the X350 results in a strong yet light vehicle that is faster than the prior model. The difference isn't just on paper or in test instruments--you can feel it every time you drive it. The car feels more nimble and accelerates harder every time you step on the joy pedal. Jaguar did not sacrifice its solid feel when they trimmed down the weight, however. The doors still close like a bank vault and the car feels very solid.

The brakes on the new X350 are phenomenal. The car stops when you want it to, no questions asked. It will do so time and time again without loss of brake feel or any brake fade. To be fair, the 2003 XJR I drove was not equipped with the R1 (BBS wheels/Brembo brakes) option.

In terms of handling, the two cars feel very close. It is hard to explain unless you experience it, but the X350 has a little bit more feeling of body roll while cornering, yet it feels like it holds the road with more confidence. Some of that is of course due to the meaty 20" tires on Sepang wheels on the tested car.

The new 6-speed automatic transmission delivers the power from the engine to the rear wheels smoothly, and shifts do not jolt the passengers. The 6th gear appears to help fuel economy for highway driving. Many publications malign the Jaguar J-gate shifter. I really can't figure out why. 99.9% of the people who drive an automatic never try to shift it between gears by hand, and that is the only possible fault I think one could find with the J-gate. Yes, it has been around for a long time. So has rear-wheel-drive, but that doesn't mean it is a bad thing. With the J-gate, it is easy to move the car from Park to Reverse, Neutral, or Drive, and it is nice not to have to hold down any levers or push any buttons to do so.

The 2003 XJR exuded luxury for its occupants. The 2004 X350 XJR pushes things to the next higher level, with the highest fit and finish detail, the expected real wood and supple leather, and increased room (particularly for rear seat passengers in the standard wheelbase model) for the occupants.

The electronics, and particularly the navigation system, are a step above the old model (and most competitors) in the X350 XJR. The adaptive cruise control works flawlessly, even applying the brakes in addition to lifting off the throttle when necessary due to slower traffic. However, there are times when we wish there were a way to disable the 'adaptive' part of it and just use it like a regular cruise control system. The seat and steering wheel memory work in a similar fashion to the older model, but with more possible adjustments.

There are other new bits of electronic wizardry in the X350. For example, the forward-looking sensor for the adaptive cruise control can also sound a beep to let you know if you are too close to another car. This was interesting at first, but then annoying. Thankfully it can be turned off. In day-to-day driving, I think it would prove to be too annoying for continual use. However, on a long trip where the driver might suffer from fatigue, it might be a good idea to have it on, just in case.

Jaguar has added these extra electronics to the X350 without forcing them upon the driver like BMW's iDrive. In the X350, the gadgets are there if you want to use them, but they don't get in your way if you don't. The climate control and stereo are easily managed without having to navigate through layers of menus. If you want to play with the 16:9 in-dash touch screen though, you will find that it is intuitive and has just the right amount of features.

The navigation system in the X350 uses the same software that was first seen on its baby brother, the X-Type. It is honestly the easiest-to-use and most helpful navigation system I have tested. Everything about it feels natural and intuitive. You aren't left wondering how to do something. The screen is large and easily visible in all different light conditions. It can automatically adjust itself for day, dusk, and night driving conditions. It is coated so that it does not acquire fingerprint smudges too easily, a must with a touchscreen system. The computer power behind it is better than in some competitors. Response is nearly instant, and route calculations (available with a variety of preferences for desired speed, distance, and road type) are performed very quickly.

As with all cars sold in the U.S. these days, Jaguar's lawyers have mandated an 'Accept' button where you acknowledge that you shouldn't play with the touch screen while driving. It is a minor annoyance that we have to suffer for living in such a litigious society. Really the main thing you are prevented from doing while the car is in motion is entering a new destination address. You can still scroll the map around, zoom in and out, as well as control the climate controls and stereo through the touch screen if you so desire.

Speaking of the sound system, the 320 watt Alpine system in the X350 XJR is the best we have heard in a stock vehicle. It has 12 speakers, more than ample bass (again, best bass we have heard in a stock vehicle), great dynamic range, and sounds great playing everything from classical to industrial (which some might consider a sacrilege in a Jaguar, but we're not conventional). The system of course has steering wheel controls, and features not only a trunk-mounted 6-disc changer but also a single disc in-dash player. We wish it had only two additional features: the ability to play data discs containing MP3 files, and an auxiliary input, perhaps in the glove box. Perhaps some day car manufacturers will realize that the few extra dollars spent for these features would greatly enhance consumer satisfaction with a vehicle. The antenna for the sound system is now hidden rather than being an electric extension type as in 2003 and before. This has hurt radio reception a little bit, albeit for a slightly cleaner exterior appearance. I would prefer the improved radio reception over a hidden antenna.

Overall, the X350 XJR pulls together numerous little upgrades from the previous model to form a whole that is truly greater than the sum of its parts. This is the best Jaguar sedan ever. Comparing features, styling, price, and performance, it outshines competitors such as the BMW E65 and Lexus LS.

Mr Jaguar
08-12-2004, 04:30 PM
And now rush to your dealer and buy one....

Mr Jaguar

PS What do you mean with:

"the R1 (BBS wheels/Brembo brakes) option"

As far as I know Jaguar only has 1 braking system for the XJR and that is from Brembo, and you said that the car your drove had the 20" BBS Sepang wheels so I don't know what you mean with this R1 option.

08-12-2004, 05:07 PM
Jaguar offered an R1 option on the 2003 XJR (US model year) which included Brembo brakes an 18 inch BBS wheels. Jaguar offered standard Brembo brakes, 19 inch BBS wheels, and special trim on the 2002 XJR 100 marking the 1902 birth of Jaguar founder Sir William Lyons.

Here is a picture of an 03 XJR with the R1 option.

Mr Jaguar
08-12-2004, 06:03 PM
Ok, I thought it was an option on the X350.

Mr Jaguar

Al Carr
08-12-2004, 06:06 PM
review. I'll agree w/ a couple of points and add some thoughts.
First, as I've said on here before, I do NOT like the adaptive cruise control, and I too wish it could be turned off and just function as normal cruise. It's just too unwieldy moving in and out of traffic, and I've had a few instances of being in the left lane -- straight road, too -- with traffic in the right lane when the damned thing picks up a signal from somewhere and slams on the brakes. A good way to have that 18-wheeler behind you run right up your backside!
Second, I'll agree w/ you on the technology in general and the nav system ease of use etc in particular. It's much easier to use than that on my BMW '02 530i. The only thing I'm having trouble with is entering waypoints which, as nearly as I can tell, is how you select a particular route. And the manual isn't much help. (If anyone can be of help here, please EMail me! TIA) Like anything else, you just have to fiddle around with it to learn how to use it.
Third, I love the sound system too. But for the love of Sir William, can anyone explain why this $80,000+ automobile (I have the Sepang wheels too) does not come satellite radio ready? I've had XMSR put in mine, but Jeez!!
Finally, re the Sepang wheels. The first owner -- punter for the Carolina Panthere -- had them put on. According to the dealer invioce, they and the Pirelli P Zeroes were a $5500 hit! Not something I would have bought. It takes longer to clean and dry them when I wash the car than it does to do the rest of the car. On the other hand, as my kids tell me, with the Sepangs (and even tho I had the dealer remove the window tint (also a legacy from the first owner)) before I'd buy the car, I can now go to any rap concert in the country.
All in all, a great car. In my view the best of the lot available now. Among other things, it takes ALL the drama out of passing on two-lane roads.

09-02-2004, 12:59 AM
I just was curious if they had similar sounding sound systems since they both have the 320Watt amp and Im assuming same speaker placement and sizes and sub size excpet the X308 has 1 less speaker.

09-06-2004, 11:28 AM
...are supposedly fairly comparable. But, the X350 system sounds far better (and yes, I have listened to them both in the car on the road). I don't have an explanation for you...perhaps speaker placement, the car's acoustics, and different sound deadening in various places are enough to do the trick.

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