Thursday, February 3, 2011
2010 Jaguar XJ Video Review
There is very little wrong with the way the current Jaguar XJ drives, but it can be fairly criticized for having less passenger space than its peers and appearing to have been stamped from a single mold the automaker has used for the past decade or three. Indeed, if you talk to Jaguar dealers, they’ll tell you that people who drove the car loved it; the problem was getting people to look at it in the first place.
The new 2010 XJ, which goes on sale early next year in the U.S., is styled to be as bold as the current car is staid. This is a dramatic, coupe-like four-door sedan, with a notably bluff-like grille, a short front overhang, and a long tail. The only jarring note, to our eyes, is a black plastic section on the C-pillars that looks like an afterthought, especially on light-colored vehicles. We also think the long-wheelbase version, which features an additional five inches in the rear doors, is the better-looking model. Overall, the new car is 1.1 inches longer than the current XJ, coming in at 201.5 inches long in short-wheelbase configuration.
Lighter Than the XF
Like the current sedan, the new XJ is underpinned by an aluminum body shell that’s riveted and bonded together. Magnesium is also employed, most notably for the front and under-dash crossbeams. Andy Dobson, chief program engineer, says the basic principles of the architecture are carried over from the current car, but that most of the pieces and the suspension mounts have been changed. The rear axle is shared with the XFR model, as is its electronically controlled differential. Dobson says the new XJ is slightly lighter than an XF, which weighs 4400 pounds in supercharged XFR guise. This bodes well for performance, and three powerful engines will be offered in the U.S.: a 385-hp, naturally aspirated 5.0-liter V-8 and 470- and 510-hp supercharged versions of the same engine. These correspond to three models—base, Supercharged, and Super Sport. All will be offered in both long- and short wheelbase forms. There’s even talk of doing an ultra-luxury version, positioned above the Super Sport.
A six-speed ZF automatic transmission is the only gearbox; paddle shifters are standard. As you’d suspect, the suspension is similar to the current car’s, with unequal-length control arms in front and a multilink arrangement at the rear, but electronically variable shocks are now standard, and air springs are only at the back instead of at all corners. Dobson says that Jaguar didn’t consider electric power steering because the engineers weren’t confident of getting good steering feel. So the XFR’s hydraulically assisted rack is used instead.
Gorgeous Inside, as You’d Expect
The interior is plush and very beautiful, with a stockyard’s worth of hand-stitched leather; piano black trim, chrome, and wood are also on display. The top Super Sport model gets a leather headliner and the Supercharged model has Alcantara above the passengers. The traditional gauges have been replaced by a thin-film transistor screen that is reconfigurable.
The central touch screen is now eight inches wide (instead of seven) and much easier to operate than the one in the XF and XK. One of our main gripes has been addressed: Jaguar has finally seen the light and added separate hard buttons for the seat heaters, which means no more backing out of the radio or navigation screens to turn the heat up (or down) via the touch screen. Luxury features include an optional 20-speaker, 1200-watt Bowers & Wilkins stereo and available TV screens in the rears of the front-seat headrests.
Although it will be launched into a depressed market for luxury cars, the XJ is vital for Jaguar as it seeks to position itself as a genuine alternative to the German luxury carmakers. If the XJ drives as well as it looks, it could well succeed, and a sticker price much lower than those of the Germans—the 2010 XJ will likely start at about $70,000—will further help its chances.