The irony is, of course, that "everyone else" -- specifically, Mercedes-Benz, BMW and Audi -- has spent the past four decades refining a formula Jaguar itself established with the original 1968 XJ, building wood- and leather-lined luxury sedans with excellent performance and roadholding, and superlative comfort and refinement. But Callum's point is the Germans now so dominate the segment that Jaguar simply cannot do the sort of luxury car it has always done and expect to be noticed.
We'd been drawn into their way of thinking," Callum says, "and we wanted to get away from that."
The 2010 XJ is a complete repudiation of its predecessor. Well, almost complete: The new car's body-in-white is again made from lightweight aluminum, and a number of platform architecture elements and component sets are carried over from the old car. And after riding in a long wheelbase Portfolio version with Jaguar chassis guru Mike Cross at the wheel, it clearly has the same delicate, cat-like grace on the road. But everything you can see and touch is a time warp away from the cloying back-to-the-60s ambience of the last XJ.
The new XJ is defined by its dramatic swooping roofline and coupe-like greenhouse, architectural elements decided at the very beginning of the car's development program. Two generic CAD concept models, one a traditional three-box sedan, and one with a coupe-like profile, were shown to 100 potential customers in Los Angeles in late 2005. They overwhelmingly indicated the coupe-like concept was more appropriate for a Jaguar.
With that information in hand, Callum's team began developing theme models in early 2006. Seven different models, all coupe-like but with different surfacing and graphics, were narrowed to just three by mid-year. The production car is an evolution of the most daring of the three.
The whole car's architecture hinges around the thin cant rails that arch rearward from the base of the windshield, says chief program engineer Andy Dobson. Without them, the XJ's upper would appear heavy, pressing down on slit-like windows as in the Chrysler 300C and Chevy Camaro. The sliding glass roof is a key enabling technology: Because it articulates up and over the top surface, it enabled Dobson's engineers to reduce the thickness the roof -- and therefore the vertical height of the cant rails -- by an inch
Those controversial black panels on the C-pillars, which fool the eye into thinking the rear glass wraps around to the side of the car, are another key piece of the XJ's dramatic look. "I wanted to get rid of the C-pillar, "says Callum. "I loved the idea of a cantilevered roof, like you get on expensive boats. But also, creating a coupe profile means you take visual mass to the rear of the car. The black panel takes that mass away because it effectively disguises the C-pillar touchdown point."
Callum pushed hard for the XJ's large, vertical grille. "I wanted the car to have a formidable front end," he says. And the vertical rear lights were only decided on as the final clay neared completion in 2007. Until then, the rear end graphic on most clays echoed that of the XF, but Callum wanted something that echoed the triangular lights of the original XJ. He had two CAD models prepared -- one with the horizontal XF-style lights, and one with vertical lights -- and showed them to a small number of Jaguar customers. Ninety percent preferred the vertical lights.
The XJ's surfaces are clean and subtle. "Some cars simply join the dots and fill the spaces in between with surface entertainment," says Callum. "Excitement in our cars is in the visual architecture." Once you see the XJ on the road, in motion amid the traffic, you can see what he means: It looks slinky, sophisticated, sexy; nothing like its more formal rivals from Stuttgart and Munich.
The theatrical interior is glamorous and gorgeous. There's leather and wood and chrome, but ambience is more Ian Schrager than Cary Grant. Large wood panels on the doors run forward to a thin panel that arcs around the front of the cabin below the windshield. The crash pad on the dash falls gracefully away from the base of the panel towards the passengers, giving the cabin a wonderfully airy and spacious feel.
Thumb the starter button to the right of the steering wheel, and the XF-style rotary shifter rises out of the center console as the instrument panel resolves itself on a 12.3-in. high-def TFT screen artfully concealed in what looks like a traditional binnacle. The instrument graphics are traditional, too -- three large, realistic looking, analog circular dials, with the tach on the right, speedo center, and an information dial on the left that in default mode shows fuel and water temperature gauges. Select dynamic mode, which stiffens the shocks and changes the transmission algorithms, and the graphics switch from blue-white to red, with a gear position indicator that glows red as the red line approaches.
The center stack features an 8-in. touch-screen display with dual-view technology, which allows the front seat passenger to watch a DVD while the driver views navigation information. Rear seat passengers can access in-car media via a wireless remote to watch movies on 8-in. LCD screens mounted in the front seat headrests. Top spec audio is a 1200-watt Bowers & Wilkins system that combines 20 speakers powered through 15 channels. This system includes the first automotive application of the Audyssey MultEQ XT audio tuning system, which digitally corrects any imperfections to deliver distortion-free sound for all passengers.
The XJ feels familiar as we roll out of the company's engineering center at Whitley, just outside Coventry, England. While we're among the first outsiders to sample the XJ on the road, Mike Cross is at the wheel -- press drives are not until early next year. Our ride is a long wheelbase Portfolio model with the 470-hp supercharged version of the new 5.0-liter V-8 under the hood. Even from the passenger seat it's obvious the new XJ shares a lot of tactile DNA with the acclaimed XF sedan and XK sports cars.
Cross says the XJ's suspension tune has been optimized around the long wheelbase car, which will be the volume selling model. "Normally we focus on the regular wheelbase car and the long wheelbase ends up a bit of an afterthought," says Cross. "We tried to get precision in the steering without paying a penalty on ride and refinement. We wanted a similar character to the old XJ, but with more depth of ability; a car that was comfortable and refined, but also fun to drive."
A short blast along twisting back roads near Whitley with Cross suggests Jaguar has hit its target. You feel road under the wheels, but the impacts are never harsh, and the body motions are beautifully damped. Turn in is precise -- the XJ gets the quicker steering ratio of the 2010 XK and XF-R -- and roll minimal. Front springs are steel, while those at the rear are air, to ensure a level ride. "When your car is on the light side, like ours (this model, the heaviest in the line up, weighs 300 lb less than an S550) it's very sensitive to load variation."
The 470-hp supercharged V-8 feels smooth and torquey, and the excellent six-speed automatic -- shared with the XK and XF -- is crisp and precise, yet remarkably refined. Paddle shifters enable optimal control if you're in the mood to hustle this big car between the hedgerows
The ride in the rear seat is excellent. There's ample head and legroom for those over 6' tall in the long wheelbase car, and the higher H-point allows for an excellent view out front. And despite that swoopy roofline, there's way better side vision than in the rear of a Mercedes CLS or even a Porsche Panamera.
The 2010 XJ will be available in the United States in three trim levels: Premium Luxury, Portfolio, and Supersport. The Premium Luxury version will be powered by the new 385-hp, direct injection, 5.0-liter Gen III AJ-V8 that came on line at the beginning of 2009. As previously mentioned, the Portfolio gets a 470-hp supercharged version of the Gen III AJ-V8, while the top of the range Supersport gets the 510-hp supercharged AJ-V8 shared with the XF-R and XK-R. European buyers will be offered Jaguar's excellent 3.0-liter diesel, which delivers 275 hp and a thumping 442 lb-ft of torque.
Most US-spec cars will be long wheelbase. Some 4.9-in. longer than the standard car, the long wheelbase XJ is 206.6 in. long, and rolls on a 124.3 in. wheelbase. The all-aluminum construction means low overall weight (the SWB naturally-aspirated V-8 model weighs 4045 lb, while a fully loaded LWB Supersport weighs 4323 lb) and therefore solid performance -- Jaguar claims 0-60 mph times of 5.4 sec for the Premium Luxury, 4.9 sec for the Portfolio, and 4.7 sec for the Supersport.
The new XJ is the large Jaguar sedan Ian Callum, a lifelong Jaguar enthusiast, has always wanted to do -- a modern, contemporary, charismatic vehicle that takes the storied British brand into the 21st century.
2010 Jaguar XJ
Base price $72,500
Vehicle layout Front-engine, RWD, 5-pass, 4-door sedan
Engines 5.0L/385hp/380lb-ft DOHC 32-valve V-8; 5.0L/470hp/424lb-ft DOHC supercharged 32-valve V-8; 5.0L/510hp/461lb-ft DOHC supercharged 32-valve V-8
Transmission 6-speed automatic
Wheelbase 119.4-124.3 in
Length x width x height 4050-4350 lb
0-60 mph 4.7-5.4 sec
EPA city/hwy fuel econ
On sale in U.S.
|2010 Jaguar XJ|
2010 Jaguar XJ
2010 Jaguar XJ
2010 Jaguar XJ