Review and photos by Greg Wilson

2005 Jaguar Vanden Plas
Click image to enlarge

I could tell you how much more rear legroom there is in the new Jaguar Vanden Plas than in some of its competitors, and I could explain how much easier its touch-screen control panel is to use than certain menu-driven point-and-click control systems. But in the end, it will be all to no avail.

Nobody is going to choose a $96,000 Vanden Plas over a BMW 745i or Audi A8 or Lexus LS430 or Cadillac STS V8 because of concerns over price, performance, interior room, trunk space or fuel economy. Jaguar buyers will choose the Vanden Plas because it’s a luxury car they feel at home in. Wiener schnitzel, teriyaki chicken, and flame-broiled hamburgers may be tasty, but for some people, they’ll never replace Beef Wellington.

That doesn’t mean you have to be British – just British-leaning. Perhaps you remember the great Jaguars of your youth, at a time when you couldn’t afford them. In particular, you might remember the first XJ6 in 1969 which looks amazingly like the current 2005 XJ8 and Vanden Plas. Well, now that can afford a $100,000 car, those desires can finally be realized.

Limo-like interior

The Vanden Plas is the long wheelbase version of the XJ8, the aluminum-bodied full-size Jaguar that was totally redesigned in 2002. With a wheelbase of 3160 mm (124.4 in.) compared to the XJ8’s 3033 mm (119.4 in.), the Vanden Plas has limousine-like rear legroom. In addition, rear passengers have a couple of ‘picnic’ trays that fold down from the back of the front seats, and with their non-slip surface and nearby powerpoints, can accommodate laptops and game devices (as well as cups of tea).

2005 Jaguar Vanden Plas

2005 Jaguar Vanden Plas

2005 Jaguar Vanden Plas

2005 Jaguar Vanden Plas

2005 Jaguar Vanden Plas

2005 Jaguar Vanden Plas

2005 Jaguar Vanden Plas
Click image to enlarge

As well, the Vanden Plas is available with power reclining (outboard) rear seats with adjustable lumbar support, memory seat settings, and seat heaters. The right rear passenger can even adjust the right front passenger seat from the rear, a feature designed for chauffer-driven cars, no doubt.

An optional rear multimedia system allows passengers to access audio, TV/video and telephone independently of the driver and front seat passenger. Also optional are two 6.5 inch screens mounted in the rear of the front seat head restraints for video and TV viewing. Front and rear passengers can even operate the stereo, telephone, navigation system and displays with voice-activated commands. And if passengers want to take their shoes off, they can curl their toes in the standard deep-pile lambswool rugs.

There are some caveats. The Vanden Plas’ rear seat is better suited for two passengers rather than three because of the centre driveline hump, the contours of the rear seats, the centre folding armrest with audio controls, and the lack of a third rear middle head restraint. Plus the centre passenger doesn’t get a picnic table.

The standard upholstery is a soft-grain leather with contrasting piping, and the interior features extensive burl walnut veneer trim with Peruvian boxwood inlays, wood and leather steering wheel, and wood gearshift knob. Noteworthy features are the three round gauges backlit in a pleasant green colour, and the large 7-inch centre touch-screen which can be used to operate the heater, radio and navigation system.

I found the touch-screen much easier to navigate than BMW’s I-drive system and other types of point-and-click control panels. The on-screen ‘button’s are large and easy to see, and the menu is straightforward. “You don’t have to be a computer programmer to operate this car,” commented David Scholes, XJ Chief Programme Engineer, at the vehicle’s introduction. “Our customers are emphatic in their opposition to gratuitous technology and unwanted features intruding on their driving experience; it should be there when you need it but should never impose itself.”

However, the screen can be distracting to use while driving – as can any control that takes your eyes off the road.

In the Vanden Plas, both the premium Alpine stereo system and navigation system are standard equipment. The 320 watt AM/FM/cassette/CD sound system with 12 speakers, digital sound processing, power amplifier, and subwoofers has wonderful sound quality but the dash CD player is a single unit – a six-disc CD changer is located in the trunk. The Denso DVD-based navigation system provides visual and audible directions to desired destinations, including gas stations, hotels, restaurants, parking locations and dealers.

A car like this is perfect for a long trip, and the Vanden Plas has a roomy, 16.4 cu. ft. fully carpeted trunk with remote unlocking and opening, however it’s rather shallow and the rear seatbacks don’t fold down.

Driving impressions

It would be a mistake to assume the Vanden Plas is a just a cushy limousine. Its 294 horsepower 4.2 litre DOHC V8 with four valves per cylinder and variable valve timing sends the 1741 kg (3,841 lb.) Vanden Plas from 0 to 100 km/h in 6.4 seconds. With its aluminum alloy monocoque body construction, the current short and long wheelbase XJ8 models weigh 200 kg less than their predecessors, even though they are much larger. And the Vanden Plas weighs less than the BMW 745i and Lexus LS430.

2005 Jaguar Vanden Plas

2005 Jaguar Vanden Plas

2005 Jaguar Vanden Plas

2005 Jaguar Vanden Plas

2005 Jaguar Vanden Plas
Click image to enlarge

The engine is very smooth and quiet and the standard six-speed ZF automatic transmission with Jaguar’s ‘J’ gate provides almost seamless gear changes. Mid-range and passing power are very good and the Vanden Plas cruises effortlessly at freeway speeds, the engine turning over just 2000 rpm at 120 km/h.

Fuel consumption is surprisingly good for a big, luxury car: official ratings are City: 12.8 L/100 km (22 mpg) and Hwy 7.8 L/100 km (36 mpg).

If more performance is what you’re looking for, the long wheelbase Jaguar Super V8 features a 390 horsepower supercharged version of this engine, but it costs about $29,000 more!

The front seats have beefy side bolsters and adjustable lumbar, and it’s easy to find a good driving position with a 16-way power seat, tilt/telescopic steering wheel and power adjustable pedals. Outward visibility is very good compared to some luxury cars: the trunk lid is low enhancing rear visibility, and the hood is reasonably flat allowing the driver to see the front corners and judge parking distances more accurately.

But it’s a very wide car which makes manoeuvring in underground parking lots a challenge. I recommend the parking sensors (rear standard/front optional) which issue a series of progressively quicker beeps as you approach objects, even to the side at the front and rear.

Handling is very sure, but there is some lean when cornering, and the steering though lightweight is nevertheless responsive. Being such a long car, its 12 metre (39.5 feet) turning circle is wide, almost a foot and a half wider than the regular wheelbase XJ8 model.

The Vanden Plas features shock absorbers which automatically adjust firmness to different road surfaces, and a self-levelling air suspension that automatically lowers the car at high speeds to improve stability and aerodynamics. All this is fairly unnoticeable though, which is probably the way it’s supposed to be.

Dynamic Stability Control, which automatically corrects vehicle direction when the car starts to lose control, is standard on the Vanden Plas. 235/50 R-18 inch Continental touring tires are standard but you can order optional 19-inch performance tires and custom alloy wheels – even chromed alloy wheels. A Jag with bling!

An option is adaptive cruise control which uses radar to automatically maintain a safe and pre-set distance between your car and the car ahead. It automatically slows down as you approach a slower car, and speeds up again when the road is clear.

Safety and reliability

The VandenPlas includes advanced front, side and curtain airbags, but because this is a low-volume car, there are no independent NHTSA or IIHS crash test results available. Consumer Reports has no reliability data on the post 2003 generation of XJ sedans, however in the JD Power and Associates Initial Quality Study released in May, 2005, the Jaguar brand placed second overall.


With a particular emphasis on rear passenger’s comfort, the Jaguar Vanden Plas is a very comfortable, powerful, and attractive luxury car with a unique British character.

The XJ8 is built in Coventry, England.

Technical Data: 2005 Jaguar Vanden Plas

Base price $96,000
Options $2,900 (Front Park Control $500; Power rear bench seat $2,400)
Freight $1,690
A/C tax $100
Price as tested $100,690
Type 4-door, 5-passenger full-size luxury sedan
Layout longitudinal front engine/rear-wheel drive
Engine 4.2 litre V8, DOHC, 32 valves, var. valve timing
Horsepower 294 @ 6,000 rpm
Torque 303 lb.-ft. @ 4,100 rpm
Transmission 6-speed automatic
Tires 235/50 R18 Continental Conti Touring
Curb weight 1741 kg (3,841 lb.)
Wheelbase 3160 mm (124.4 in.)
Length 5215 mm (205.3 in.)
Width 2108 mm (83.0 in.) (including mirrors)
Height 1455 mm (57.3 in.)
Cargo area 465 litres (16.4 cu. ft.)
Fuel consumption City: 12.8 L/100 km (22 mpg Imperial)
  Hwy: 7.8 L/100 km (36 mpg Imperial)
Warranty 4 yrs/80,000 km

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