The Audi A8 and Jaguar XJ series are the last two renditions for the large luxury sedan segment. Both have been around for quite some time but were never popular. After years of considerable sales loss, you can be sure that Audi and Jaguar have taken extra steps to gain a larger share of that market. But do these new iterations stand against the likes of the Daimler-Chrysler (Mercedes-Benz) S class, and the Ãber-techno BMW 7 series? The A8 has been designed to challenge the BMW head on, save for a less controversial exterior styling and an easier to use multimedia interface, similar to BMW’s i-Drive. Although not as technologically advanced, it does offer exclusive options such as a solar powered sunroof that keeps the interior cool while the car is parked. Since the inception of the A8 in 1997 (1994 in Europe), its strong point is its light weight, considering its size. Audi uses aluminum with a design method known as ASF (Audi Space Frame) to develop the lightest sedan in the large luxury sedan segment, six years running. This also results in stellar road performance because the engines are no slackers either. For 2004, Audi offers a 3.7L, 280hp V8, as well as a 4.2L, 335hp V8. Audi’s world famous Quattro® (4 wheel drive system), standard on both models will make for a light-weight, superb handling luxury sedan with comfortable accommodations for five adults. If you are horsepower hungry, Audi has got your number; look for the upcoming S8/RS8, which will develop close to 400/500hp respectively; think about the 4-wheel drive and lack of bulk, and you will soon realize that these cars will probably be the fastest and largest 4-door sedans available.
The Jaguar XJ series is the result of a cured Jaguar of the mid ’90s. Prior to this time, Jaguar suffered from poor engine design and a fatal affiliation with Lucas Electrics Limited. Ford Motor Co. stepped in and fixed the problem, albeit now controlling a sizeable share of Jaguar. As a result, Jaguars of today have become viable competition that they once were. The new XJ sedan features a significant improvement in interior space, the one big flaw of the previous XJ; plus, like the Audi, it features extensive aluminum bodywork, making it lighter as well. The new car is unmistakably a Jaguar, with its retro styling in combination with modern cues. The interior appointments are just as flashy as previous Jags, rivaling the likes of Rolls-Royce. Jaguar even went as far as to offer an entertainment system that includes two screens in the headrest of the front seats, used for TV, DVD or video games. The beauty of the system is that the two screens can be used for different operations simultaneously, via headphones. There will be two engines available, a 294hp, 4.2L V8, and a supercharged 370hp, 4.2L V8 that will power the XJR. Expect both the A8 and the XJ to start at $60,000 and to top out at close to $80,000; prices that are bargains compared to the 7 series and the S class.