2004 Jaguar XJ8
Click image to enlarge

Review and photos by Russell Purcell

The Big Cat Reborn

The Jaguar XJ8 is all-new for 2004 but retains the basic design cues that have served the marque so well for decades – a rounded roofline, gently sloping hood and sculpted rear end. While not as curvy as previous models, the tapered tail and sculpted hood (complete with signature dual headlights) remain to continue to set the car apart from the crowd and give it a distinctive flair. The car has grown in nearly every dimension, offering more interior room to stretch out, but due to a new aluminum body and chassis structure, the car actually dropped a few pounds (More on this later).

The increased size is immediately evident when you slip inside the XJ8, especially if you have any experience of the previous car. The new packaging is very well executed and makes touring a pleasure, as the extra interior room allows all passengers to stretch out a bit more, especially those in the rear. Hip, shoulder and legroom are all more generous, and rear foot room is acceptable, as long as you don’t wear size 12’s.

Is it big enough?

2004 Jaguar XJ8

2004 Jaguar XJ8
Click image to enlarge

One thing that did surprise me though with regards to the new dimensions of the XJ, was the car’s trunk, which still seems to lag behind that of many of its competitors. It is relatively shallow, largely due to the fact that it hides a full-size wheel and tire underneath its floor, but does offer 470-litres of cargo space. This is large enough for a few golf bags or standard sized suitcases, but I somehow found myself wanting more space. Storage inside the cabin is very good, with plenty of room available in the glove compartment and a sizable center console.

Three models

Jaguar offers three distinct models of the XJ8, the first being named just that, the XJ8. With an entry price of $87,500 the car offers a fair value against most of its competition, but once you hit this lofty price point, the number of vehicles from which you can select is impressive, so Jaguar has equipped the car very well. Next in line is the loaded Vanden Plas ($96,000), a car for the luxury buyer that likes his pizza with the works, as it comes with the full spectrum of equipment as part of the Vanden Plas package. The top-of-the-line variant is the performance choice, the XJR, as its super-charged engine puts almost 400 ponies under the shapely hood, and at $105,000, the car is a value leader for cars in this category.

Road manners

2004 Jaguar XJ8
Click image to enlarge

Refined road manners shine through as you explore this car’s awesome performance. Power delivery is smooth and strong as the 6-speed ZF automatic slips seamlessly from gear to gear as the world flashes by the windows at an alarming rate. Having six gears ensures that a near-perfect ratio is always available, although I found the ‘J-gate’ took a little getting used to. Instead of opting for this manu-matic mode I found myself satisfied with the transmission’s owns picks, especially when ‘sport’ mode was selected.

The 4.2-litre V8 fitted to the XJ offers up a healthy 294-horsepower, which does an excellent job of powering this luxurious cruiser down the highway. While true performance hounds will opt for the XJR, there is really no need, as the XJ8 is a Q-ship, a stylish and very luxurious executive sedan with enough grunt to embarrass many more ‘sport-minded’ cars. The XJ is in short, the perfect ‘executive’ express.


The all new all-aluminum chassis and body structure have allowed the car to lose a few pounds, while at the same time, become stiffer. This monocoque structure uses a rivet-bonding technology derived from aerospace construction techniques, and results in a 60-percent stronger, yet lighter XJ. In fact, the new XJ now tips the scales well below the weight of other large luxury sedans.

2004 Jaguar XJ8
Click image to enlarge

What does this mean to you as the driver? Well first off, the car feels more athletic. The new design, along with nicely weighted steering and a very trick variable-damping air suspension helps keep the car placed on the road exactly where you want it to be. High speed cornering reveals how much work has gone into this car, as the vehicle remains flat with just a hint of body roll. The meaty tires do their best to keep the wheels planted, but should they slip or slide, Jaguar’s stability control system will quickly reign them in. When compared to previous XJ models, this car now offers big-league handling with refined road manners slanted just enough to the sport side to attract a few more buyers from the BMW camp.

Are the brakes too good?

I must admit that the brakes on the XJ are very effective, as they bring the car under control with ease and seem to resist fading, but I found it difficult to bring the car to a gradual halt, as the brakes seem to lack range. When navigating through stop-and-go traffic, I couldn’t brake smoothly, as even a light touch of the pedal caused them to grab quickly and dramatically. Even adjusting the pedals with the column-mounted control didn’t seem to remedy the problem. I had a passenger burn her lips on her coffee as I exited a parking lot, but at least I could blame it on the touchy brakes. Hopefully it is something that just needs an adjustment, or maybe the brakes on my previous week’s test vehicle were just too cushy.

Impressive luxury

2004 Jaguar XJ8
Click image to enlarge

Jaguars have always coddled occupants with interiors bedecked with the finest materials. Burled walnut trim surrounds the dash and console, supple leather hides cloak the seats and feature impeccable stitching. Deep-pile wool carpeting lines the floor and foot wells and top-notch plastics tie everything together. Chrome accents here and there add an extra touch of class, as does the look and feel of all switchgear. The new XJ8 is no different, and designers worked hard to maintain the extra-opulent look and feel that has helped Jaguar interiors come across as more sensual and special than the business-class look favoured by the Germanic brands.

The driver can adjust his 12-way electrically-adjustable driver seat (the front passenger seat also offers power adjustments) as well as the pedal reach, making it very easy to get comfortable behind the wheel of this sultry sedan. In fact, even at 6’2″, I was able to lower the seating position low enough that I could have worn a 10-gallon cowboy hat with ease, even in a car equipped with a moon roof.

2004 Jaguar XJ8
Click image to enlarge

Mind you a deer-stalker would be more suitable headgear.

The gorgeous wood-rimmed steering wheel features on-board controls for the stereo as well as cruise control, and in the case of my test unit, even had three temperature settings to keep your fingers warm. The luxurious leather upholstery wasn’t slippery, and effective side-bolsters managed to grip my back and hold me in place no matter how hard I tossed the big cat through my make-shift slalom course.

Heated seats (front and rear), power windows, mirrors and locks, and the other expected luxury trappings are all here, joined by a fantastic climate control system and a stereo that would rival that of any true audiophile. An ultra-smooth six-speed automatic transmission, electronic parking brake, and front and rear Park Distance Control are also worth mentioning. To be competitive in the luxury car market bells and whistles are the key, and in this department, the Jaguar XJ8 has no shortcomings

High tech made easy

2004 Jaguar XJ8
Click image to enlarge

Jaguar’s optional DVD-based navigation unit ($3,500 but package priced with Xenon lighting) features a large, centrally mounted screen, and as a top-of-the-line unit, offers an amazing level of user customization. Like many manufacturers, the screen is set-up to offer users the ability to also adjust the audio and HVAC systems. What sets the Jaguar unit apart however, are features like a touch screen, night and day settings (automatically converts at twilight), and the ability to choose either traditional map views, or 3-dimensional perspective views. Cool. Windows open to offer quick text messages with route info and distance measurements, or you can have the system deliver voice commands through the speakers.


A compliment of next-generation air bags – front and side units including side curtain bags – as well as a much stouter body structure help keep occupants from harm in the event of a collision, while advanced traction control, big brakes and dynamic stability control help monitor the car’s progress and step in to correct any wheel slippage, loss of adhesion.

2004 Jaguar XJ8
Click image to enlarge

Available High Intensity Discharge (HID) headlamps with dynamic headlamp leveling offer outstanding illumination of the road ahead, while the aforementioned reverse and front Park Control and rain-sensing wipers ensure that the XJ driver is better equipped to see what is near and around him at all times.


The XJ8 is, without a doubt, a very good luxury sedan and it does offer excellent performance for a significantly lower sticker price than most of its competitors. Jaguar’s designers have managed to preserve many of the elements that make the company’s cars unique, but at the same time have brought the car into the 21st Century with regards to safety, technical specifications and electronic gadgetry. The bonus is that they have also managed to make the car bigger and more powerful, without sacrificing handling or economy. Now that is a neat trick. In short, the tradition continues.

Technical Data: 2004 Jaguar XJ8

Base price $87,500
Options $ 4,600 ($3,500-Navigation/Xenon Lights, $1,100 18″ Dynamic alloy wheels)
Price as tested $92,100
Type 4-door, 5-passenger full-size luxury sedan
Layout longitudinal front engine/rear-wheel-drive
Engine 4.2-litre V8, DOHC, 32-valves
Horsepower 294 @ 6,000 rpm
Torque 303 lb-ft @ 4,100
Transmission 6-speed ZF automatic
Brakes disc/disc with ABS, brake assist
Length 5,090 mm (200.4 in.)
Width 2,108 mm (73.2 in.)(including mirrors)
Height 1,448 mm (57.0 in.)
Trunk volume 470 litres (16.6-cu.ft.)
Fuel consumption City: 12.8 l/100 km (22 mpg)
  Hwy: 7.8 l/100 km (36 mpg)
Warranty 4 yrs/80,000 km

Connect with Autos.ca