The Importance of Aluminum (or is that "aluminium"?)
As this is the seventh-generation XJ, they've had a considerable amount of time to determine what, exactly, they needed to do to improve the product. Arguably, the present generation is one that is a considerable departure from many of its predecessors—as well as from most vehicles that are available today—in that the vehicle, which was originally launched in June 2003 as a '04 model, has an aluminum monocoque. According to David Mitchell, chief program engineer for the XJ, this use of aluminum not only makes the vehicle distinctive vs. other cars in the large premium category (the car is considered, says CJ O'Donnell, executive vp, Sales & Marketing, Jaguar North America, in the context of the Mercedes S-Class, the BMW 7 Series, and the Audi A8; the last-named is also an aluminum-intensive vehicle, albeit one with a different approach to the processing of the material. In the case of the Jag, there is an extensive use of self-piercing rivets and adhesives for putting the panels together into the monocoque; Audi uses extrusions for more of a frame-like structure.), a distinctiveness that ought to aid in sales, but it provides customer benefits, as well. Mitchell claims, for example, that because of the deployment of the lightweight material in the vehicle (the long-wheelbase versions of the vehicle, which we're talking about here, are five inches longer than the short-wheelbase models, yet weigh a mere 53 lb. more), advantages include improved performance, reduced emissions and improved fuel economy. These advantages are directly predicated on the fact that the engine—the XJ8L, Vanden Plas, Super V8, and Super V8 Portfolio all use the same base 4.2-liter V8 (DOHC; four valves per cylinder), but while the horsepower rating for the first two is 294 @ 6,000 rpm, the latter two also feature an Eaton 112 Roots-type supercharger which boosts the engines to 390 hp @ 6,100 rpm—powers a comparatively light vehicle (that is, for a vehicle that has an overall length of 205.3 in. and a wheelbase of 124.4 in). The Super V8, for example, weighs 4,059 lb. A vehicle that O'Donnell cites in comparison, the BMW 760Li, weighs 4,552 lb.
One of the things that will be happening to the Jaguar lineup, O'Donnell says, is that it will be going increasingly upscale. While there has been an effort to have cars for the well-heeled masses—as in the X-Type and the S-Type—there will now be more of an emphasis on vehicles that are for the really well-heeled. To wit:
The big difference in the XJ '06 lineup is actually a small—or perhaps "discrete" is the proper nomenclature—addition: the Super V8 Portfolio. Like the vehicle from which it is directly derived, the Super V8, this new model is not small in any sense of that word, as it is dimensionally identical, inside and out. What is definitely small, however, is the number of vehicles that have been made available to dealers in the U.S.: 145. That's for the entire model year. All of them, by the way, have been spoken for, as have the additional five, for the Canadian market. By Jaguar's reckoning, this limited run makes the Super V8 Portfolio truly a rare thing, as O'Donnell points out that in calendar year '04 there were: 2,260 Bentley Continental GTs sold in the U.S. (@$162,285); 658 Mercedes S600s ($131,725); 442 BMW 760Lis ($119,595); and an estimated 150 Audi A8L W12s ($118,120). Not only are there fewer Portfolios, but there is a lower price point: $115,995.
The design of the car hails directly from the Concept Eight unveiled at the 2004 New York Auto Show, with the bright aluminum—and functional—power vents located in the front quarter panels being the most distinctive external design cue. The Portfolio design is said to provide a preview of where Jaguar is going as it pursues its up-market climb.
Essentially, the Portfolio is all that the $91,995 Super V8 is, and more. Interior designers ought to go to school on the way that the American Black Walnut is deployed on the instrument panel and adjacent trim areas. The satin-finish veneers actually look like real wood, something which is rare, given the tendency for vehicle manufacturers to use wood with a sufficient amount of lacquer on it to coat a bowling alley. Another excellent touch vis-à-vis material use is found overhead, the headliner and upper trim. Suede-fabric is used. Although there has been a tendency for vehicle manufacturers to move away from the felt-like material typically used to a more "technical" woven, this implementation of the brushed leather is first-rate.