I really can’t point the exact moment where luxury cars stopped being about how comfortable, refined and enjoyable they could make the journey for the plutocrat driving it and more about just how many gizmos and new technology they could fit in them. But even on a sea of computers and automatic gearboxes with ten settings for the ferocity of the gearchanges (can I have mine on “Fluid Drive”?) you could always turn to Jaguar for your old-fashioned, luxury car needs. Or at least you could until this went out of production. Although that may not necessarily be a bad thing.
For starters, the designs and the interior accommodations may have been old fashioned, but the underpinnings were fantastically modern. Aluminum construction, multi-link suspension rear suspension and optional adjustable air suspension would certainly make monocles pop-out, or at least bring back horrible, horrible memories of Hydragas suspensions. The new for 2004 XJ’s (or Forduars as some call them) were bigger in every dimension – the new short-wheelbase was three inches longer than the previous models long-wheelbase – and they were also much wider and taller than its predecessor, although weighed roughly the same.
I like the design, but comparing it to the previous design you can see why some people call it bloated. It really does seem like someone took an air compressor to an X308 and filled it like it was a bouncy castle. The unfortunate grille did it no favors either. But compared to the big cars of its time it looks the part. It was arugably better looking than the 7-Series and the Maseratti Quattroporte and about on par with the S-class and the Audi A8, but where the XJ won was with its interior.
Yes, I know that everyone, especially Britons, are tired of the stereotypical Mary Poppins, Jane Austen, Tweed, Tally-Ho-vicar heritage that England is all too commonly associated with. But when it comes to applying that to automotive interior design it just means that you end up with a lovely place to sit and rack up the miles. Yes, it may cause you to want to put a picture of the queen on the dash on occasion, but that just means that you find the interior homely. Nothing wrong with that if you ask me. Pair it up with the supercharged V8 and you end up with the ultimate gentleman’s express.
Speaking of which, in Europe you could get these with one of the best diesels available at the time: a 2.7-liter twin-turbo V6 that was a joint venture of Ford in conjunction with Peugeot, it developed 201 horsepower and 321 lb-ft of torque. That meant 35 MPG and 0-60 in 8.2 seconds. The XJ6 name also made a comeback, with a 3.0-liter unit producing 232 horses. Neither of those engines made it stateside. There you only had the 4.2-liter AJ-V8 in either naturally-aspirated 300 hp or Supercharged 400 hp flavor. Woe. Regardless of engine, the transmission was a ZF-sourced 6-speed automatic.
The one I dreamed about as a kid however was this: the 155 MPH Super V8 Portfolio. What it was, essentially, was a long-wheelbase Jaguar Vanden Plas (Daimler in europe) with the Supercharged V8 of the XJR. It was the most expensive Jaguar for sale at the time. 2007 brought a facelift, coded X358, that brought a much needed new grille, other styling details and new front seats that improved rear legroom without sacrificing comfort. Everything else remained unchanged. But for those that were disappointed in how little it had changed, Jaguar had quite the surprise in store. A surprise that had been in development since 2006 and that was locked in even before the X358 was launched to the public.
It was only a matter of time before Jaguar decided to move as far away from the “Heritage Britain” image as humanly possible. Jaguar’s chief designer, Ian Callum, had already modernized the image of the brand with the XK in 2007 and the XF in 2008. A complete revision of the big Jag that’d bring it in line with the rest of the lineup was inevitable. In 2009 the all-new XJ was released and…Alright, there’s no subtle way of writing this. It lost absolutely everything that made it distinctive. It still screams “Big Car” and that’s a very good thing. Unfortunately, it no longer screams “Jaguar”. And some of the styling touches, like the blacked-out D-pillar, just don’t make sense at all. Maybe they’re there to make us think that there was an error in the factory when building it so we get some of that old BL-vibe.
However, you won’t hear me complaining even a tiny little bit about the interior, it’s absolutely fantastic to my eyes. Yes, it stopped looking like the inside of a country house and started looking like a nightclub. But I’m sorry, I adore it. The subtle touches of brushed aluminum and despite having a touchscreen, it still has buttons and thus remains usable. The interior itself is bathed in customizable lighting. And then we get to the LCD screen which, apart from being absolutely gorgeous, brings untold possibilities to the dashboard. To mention one, in case something goes pear-shaped the dash is not limited to give you a vague idiot light, but instead can pop up a large icon with a description of the problem, which would be easier to see and more difficult to ignore.
Ideally, I’d love to have this interior on an old-style XJ, as it would’ve been absolutely sensational. The Jag purists would’ve loved the fact that the exterior kept true to the image that Sir William Lyons envisioned when creating the first XJ yet updated for the gadget-obsessed limo buyer of today. Such a buyer would’ve considered the Jag because it looked different from all the S-Classes in their pay grade’s parking lot but without sacrificing much in the way of toys. As it stands, the current XJ just looks like another big car, but we can take solace in one thing…
…you can still have it with brown leather and wood.
Curbside pictures courtesy of William Stopford