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First Look: 2011 Jaguar XJ
Calendar: Events Calendar
December 17th 05:30 PM to 07:30 PM
*The times shown may change, depending on DST settings
Where: Jaguar Huntsville, 3800 University Dr, Huntsville, AL
Contact: Jaguar Huntsville, 3800 University Dr, Huntsville, AL

I was invited to the Jaguar Huntsville first look at the new XJ that will be on sale in April of 2011. The brochure that I've had a chance to browse already has me intrigued.

This is the first major style change for the XJ in it's lifetime. Even the 2009 XJ's styling still pulled queues from the original 1960s model. But not any more.

The new XJ has a completely new design, pulling more styling queues from its sibling, the XF. And I was quite impressed with the styling for the XF. The rear tail lights screaming Aston Martin while the interior had a uniquely refined luxury that my father would have enjoyed. It actually brought me back to the luxury of our 1977 Mercury Monarch, a Lexus of sorts at that time. One of the event attendees is a current XF owner and he saw a lot of the XF's design in the XJ. He mentioned that the seats of the XJ were more plush than that of the XF, giving it a more luxury feel. But otherwise, to him the XJ was like a larger more luxurious XF.

So now we move forward with the innovations from the XF to the new XJ. While most reviews I've read on the car seem to compare it to Lexus on various levels, I found none that even mentioned the Aston Martin Rapide. While the Rapide is distinctly Aston Martin (and should be at the price), Jaguar has borrowed many design elements over the years from the more exotic brethren.

Many of the basic elements of the front like the split dual grilles and sweeping headlights remind me of the signature Vanquish and DB9 lines. Side gills move away from the vertical placement found on the previous generations of XJ, to a more Aston Martinesque horizontal placement. Hood lines and body lines mimic those of its exotic brethren. Even the windshield angle is the same.

In fact, now that I look at both cars side by side, I would even believe that both are built on similar chassis like the Honda/Acura and Toyota/Lexus lines are built. When I mentioned this to the Jaguar representative at the event, he had a small smile starting on his face as he explained how the lines have always borrowed from each other since Ian Callum's influence is in both designs. Check out these two images and tell me what you think:

It's not that apparent in the photo above, but the XJ front has a Charger-esque feel to it, as Alan from the North Alabama British Motoring Society described it. It's much more masculine in real life.

After seeing the XJ in person, I think that if you saw just the nose of these two cars, the similarities would be hard to see.

There is an interesting note on the performance of the XJ when comparing it with the Aston Martin Rapide. In the Super Sport version of the XJ, it will have more power, and a faster 0-60 than the Rapide. That will be one embarrassing drag race for the owner of the almost $100k more Rapide.

But while the XJ and Rapide may look similar from the outside, that is where the similarities abruptly end. The Rapide is a sports car, while the XJ is a 'sporty' car. Jaguar luxury is what the XJ is about, as the interior proclaims with its rich color options and elegant materials.

The XJ's interior actually surprised me with a unique combination of luxury and sporty class rarely found in interiors anymore. It might be much for some, but I liked the subtle details like polished rings around knobs and polished outlines around control areas. In most modern interiors, there's either cheap, gimmicky details, or no details at all.

There's a combination of Jaguar elegance and modern styling in every detail in the interior. The interior build quality was very good in the two pre-production models that were on display. In fact, it was so good, I would not have thought these were pre-production models if someone hadn't told me. The leathers used on the seating surfaces and stitched around various parts of the interior were very soft and plush--something typically not found on the German variants of cars in this class from Mercedes and BMW. In fact, the front seats are the softest and most supportive I've ever sat in for a sedan.

They can be like the unobtrusive seats typically found in a luxury cruiser in this class, or can be quickly adjusted where they would be at home in a sports car. I'm surprised to say it, but they even support better than the seats in the new Porsche Panamera.

The two-tone leather color schemes for the interiors add a sporty and modern feel. In the silver car, the almost charcoal looking deep blue leather subtly mirrored the blue lighting elements of the interior and richly contrasted with the ivory piping. The suede headlinder begs to be touched--its soft surface a favorite of many of the guests.

The steering wheel felt good in the hands, not too thick and not too thin. It actually felt sporty, and the soft leather surface felt rich.

There's a lot of controls on the steering wheel, but they were naturally reachable and tactile feedback on the buttons was good. The digital dash console is well arranged and didn't require any adjustment if you're used to manual gauges. Subtle touches like red backlighting of the gauges when in performance mode showed evidence of good intuitive design. The advent of fully digital dashboards opens manufacturers to the possibility of innovative and better functioning designs that were only dreams in the past. Seems like Jaguar's designers have already started to 'think outside the box' and to get there. Kudos. I found the menu a bit quirky, but I haven't yet found a menu system on a car that I actually like. All of the software wasn't completely debugged, so I didn't explore all the options. The interior of the XJ is well suited to impressing the clients of the vehicle's class, and competes well with the current offerings from Mercedes and BMW.

But the view of the rear of the XJ may leave some confused. It's a view like nothing ever seen before from Jaguar. An available completely de-badged rear, with only a Jaguar 'leaper' symbol, and tail lights that don't follow any styling convention I've ever seen except maybe on the Kia Amanti.

(Ironically, the Kia Amanti seemed to almost borrow every design element from some other car. Besides the tail lights and the integrated LED turn signals in the front, it looked like a copy-cat of some car you've seen before.) And with the taillights flowing naturally onto the top of the trunk, a new design element in the US is introduced. Some other reviewers have described the new rear lights as inspired by the French, but only the 2010 Citroen offerings seem to carry the lights onto the trunk. In the sales training, the LED tail lights' three distinct vertical marks are referred to as 'cat's claws', but I see no resemblance at all. They do look like the three bloody lines from a 'cat scratch', but that doesn't exactly sound like a marketable term.

The white vertical stripe is actually the LED amber turn signal, while two bright LEDs below the stripe are the white backup lights. The upper portion of the light only has three red LEDs that serve as running lights. The cat's claw lighting doesn't extend onto the top surface of the light, although if it it, I think it would serve for better safety as higher seated drivers could look down on the trunk and see the brake lights.

And while most of the buzz seems to center on those lights, the main focus of the rear of the car is actually between the lights. The 'canvas' as one of the trainers described it to me. The license plate is lower and allows the blank canvas to proudly display the Jauguar 'leaper' logo in 3D. The logo doesn't just sit flat on the canvas, but is like the statue-like leaper found on the front of previous generations of Jaguars--just half of it.

In addition to several members from the local North Alabama British Motoring Society, former Indy Car racer, Nascar racer, and 24hrs of Leman winner Davy Jones was present for the event, working with Jaguar on training for the new XJ. He's happy with the outcome of the design and thinks a lot of the new car. We chatted a bit about racing and Porsches, and Davy mentioned he will be returning to endurance racing at the 24hrs at Daytona next month. Davy also mentioned it's been about 8 years since he's been driving like that. But with amount of vast talent he has, I have no doubt that he will quickly find himself at home again. Davy was gracious enough to take a picture with me, and chat with the guests about the new XJ and racing. I wish him the very best in the upcoming race and all his ventures.

The two pre-production XJs on display were both supercharged models with about 470+ horsepower 5.0 litre v8 engines. The silver one was the extended wheelbase model, the XJL, while the black one was the standard wheelbase model. And while the color swatches in the July 2009 price guide didn't show it, both cars had a metallic paint. This was really apparent on the black car as it almost sparkled under the light.

I stayed until the cars were being moved off the showroom floor. The cars are quiet at idle and probably at most rpms, but there is a rumble when the engine is revved as one of the trainers demonstrated. Listen to them for yourself on the exclusive Huntsville Car Scene video clips.

I want to thank Jaguar Huntsville for inviting me to come to this event. It was great to see such exciting cars coming into the Jaguar line, and to meet all the people that are helping make it happen.

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Old December 18th   #2
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It's beautiful
froyotlbw88 is offline   Reply With Quote
Old December 21st   #3

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dang theres more buttons on the steering wheel than the space shuttle.
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Old December 21st   #4
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Originally Posted by racinfast002 View Post
dang theres more buttons on the steering wheel than the space shuttle.
And the crazy thing is that it isn't overwhelming at all. Everything just feels naturally in place. The menu system on the right side of the steering wheel is a bit quirky and feels like you need a trackball like on a blackberry, but other than that, it's pretty intuitive.
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