011 Jaguar XJ
Jaguar looked at declining sales of its flagship XJ sedan and felt it was time to drop the car's retro styling and come up with a more modern design.
While the 2011 XJ looks sleeker and more muscular than old XJs, it has a slim, graceful roofline that the automaker says is a "nod" to the roofline of the original 1968 XJ sedan, which was a styling masterpiece. Also, although Jaguar makes few references to old XJ models, the new XJ's large grille is reminiscent of the 1968 XJ's grille.
"The new XJ is a thoroughly modern interpretation of the quintessential Jaguar," said Ian Callum, design director for Jaguar Cars.
Curiously, taillights of the newly designed XJ-first on sale as a late 2010 model-reminded me of those on America's ill-fated 1954 Kaiser sedan.
It's rather sad that the new XJ four-door has lost much of the charm of the long series of old XJs, and some people won't recognize it as being a Jaguar. You once could tell a car was a Jaguar from at least a block away.
Jaguar long has provided sumptuous interiors, and the new XJ's quiet, roomy leather-and-wood interior is among the best among luxury sedans. It has ultra-modern gauges, but also a retro analog clock with individual chrome chaplets, a spun metal face and an iridescent blue background-a look inspired by luxury watches.
A standard, panoramic glass roof enhances the interior feelings of light and space.
But the speedometer skips some mph readings. That is, it reads "10," "30," "50," etc. You have to guess where "20," "40" and some other mph readings come in.
The gimmicky console shifter is a round dial that raises slightly from a flush position on the console and calls on a driver to turn it to the right or left to select such positions as "P" or "D." Also, the glove compartment calls a hand to be waved in front of it to cause it to open-a silly procedure that doesn't always work the first, second or third time.
However, the new XJ is generally gadget-free, with no features such as night-vision or lane-maintaining assists. However, useful safety features such as dynamic stability control are standard.
The 2011 XJ is sold in standard XJ and longer-wheelbase XJL forms. The
XJL offers almost limo-style rear passenger space, providing an additional five inches of rear legroom. Still, the center of the rear seat is too hard for comfort and best left to a fold-down armrest, which contains cupholders..
All versions are very well-equipped with luxury car comfort, convenience and safety items.
Prices--excluding an $850 freight charge-range from $71,650 for the entry 385-horsepower regular wheelbase XJ ($78,650 for the long-wheelbase version) to $114,150 for the over-the-top supercharged long-wheelbase 510-horsepower Supersport XJL. The Supersport has such items as power heated active/massage ventilated sports seats, wireless headphones and a 20-speaker sound system with rear audio controls.
In between is a supercharged 470-horsepower model, priced at $86,650 to $89,650.
I tested the 385-horsepower XJL, which should be fine for most XJ buyers. (0-60 mph in 5.4 seconds). This model is expected to account for most XJ sales in America.
All versions share a smooth, advanced 5-liter V-8, hooked to a responsive six-speed automatic transmission with a fully adaptive shift system. It works so well there's little reason to use its "manumatic" manual-shift feature.
While the new XJ feels heavy, it uses Jaguar's aerospace-inspired aluminum body technology, which makes it at least 300 pounds lighter, compared to steel body construction. Still, this is a big sedan, so it weighs 4,050 to 4,350 pounds.
Fuel economy thus isn't a high point. Even the 385-horsepower V-8 only delivers an estimated 15 mpg in the city and 22 on highways.
Jaguar is perhaps best known for its sports cars, but no XJ ever was that type car. Still, the latest XJ is sporty enough to be appreciated by good drivers. Steering is quick and progressive, and the car handles adroitly, although the weight can be felt during fast maneuvers. The suspension may be a little firm for some luxury car buyers or drivers of older XJS, but the ride isn't harsh. The brake pedal has a linear feel, and the anti-lock brakes are strong.
The trunk is large, but rather shallow, and has a high-but-wide, opening.
The hood raises on twin struts, revealing a large, plastic engine cover. Jaguar engines once weren't covered and looked like nice pieces of sculpture, but those days are gone.
No doubt the new XJ is the best ever, but something is missing.