- The Washington Times - Friday, July 28, 2000

MODEL: Jaguar Vanden Plas
VEHICLE TYPE: Four-door sedan
PRICE-AS-TESTED: $65,345
MILEAGE: 17 city, 24 highway

I wasn't sure whether to believe the Jaguar official's story about a Jaguar owner sneaking down to the garage in the dead of night to find peace and quiet in his car. Now I believe.
The 2000 Jaguar Vanden Plas is so quiet, calming and comforting that it seems to ease away a sleepless night.
With a starting manufacturer's suggested retail price plus destination charge of $65,345, the Vanden Plas is the luxury-appointed, long-wheelbase model of Jaguar's XJ line.
But it's much more. At 202.7 inches long, it's Jaguar's roomiest style statement.
Yes, it has the familiar, formal look that has typified Jaguar's mainline sedans for years sleek physique, a long, low hood, four headlights and squared-off rear.
But take a look at the rear doors on the Vanden Plas. They're bigger than the front doors because the rear seat has the extra 4.9 inches that Jaguar put in when it stretched the wheelbase of the XJ Series.
So, instead of 34.3 inches of rear legroom as in an XJ8 which is even less than in some everyday compact and midsize sedans you have 39.2 inches.
The Vanden Plas is a half inch taller than the XJ8, too. So you find 36.9 inches of rear-seat headroom in there, instead of the 36.3 inches that's in the XJ8.
Shoulder room remains at 57.3 inches, front and rear, in both the XJ8 and Vanden Plas.
The back seat in the test Vanden Plas really did feel a bit like a compact living room a very nice living room, even if you sit closer to the floor and on shorter seat cushions.
The soft leather rear bench was done up in a light beige color with dark brown leather piping as an accent. Tufting in the cushions and seat back was restrained, not overdone.
This is Jaguar's signature Connolly leather, the kind of animal hide that's tanned and processed specially for that unmistakable Jaguar aroma.
The floor carpeting is so thick you almost wonder whether it's carpet or a funky throw for the couch. The trim is real burled walnut trim, highly polished to show off the wood grain and tastefully placed all around the Vanden Plas.
It's definitely a car to unwind in, and driving it is pleasurable, too an extension of the calming aura that emanates from this car at standstill.
The 4-liter, double-overhead-cam, AJ V-8 provides strong power, no matter what speed you're at, working through a five-speed automatic transmission for oh-so-silky-smooth shifts.
There's nothing jarring or uncivilized about the 290 horsepower or 290 foot-pounds of torque here.
But being civilized doesn't mean being a laggard, either. A driver still can get from 0 to 60 mph in just 6.9 seconds in this big, 4,010-pound car.
That's competitive with the 6.9 seconds of the competing BMW 740iL, which has a 282-horsepower, 4.4-liter V-8 with 324 foot-pounds of torque.
I pulled out in city traffic and got up to speed quickly. Passing on the freeway was made all the easier because I hardly heard the vehicles I was passing, even trucks. The interior of this refined sedan is that quiet.
This award-winning engine was developed by Jaguar. For 2000, the company added a 370-horsepower, supercharged version that's offered in a higher-priced XJ sedan, the XJR. It's available for the Vanden Plas, too.
But Jaguar has yet to update its J-gate automatic transmission shifter, which offers a choice of regular, automatic shifting and manual shifting without a clutch pedal. There are newer, easier-to-operate mechanisms on the market now.
And while the dashboard has fine leather and stitching around the recessed radio controls, the effect is to push the radio's knobs and buttons farther from the driver's reach.
The ride is in keeping with the car's relaxing character. Front and rear independent wishbone suspension completely absorbs many road bumps. Larger bumps feel like minor imperfections in the road.
Yet, this big car, which at 53.2 inches tall is lower than the 740iL and Audi A8 L, feels decently planted in drives along mountain roads. There's body lean, yes, but no big wallowing.
The steering is a bit light. It's power-assisted, speed-proportional, variable-ratio rack and pinion.
Traction control became standard this year. The Vanden Plas comes only with one kind of tire: a Z-rated, 16-inch Pirelli.
Notable among safety improvements are the dual-threshold front air bags. Already installed in many other vehicles, these air bags can tailor their deployment to the force of the crash.
The Vanden Plas also meets government requirements to provide child-seat tethers in the back seat. Also new this year are rain-sensing wipers and the anti-lock braking system electronics were revised.

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