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Jaguar Jam

By Hannah Wallace February 28, 2006

I wish I could tell you what's wrong with Jaguar.

Certainly, there's nothing wrong with this $93,395, 2006 Jaguar Super V8.

But the fact is that Jaguar sales in 2005 were down as much as a third as the year ended. Luxury car sales in general were not in the dumps, so the problem is with this member of Ford's Premiere Group.

Do Jaguars look old?

I don't think so. This one is strikingly beautiful, with muscular lines atop a low stance.

Do Jaguars drive like granny cars?

You've got to be kidding. This stretched wheelbase houses what amounts to a 400-horsepower sports car that can leap zero to 60 in five seconds flat. Those monster tires combine with double-wishbone, air suspension setups to keep the cat flat and steady at high speeds in turns. Its top speed is electronically limited to 155 mph.

Do Jaguars shortchange buyers on comfort or convenience items?

Not a chance. Even the rear seats recline, so lucky passengers there can ride in comfort as they watch a DVD movie displayed on either of the two screens mounted behind the front seat head restraints. I particularly like Jaguar's radar-based adaptive cruise control. Set the speed and it maintains a proper distance from traffic ahead in your lane. Xenon headlights come on automatically; wipers begin as rain starts.

So Jaguars are just too expensive?

Jaguar is a luxury brand and comes with prices to match the quality and content of its vehicles. But it does have cars in the $30s. Not everyone thought that was a wise move. Many wanted to keep Jaguars for the very rich.

This Super V8, you must understand, is the top of the line for Jaguar. The moneyed could easily spend more with Mercedes-Benz or BMW.

So what would I buy?

I want something a bit distinctive. I want something extremely comfortable. I want something that favorably impresses bystanders. I want something that seats four.

Jaguar's Super V8 meets those desires. It looks terrific, drives like a scalded cat and even returns a downright decent 17 mpg city and 24 highway.

The Super V8 is a limited-edition model (just how many can be sold at that price?), marketed only in the United States and Canada. You will not see one at every stoplight. Inside, you'll find the finest interior detail in any car at any price. Polished wood and fine leathers have been Jaguar trademarks for years. Even the gearshift selector for the super-slick six-speed automatic transmission is covered in leather. In the middle of the dash is a GPS navigation system. There's also a special stereo system that is better than the one installed in any other Jaguar model. It pumps out 320 watts of power.

The air conditioning can have individual temperatures set for all four zones of the car. Heating, which includes seats and steering wheel, is also individualized. The DVD entertainment system, with six-and-a-half-inch screens, is controlled by those in the rear seats. And those passengers also have fold-down picnic tables built into the backs of the front seats. A microphone at the roofline takes voice commands for system controls, and the car is Bluetooth-equipped so you can talk on a compatible cell phone without taking your hands off the wheel or your attention off the road.

Ultrasonic parking aids are on both the front and rear bumpers, sounding beeps as you approach another vehicle. About the only thing this Jaguar Super V8 didn't have is a backup camera to project a view onto the navigation screen.

Safety features are first-rate, needed because of the high-performance nature of this car. Air bags are everywhere, and a head curtain protects every occupant.

So what's the problem? No one who chooses this Jaguar Super V8 is likely to be disappointed. Yet I get the feeling that Jaguar now is playing catch-up to Mercedes-Benz, BMW, Audi, Lexus and Infiniti.

Robert C. Bowden produces The Car Place, a Forbes Best of the Web selection, and can be reached by e-mail at rcb[email protected]

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