Jaguar today broke with forty years of history by abandoning the design language that has characterised its top-of-the-range XJ saloon since it was first introduced in 1968.
This is the fourth all-new XJ, but the previous updates were all timid affairs which scarcely departed at all from the long, low, wide stance and four-headlamp face of the successful original.
Perversely, the outgoing XJ, introduced just a few years ago, was, despite its familiar appearance, stuffed with advanced technology, including a clever aluminium body structure that made it several hundred kilogrammes lighter than its competitors.
This dramatic new XJ finally escapes the long shadow cast by the 1968 car but bears a family resemblance to Jaguar’s own smaller XF saloon, especially around the nose. The XF’s design was based on Jaguar’s C-XF concept car and there was some disappointment that the C-XF’s dramatic frontal styling was watered down a bit for the XF; the XJ’s face draws more directly on the C-XF and is better for it.
The rear of the XJ is more controversial, and in the twenty-four hours or so since the first official pictures of the car leaked out, it is the XJ’s tail that has fuelled most of the discussion of the new car on enthusiasts’ Internet forums. Some have detected overtones of Maserati and Bentley in the XJ’s rear treatment while one contributor to an online discussion on Autocar’s website suggested, with some justice, that the XJ’s vertically-orientated tail-lights, short, very slightly humped boot-lid and blacked out rear roof pillars faintly recall the old Sunbeam Rapier coupe that was such a familiar sight on British roads in the 1970s. Perhaps the ghosts of the old Rootes group still haunt Jaguar’s Whitley design centre, which is based on an old Rootes/Chrysler site.
The XJ is available in short and long-wheelbase versions; prices start at £52,500. Engines are uprated versions of Jaguar’s well-regarded V6 diesel and V8 petrol units.