Jaguar XJ – Coventry’s new feline gets more feral

Published on July 20th, 2009

Having been the epitome of luxury for as far back as our grey matter would allow us to recall, Jaguar’s situation for the past few years was certainly a cause for concern.

Thankfully, Ford decided to relinquish the leash on Jaguar and after the usual musical chairs of new ownership India’s Tata Motors took the helm of what was then a slightly misguided ship.

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While the tunes of new ownership was being played in the background, Jaguar has stretched its hands deep into the bowels of its being and pulled a Leaping Cat out in the form of the Jaguar XF. After the destitute of hope that seemed to stalk the brand, the XF was a master class that was just what the doctor ordered to revive the brand and lead its drive into the future.

Now the XF was lightyears ahead of its time. From an engineering point of view, it still stuck to the aluminium lightweight formulas that lead to delectable road etiquette. When peeked at from a designer’s point of view, the XF was so ahead of its time, let alone the rest of the Jaguar stable, that it was praised as the messiah to return this feline to its feral ways.

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Nonetheless, that piercing design master stroke turned out to be a double-edged sword as it made the rest of the Jaguar stable appear dull, dated and dead boring; something like your dad’s sky blue ruffled prom blazer.

Enter the all-brand-spanking-new 2010 Jaguar XJ. Now before you start dehydrating over the pictures, bear in mind that the outgoing model’s decidedly dated skin was a cover over what was and still is a state-of-the art aluminum chassis that gave the car commendable road handling apart from presence.

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Clearly the XJ was drafted by the very instruments and hands that brought the XF to life. However, under the microscope it is obvious that the XJ’s more upright grille and sharper headlamps (with an LED strip ala Audi underneath) mimics the front end of the C-XF concept closer. Additionally, on this new cat, Chief Designer Ian Callum is willing to compromise and please customers that will obviously request for a leaping cat ‘leaper’ hood ornament, something that he says he would have never allowed on the XF.

Arguably, the XJ’s size is not overwhelming as compared to the outgoing model that was bit flatter and made its size slightly more noticeable with the longer overhang. The most controversial feature would have to be the D-pillar that is finished in piano black regardless of the exterior paint. This was done to emphasize the greenhouse effect of the roofline.

Right below the windows, a tornado line runs the entire length of the body with a slim horizontal slit on the front fender to finish off what is a subtle yet dramatically cutting design to raise the car’s air of presence.

Closing the book on the liftback shape would be the blacked-out D-pillar that integrates into a somewhat uninspiring rear end. Perhaps after the visual pleasure that is its front, the slight muted rear doesn’t seem to live up to the excitement. Bear in mind though that the derriere does still project a very majestic aura, befitting of a car with such regality, something we suspect the tapered LED tail lights to contribute drastically to.

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One noteworthy mention would be the dual exhausts that stick out on each end. In my opinion, integrated exhaust outlets into the bumper would have most certainly been easier on the eyes.

Following in the footsteps of its predecessor, the chassis is almost entirely composed of aluminum with bits and pieces of magnesium and composite alloys to shave the effects of gravity on it.

Interestingly, Jaguar’s Managing Director, Mike O’Driscoll mentioned that the XJ’s body in white tips the scales below a Mini Cooper. So much so has the weight saving been that the XJ will weigh slightly less than the XF. Adding some solid digits into the mix, the XJ should weigh in about 136kg less than its bout mates like the BMW 7-Series, Audi A8 and Mercedes-Benz S-Class.

Once again, the Coventry lads have outdone themselves on the interior. Nobody would have been disappointed nor surprised if they had just decided to supersize the XF interior and shoehorn into the XJ. Again, it was ahead of its time in design and execution but they have gone and outdid themselves with the XJ.

Notable similarities remain like the Jagsense reading lamps, touch glovebox switches and JaguarDrive rotary gear selector but apart from that, the interior is a total redesign.

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The dashboard has been set well below the windscreen with a wood inlay that loops around the interior’s perimeter in an uninterrupted band. Once again, it must be noted that after all these years only the Brits still manage to compose wood veneer, leather and metal into one fine musical dissertation.

To cap it all off, dead-centre of the loop, right beneath the middle of the windscreen, is a small plaque insert with the words Jaguar on it. Now this is definitely a new trick in the interior design book but it somehow bodes well with the rest of the lines. Customers will be able to specify their own text for the insert if they so please. A nickname for their new kitty-cat would be fitting.

Circles were clearly the inspiration for the interior’s theme and take shape everywhere from the steering wheel’s boss to the speaker grilles and right up to the air-cond vents. That’s right folks, the XJ does without the visual ballet of the XF’x start-up sequence and that means no motorized roll-over vents but classy polished metal pieces that do not go into hiding when you power down.

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The XF had most of its functions integrated into a touchscreen setup in the middle of the dash. Building on that, the boffins at Jaguar have incorporated a 12.3 inch TFT screen in place of the analog gauges that would normally relay information like engine speed, speed and fuel level. Of course the TFT screen does that too with virtual analog-gauges with virtual chrome bezels that spell out the speedo, rev counter and such. Apart from that, the TFT screen is capable of highlighting important details like fading out the rev counter and replacing it with the low-fuel warning.

Occupying the centre of the dash is still the same touchscreen setup found in the XF that is the command centre for most of the XJ’s functions as well. Audio, sat-nav and everything else is just a couple of dabs away with the touchscreen.

Now with such a visual feast on the inside, aural pleasure would be a perfect compliment for any journey this cat and the XJ does not disappoint. Even the lowest grade audio setup nest you CD/DVD capability, USB connectivity, Sirius, HD Radio and a internal hard drive. If you do decide that you need a little bit more bump from your speakers, the top of the range setup available is a 1200-watt 20-speaker Bowers & Wilkinson 7.1-channel surround system. We’re willing to bet some home theater setups can’t hold a candle to a setup like that.

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Now such a cake would surely require a pretty cherry to sit atop it and rightly so the XJ delivers. The audio and visual system of the XJ can route four different signals simultaneously allowing the rear seat occupants, driver and front passenger to view or listen to different songs or videos. To avoid any nodal mayhem, the rear occupants get infrared headphones while the front touchscreen monitor is actually a dual-view screen that allows the passenger to view a video while the driver can still monitor the sat-nav from behind the wheel.

Now onto the pressing bits, its ferocious hearts. The engines are all the same but in differing states of tunes with the company’s 5-litre V8 featuring direct-injection the starting point. The base tune sees a mild [email protected] and 515Nm of twisty force at a very useable 3,500rpm. Stepping up a notch sees forced-induction thrown into the mix with a supercharger on board. Answering the need for more power are [email protected] with 575Nm of torque between 2500-5000rpm to accompany it.

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Finally, right at the top of the XJ food chain is the completely banal powerplant that used to call the XKR and XFR its home. Snarling a full [email protected] and a rotating force of [email protected], the flagship spec-model will most certainly deliver for the power-hungry.

Taking into account the XJ tips the scales about the same as the XFR, expect similar performance figures as well. The century dash should be dealt with in approximately 4.7-seconds while the electronically governed rear differential found on the XFR ensures all that power is not spun away wastefully.

Jaguar’s Adaptive Dynamics system and the JaguarDrive three-mode settings are coming to the party here as well. The latter will precisely adjust throttle mapping, shift points, stability control limits, suspension firmness and even seatbelt tightness.

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A smaller 3-litre V6 engine will also find its way into the XJ and most likely than not it will be the best seller once Sisma Auto, the sole importer and distributor of Jaguar vehicles here brings it in.

Transferring power to the rear wheels will be a similar six-speed auto slushbox that is standard in the XF. Paddle shifters will allow the more exuberant drivers to get down and dirty and just like the XF it isn’t an option next to a box on the order list.

Luxury is somewhat equated to space and the XJ will be available in long-wheel base form as well. For the extra beans you hand over, a full five-inches of legroom in the rear is your to play with. Significantly, the extra inches are well disguised in the rear doors with only the window glass being extended while the rear fender and quarter panel remaining exchangeable with the standard model.

Traditionally, the XJ’s equals were the 7-Series, S-Class and A8 but with the deep injection of technology and penmanship masterstrokes into an already well established and up-to-date platform, the XJ might just be able claw away at the divide separating the likes of the Porsche Panamera and Maserati Quattroporte.

Once again Coventry’s finest has done good on one of its nine-lives and left the automotive world agape with amazement.

text: Dinesh Appavu  pix: Jaguar

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