Wheels: Cars Tuned: Cat Fight

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What can become of a competent base-model luxury sedan when an in-house performance division gets its hands on it? To find out, we test-drove Jaguar’s XJ8 and its factory-tuned XJR and compared the results.

 

Jaguar XJ8

Engine: 4.2-liter V-8

Horsepower: 294 hp at 6,000 rpm

Torque: 303 ft lbs at 4,100 rpm

Zero to 60: 6.3 seconds

Price: $61,500

Drive: Thanks to its aluminum body, self-leveling air suspension, and 4.2-liter V-8, the XJ8 is a rewarding tool for the enthusiastic driver. Press the Sport button to hold your gear longer, keep your steering inputs perfectly linear, and you can power the British sedan down a curving road at a truly remarkable speed. The big Jag may lack the final measure of handling offered by Audi’s A8 and the BMW 7 Series, but its magic carpet ride never falters, no matter what the speed, turning radius, or terrain.

Jaguar XJR

Engine: 4.2-liter supercharged V-8

Horsepower: 390 hp at 6,100 rpm

Torque: 399 ft lbs at 3,500 rpm

Zero to 60: 5 seconds

Price: $76,000

Drive: The XJR is virtually the same car as the XJ8, only faster. Its performance-tuned suspension delivers the same grace as the XJ8, along with a noticeable improvement in body control. Larger Brembo brake discs and calipers add to the feeling of security, but it is the XJR’s factory-fitted supercharger that accounts for the car’s distinction. By placing an additional 96 hp and 96 ft lbs of torque underfoot, the XJR is conspicuously, admirably, and addictively quicker than the XJ8. For some drivers, the extra pace makes the XJR the only choice.

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