Thursday, July 31, 2014

We interrupt the Concours photos to bring you the new road-trip car!

As long as I'm sharing photos and factoids about fancy-shmancy cars, I reckoned I'd share a few photos of the newest member of our own automotive fleet, a 1999 Jaguar XJ8 Vanden Plas Supercharged saloon.

The Vanden Plas Supercharged (VDP SC) was a special order version of the long wheelbase top-of-the-line Vanden Plas, and was the forerunner to the Super V8. The equivalent car in the UK was known as the Daimler Super V8. It had all the luxury features of the standard VDP plus the supercharged V8 engine from the XJR with 370 hp and 387 lb-ft of torque. The upgraded heated seats and stereo system also came standard with the VDP SC package. The only exterior differences I've noticed so far between this and a regular Vanden Plas are the 17-inch wheels, the big exhaust tips, and the "Vanden Plas Supercharged" badge on the trunk.

The driving experience has been everything I hoped it might be. Unbelievably smooth and powerful on the highway, but surprisingly zippy on curvy roads, especially with the "Sport" setting activated. That firms up the suspension and moves the shifting points down a bit for faster acceleration. And if you need to get somewhere fast? Zero to 60 in 5.5 seconds. The maximum speed tops out at 155 mph, but only because it's electronically limited. Auto reviewers like to break out words like "robust" for this car.

Only 788 of them were built during the 1998-2003 run of the x308 body style. I believe the vast majority of them were delivered to the US market. In 2003, the last year for the x308, the Super V8 became a model of its own in the US:

1998 - 36
1999 - 165
2000 - 208
2001 - 234
2002 - 145

The color of our new VDP SC is Emerald Metallic. It's a chameleon color. Depending on the viewing angle and the lighting source it varies from bright green to dark green to dark blue to black.

Okay, so the outside is pretty. But you don't drive it from the outside. What's the inside like? Well, take a step inside...

It's pretty much soft Connolly leather, lambs' wool carpeting, and burled walnut everywhere. These seats feel as comfy as they look.

Because the Vanden Plas is the long wheelbase edition of the XJ8 the rear seats have an extra five inches of legroom.  It's truly roomy back here. It's not just the nicest car I ever bought. It's also the nicest couch! (And the nicest stereo, for that matter.)

Naturally the passengers in back don't need to rely upon the chauffeur for their climate control. They have their own controls and heated seats. 

And yes, those are indeed fold-out walnut tea trays for the back seat, presumably so you have a place for your jar of Grey Poupon:

(Here's a link to the classic Grey Poupon ad for our younger readers who came along after it was retired from TV.)

For the last two pictures let's return to the exterior and see the new toy next to an earlier model (late 70s, I believe) Jaguar XJ6. I love how Jaguar carried the classic XJ lines forward into the XJ8.

So why on Earth did I buy a ridiculously fancy-shmancy Jaguar? Well, um ... there was an awful lot of creative rationalization along the way in terms of back-seat legroom on our upcoming trip to Wyoming. And the "replace the rusty old pickup truck" downpayment fund took a terrible beat-down.

But honestly, just look at it. And it drives like supercharged butter.

What else could I do?