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Jaguar’s all-new aluminum XJR flagship goes beyond mere status appointments to ignite a passion for motoring that’s often absent in this class. With the XJR, Jaguar has created a true luxury-performance sedan that has more than just an impressive set of stats. This car has finesse. The XJR’s riveted and bonded aluminum unibody construction makes it both lighter and stiffer than the full-size competition from Audi, BMW, and Mercedes. Power that lightweight chassis with Jaguar’s 4.2-liter, 390-horsepower, supercharged V8 and a spectacularly smooth 6-speed automatic transmission, and you’ve got a big car that’s also nimble and quick. Acceleration is terrifically responsive, and handling manages to be precise while still yielding a forgiving ride. Inside, the driver’s cockpit is snug but expertly fitted. I was able to find one of the best driving positions I’ve ever experienced quickly and easily in the XJR, with everything within reach. The Jaguar has an intimate feel typically missing from German cars, without being cramped. And with its appointments of Connolly leathers, Wilton carpets, a wonderful sound system, and an intelligent mix of analog and digital controls, the XJR does an excellent job of keeping the driver comfortable, relaxed, alert, and focused on the road. Jaguar’s top cat is smaller inside than the Mercedes S Class, Audi A8, or the very quiet Lexus LS. The Jag is also not as quick as the similarly sized and priced BMW M5. But the XJR is much more comfortable than the M5, smokes the Lexus on the highway, and handles at least as well as the big Benz and Audi. Nitpicks: Rear seat accommodations are supposedly the most generous in recent Jaguar history, but they don’t compare to those of the full-size Mercedes or Lexus. The Jaguar’s trunk is wide and deep, but not very high, so anything larger than a computer printer or small TV box will have to go on the backseat. Finally, the 15-spoke wheels on my test vehicle stood out like garish cuff links. Opt for fewer spokes. The verdict: If Santa didn’t bring you a Bentley Arnage this year, try the Jaguar XJR. It may just offer the most holistically satisfying luxury-performance experience this side of the Bentley.
MSRP: $74,330 Price as tested: $81,695 Mileage: 17 city/24 highway Warranty: 4 years/50,000 miles with 24/7 Roadside Assistance

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