Auto Talk: Jaguar’s all-new XJ!

The XJ - Then and Now

The new cat builds on Jaguar’s new area design first seen in 2007 on the smaller XF model. The latest version is bigger and longer, featuring beautiful flowing lines, a high belt line, commanding front snout with hooded headlights and an overall get-up-and-go appearance.

According to Jaguar Cars managing director, Mike O’Driscoll, the mission was to recapture the uniqueness of the original 1960s XJ, but in a modern form. In their market evaluation, Jaguar designers looked at the luxury Mercedes-Benz S-class, BMW 7 series and the Audi A8, as well as performance class Porsche Panamera and Maserti Quattroporte and then made the decision to go for the middle ground. Passion—but with typical British reserve.

Jaguar’s design director Ian Callum’s direction comes direct from Jaguar founder Sir William Lyons whose design philosophy of “Grace, Space and Pace” was established 75 years ago when he founded the company.

“First of all, we have to create a beautiful car, the other thing is, a Jaguar must have great proportions—that is the architecture of the car, it’s seen as an overall shape,” said Callum. “I call it the draughtsmanship of the car. We needed to watch every millimetre to make this work, because we had a package which said it isn’t a two-seater, it’s a five -seater. We worked very hard to get that profile to work, to make it as lithe and as sporty as possible.”

Keeping up appearances

A common complaint heard from car enthusiasts is that modern automotive design lacks uniqueness and character. They say there are too many boring look-alikes. Well that may be true to some degree in the mass market, but it is a common trait for retro fans to complain when major design changes are first introduced to iconic models. For example, the following is a quote from celebrated automotive journalist Paul Skilleter who has written many books on the Jaguar marque.

“As soon as it came into view, moving smoothly and almost silently towards us, I knew that this was an epochal moment in the history of Jaguar. Here I was seeing for the first time a new car that would take the company to new heights, break into new markets, and wipe out any feelings of disappointment that the current  range of worthy but staid-looking Jaguar sedans might be failing to inspire and excite. This was the car that would help transform Jaguar’s future under new management.”

But, wait! Skilleter was not talking about the new XJ, he was going back 43 years to the very first time he saw the original XJ6, Jaguar’s most successful model ever. Those words penned all those years ago at the introduction of the then-new XJ6 can be applied verbatim today to the all new XJ. Another epochal moment in the marque’s history!

Looking at the front of the all-new XJ there is one tip of the hat to the past that enhances the beauty of the car, its prominent square grille which was found on the very first XJ, the 420 model circa 1967. A faint hint of the 1960s Mk 2 model is also evident from the teardrop-shaped chrome window trim on the XJ. Overall, the proportions, stance and relationship of the wheels to the body and ground impress, and continue to impress the more one observes this vehicle.

Stronger, lighter, faster

Adding to the car’s elegant lines is a panoramic glass retractable roof, which blends seamlessly into the body in one unbroken line and effectively lowers the car’s drag coefficient (0.29), resulting in low wind noise and better highway fuel efficiency. The stronger and lighter weight makes the case for the use of aluminum, as opposed to steel, in the construction of the body and chassis. The fact that 50 per cent of the aluminum used comes from recycled aluminum cans—about 12,000 of them—makes a strong environmental statement. Additionally, cast magnesium is used in various sub-frame assemblies to further reduce weight and add strength.

Once comfortably behind the three-spoke, leather-wrapped wheel and on the open road, you don’t have any feeling of driving a big car. Instead, there is the feel of a light and tight chassis, the quickness of the steering assemble and the responsiveness of the supercharged five-litre V8 very directly to the back of a well-appointed leather-clad seat. This big Jag likes to be driven, but is just as happy to amble along in city traffic.

The power plant is mated to a quick and smooth shifting six-speed automatic transmission controlled by paddle shifters and a console-mounted dial for three different driving modes that Jaguar calls a Jaguar Drive Selector, but which is probably best suited for technophiles. Each of these driving modes fulfils its function by making appropriate adoptions to engine mapping, transmission shift points, shock damping, and electronic intervention from the Active Differential Control and Dynamic Stability Control systems.

The supercharged XJ and XJL sit on 48-centimetre wheels and come in two wheelbases and three different models—Base, Supercharged and Supersport, all sharing the same five-litre, fuel injected V8 with increased levels of performance.

The supercharged XJL develops 470-horsepower with 424-ft lbs of torque and the muffled roar exhaled from the twin exhaust pipes serves to remind the driver of its impressive capabilities.

When pushed in Dynamic mode the XJ’s seatbelts tighten, gauges change to red, shocks stiffen and the beast takes off like a true sports sedan. It’s fun to drive but if you get in trouble it’s comforting to know that the Dynamic Stability Control (DSC) will intervene to apply breaking to individual wheels and reduce engine torque. Even more reassuring is the Advance Emergency Brake Assist that calculates distance and speed of an oncoming vehicle and precharges the breaks to help minimize impact speed, if impact is predicted. Very impressive stuff that hopefully will never be needed.

The custom-ordered Supersport edition develops more power from a supercharged engine at 510-horsepower and 461-ft lbs of torque, with 0 to 60mph time claimed to be 4.7 seconds.

Quality interior

Interior trim is what one would expect in a Jaguar, with burled wood and leather everywhere. The wrap-around, chopped dash with high level console and well-planned instrument stack is sporty and functional. New and innovative is the virtual instrument gauges. The digital graphic renderings pass for analog dials that can arrange themselves depending on which driving and navigational programs are engaged. Audiophiles will appreciate the distinctive yellow Kevler cones embedded in the door panels which are part of the 1200-watt, 20-speaker Bowers and Wilkins superb sound system.

If you are in the market for a luxury sports sedan offering style, beauty and performance, the new XJ should be on your test-drive list.

To attract new customers, Jaguar dealers are offering very competitive pricing as part of the car’s introduction and one of the best warranty packages in the business, called Platinum Coverage. The five-year, 80,000-kilometre warranty provides free service and replacement of every wear item except tires. The dealer experience should be positive for buyers as the latest J.D Power survey ranks Jaguar highest among luxury brand in “satisfying customers with new-vehicle sales experience” for the third year running.

All systems are go for Jaguar’s new era—new models, new ownership and a return to the glory days when pride of ownership was the norm. Happy 75th Jaguar!

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