By Chris Haak
Jaguar’s flagship sedan, the aluminum-bodied XJ, has been on the market in its current form since 2003, and the 2003 XJ looked disturbingly and un-creatively similar to the previous generation model. Unfortunately for Jaguar, that “traditional” appearance has been attracting fewer and fewer buyers to the brand over the past several years. That the former S-Type looked like it jumped out of a time machine from the 1960s certainly didn’t help matters. As Jaguar found out, fewer and fewer buyers were interested in car cabins that had the aura of an English country club.
The Jaguar XK coupe and convertible moved the styling needle for Jaguar forward into the new century, and last summer’s launch of the successful XF sedan – which replaced the mostly unloved S-type in the lineup, and also happened to throw away 90% of the Jaguar styling rulebook in the process – cemented the direction that Jaguar would be taking with its flagship sedan.
So we now have the 2011 Jaguar XJ. From the front, it’s obviously paying strong homage to the XF, and even stronger homage to the C-XF concept car that previewed the production XF. The front ends are remarkably similar, with the XJ’s grille jutting forward a bit more and the lower bumper designs different between the cars. The C-XF’s headlights completely dispensed with the old quad circular theme of past Jaguars, but the company chickened out a bit with the production XF and maintained strong hints of the quad circles, while sweeping the lens area toward the rear of the car as well. The XJ dispenses with that pretension and has barely any hint of the circular headlights.
Moving rearward, the obligatory fender vent turns 90 degrees and is now horizontal, where it had been vertical in both the XF and the previous XJ. Personally, I think it looks contrived in its location on the 2011 XJ. The door sills are very high and the roofline appears to be low, to the point that exterior visibility may be as compromised as, say, a Camaro’s is, but the overall look is very much like that of a concept car. Going from by far the most conservative shape in its segment to agruably the most aggressive design is certainly a leap, and the XJ certainly goes further from the mainstream than the XF did when it was launched, saying nothing for how far the XJ is deviating from the traditional Jaguar design ethos.
The rear of the new XJ is clearly its most controversial angle. The controversy begins with its C-pillar, which is curiously blacked-out to continue the line established by the backlight. Taken by itself in the context of that rear window, it might make sense, but it looks like an afterthought on the car’s profile, and mars an otherwise clean design. The rear overhang is also enormous, which provides the large trunk (18.4 cubic feet) that is to be expected with a large, comfortable vehicle, but from certain angles just looks too long and with too much rear overhang. Finally, the taillights and rear of the car are somewhat reminiscent of a Bentley Continental Flying Spur, or perhaps (less ambitiously), a Lincoln MKS. Aside from the front end, the car actually doesn’t look very much like an XF, and the sleek shape is definitely feline in nature, at least to my eyes.
The interior of course has the expected levels of comfort and luxury, with multiple wood and leather options available to buyers. While from the photos the XJ appears to have a more luxurious execution that does the XF, it’s sporty enough in its own right. There is a strip of wood that encircles the entire cabin and holds everything together, while bringing a sense of old-world charm to an otherwise very modern interior. I found it interesting that Jaguar dispensed with the trick hideaway vents used in the XF and instead actually placed the circular vents in prominently-displayed locations throughout the dashboard. The old-world charm meets modern technology in the virtual gauges – the entire gauge cluster is actually a large 12.3 inch TFT screen, which means that it’s able to emphasize a certain gauge over another (such as the fuel gauge when a low fuel situation occurs). I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the impressive (on paper) 1,200-watt Bowers & Wilkins 7.1 channel audio system. The Jaguar XF Supercharged that we tested last year had a B&W system, and it was an extremely impressive piece of its combination of power and clarity. I can only imagine what the system in Jaguar’s flagship sounds like, particularly with ear-bleeding wattage.
Under the hood resides a 5.0 liter direct injected V8 shared with the XF, rated at 385 horsepower. Stepping up to the midlevel engine gets you a 470-horsepower supercharged variant of the 5.0 liter engine, and the top dog Supersport model gets the same supercharged 5.0 liter in the XF-R and XK-R that produces a very healthy 510 horsepower. European-market vehicles will have an optional turbodiesel 3.0 liter V6, and all engines are mated to a six-speed automatic transmission with paddle shifters. There will be no XJ-R, as the Supersport should provide more than enough thrills for its target consumers
The XJ’s aluminum construction gives the car a significant weight advantage over its competitors; the car weighs about 300 pounds less than they do, and even undercuts the much smaller XF slighty in terms of weight. Jaguar estimates that the Supersport will sprint from 0 to 60 in about 4.7 seconds.
Pricing was announced later in the day. The XJ’s base price is $72,500 and the long-wheelbase XJL (with a five inch rear stretch) starts at $77,500. The Supercharged model starts at $87,500 and $90,500, respectively. The Supersport model starts at $112,000 for the short wheelbase and $115,000 for the long wheelbase. Supersport pricing is right in line with a Lexus LS600hL, but quite a bit more than a 2009 model can be bought for. The current XJ’s base price is $65,800 and the 2009 Super V8 starts at $94,850 (but can be had for steep – as in $20,000 discounts.)
I applaud Jaguar for taking a risk with the XJ’s styling, but the company really had no choice (as the minimal sales and giant rebates associated with the 2009 model would attest, the “heritage” styling just wasn’t enough to move the aluminum anymore. The XJ appears to be a beautiful car, but there are defintely some angles that cause me to question Ian Callum’s taste, such as the long rear overhang and odd C-pillar treatment. I would not be the least bit surprised to see the XJ do significantly better in the market than its predecessor did, as long as the company keeps close tabs on quality and reliability. So far, TrueDelta has been reporting that the new XF is worse than average in reliabilty, and with so many electronic systems, that could pose a problem for Jaguar’s comeback. I can’t wait for Autosavant to get one in our garage.
To download Jaguar’s press release, click here.
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