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 ease away a sleepless night.
Fast facts on the Jag
2000 Jaguar Vanden Plas
BASE PRICE: $64,750.
AS TESTED: $67,645.
TYPE: Front-engine, rear-wheel drive, five-passenger, luxury sedan.
ENGINE: 4-liter, double overhead cam, 32-valve V8.
MILEAGE: 17 mpg (city). 24 mpg (highway).
TOP SPEED: 150 mph.
LENGTH: 202.7 inches.
WHEELBASE: 117.9 inches.
CURB WT.: 4,010 pounds.
BUILT AT: Coventry, England.
OPTIONS: Premium sound system $1,800; heated front and rear seats $500.
DESTINATION CHARGE: $595.
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 mid-size 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 seatback 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 burl 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-V8 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 V8 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 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. But note that Audi's new A8 entry in this long-wheelbase segment comes standard with Quattro, Audi's all-wheel drive system.
The Vanden Plas comes only with one kind of tire: A Z-rated, 16-inch Pirelli. The 740iL and A8 L offer optional 17-inch rubber.
The two competitors also beat out the 12.7 cubic feet of trunk space in the Vanden Plas.
Notable among safety improvements are the dual threshold frontal airbags. Already installed in many other vehicles, these airbags 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 antilock braking system electronics were revised.
Too bad, though, that there still isn't a head restraint for the middle rider in the back seat and no side airbags for the big back seat.
But it's interesting to note that the Vanden Plas is the price leader among its primary, long wheelbase, European competitors. The 2000 BMW 740iL has a starting MSRP plus destination charge of $66,970, while the 2000 Audi A8 L starts at $68,425.
Buyers of Jaguar's XJ sedans are likely to be married men, with average household income of $250,000, the automaker said.
Sales of XJ sedans fell 20 percent last year, to 13,344 from 1998's 16,642, as Jaguar focused its efforts on marketing its new small car, the S-Type.
Consumer Reports does not list owner trouble complaints for the Jaguar XJ series.
Brainerd Dispatch ©2013. All Rights Reserved.