Driving behind a Rolls-Royce Silver Spirit over the weekend, my car-loving friend and I were commenting on its aesthetic merit. It’s a blocky design very much of its era and let down by some details, like its taillights. As we looked closer, though, we could appreciate some of its subtle curves that harkened back to older Rolls. Nice, but if we want to talk designs that successfully blended old world British elegance with contemporary 1980s lines, we agreed the XJ40-series Jaguar XJ couldn’t be beat.
I needn’t tell the whole XJ40 story – I’ve done that before. I saw this rather ratty one in the sleepy Gold Coast suburb of Runaway Bay this weekend and even with its primered trunk lid and hood, I could see just why I love this design.
The classic Jaguar proportions are present, this generation looking as svelte as XJs prior, but it’s slightly more squared off so as to better fit in with the W126 S-Classes and E30 3-Serieses at the country club. Yes, I can even dig the rectangular head and taillights.
The following (X300) generation of XJ switched back to round headlights and more retro detailing. It looked great, mind you, but Jaguar had a habit of clinging onto retro design cues for far too long, culminating in throwback designs like the S-Type and X-Type of the 2000s that didn’t meet sales targets.
The X350, too, clung to classic Jaguar design cues despite being the most high-tech Jag yet and featuring an aluminium body. Again, very handsome, but hardly forward-thinking stylistically. The Ian Callum-penned X351, conversely, took the XJ in a new direction and yet it still looks sleeker and sportier than rival full-size luxury sedans. It’s not perfect but I’m a fan.
I know the XJ40 is controversial but I can appreciate it for evolving the classic XJ design language. Can you?