It’s a knockout,” I mused as I slowly walked around the 2011 Jaguar XJ sedan, visually inhaling the vehicle’s bold presence and elegant design features. I see a modern-day classic, exuding avant-garde styling from the curvaceous wheel arches and sleek, coupe-like roofline to the clean design of its posterior.
The new XJ is the latest iteration from Jaguar’s chief designer Ian Callum, whose recent Jag designs have energized the fading British marque and attracted a new generation of younger Jaguaristas. In 2008 Ford Motor Company sold the iconic company to India’s Tata Motors.
Several models of the Jaguar XJ are available, including long-wheelbase versions and three horsepower ratings. All models have drive, sport, automatic, and manual gearshift modes, with one-touch paddles mounted behind the steering wheel to change gears up or down manually.
The standard-wheelbase model has a 5.0-liter 385-horsepower, direct-injection V-8 engine that can sprint from zero to 60 mph in 5.4 seconds. Its supercharged twin has a “cat power” rating of 470 and will reach 60 mph in 4.9 seconds. For those who want their cat on steroids, Jaguar offers a supersport variant rated at 510 horsepower with a zero-to-60 time of only 4.7 seconds.
The XJ’s body shell is made of aluminum and magnesium, using techniques from the aerospace industry. Components are riveted, epoxy-bonded and, in some areas, bolted to form a strong monocoque structure. The benefit is a light frame with exceptional rigidity.
A large number of safety systems are standard. Adaptive cruise control will automatically reduce speed if it senses the car in front of you is moving more slowly.
Advanced braking systems automatically apply more braking pressure if necessary. And the XJ’s blind spot monitor uses radar sensors to remotely cover areas that can’t be seen directly or by mirror.
As I stepped behind the wheel, a contemporary and ultra-luxurious environment awaited me; a panoramic glass roof amplified the cabin’s roominess. The Jaguar name was in the center, but your name could be there instead.
Glove-soft Italian leather abounds, covering all seats, armrest, center console, and heated steering wheel. The cabin craftsmanship is exceptional.
The front seats are heated and cooled, and after a stressful day at work you can activate the optional back massager in the driver’s seat.
The dashboard has a user-friendly, multi-function, high-definition touch screen. Everything from navigation and climate control to audio systems and Bluetooth telephone is controllable by a touch of your finger.
Let’s go for a ride. Press the pulsing red “start” button on the dash to wake up the cattery. Notice how the round gear selector control rises up in your hand and how the XJ’s “virtual instrument panel” enables you to call up on touch pads various car functions and view them on virtual dials, as I did, on a screen behind the steering wheel. What’s next? Virtual driving?
I pointed the XJ toward Château County and let the buttery steering wheel in my hands effortlessly guide me along winding roads. When I asked the cathouse under my foot to elevate the growl level, I experienced a seat-of-the-pants response and a more vibrant purring sound from the exhaust.
The price of the 2011 XJ sedan is $72,500; the XJ supercharged model is $87,500; and the XJ supersport model is $112,000. Long wheelbase editions range from $79,500 to $115,000.