I had breakfast with Jaguar on Friday. A small gathering at the Saatchi Gallery, the morning after the big, celebrity laden launch party, gave me the chance to get up close and personal with the new addition to an ever impressive modern Jaguar range. With the deserved success of the Jaguar XF (I'll have a new 2010 model in for a full review soon) under its belt, and the second generation XK proving that Jag can do dynamics, just as well as sumptuous luxury, the new XJ had a lot to live up to.
But the real challenge will be living up to the long and prestigious history of the XJ line. The XJ was always an aspirational car, a vehicle that represented a certain level of achievement - exactly the car in fact that my father always wanted to own. Luckily for him he lived his dream and did drive an XJ6 for a while, and I'll admit that I enjoyed every family outing and trip to school in that car. Adding to that history the competition in the luxury saloon market is intense these days. With the likes of BMW, Mercedes, Audi and even Lexus all competing with Jaguar in the XJ space, this new car really needed to be something special.
The good news for Jaguar is that the new XJ really does appear to be something special, both from the outside, and more importantly, on the inside too. For decades the styling of the XJ has been evolutionary at best, but the new XJ is, at the risk of sounding cliché, revolutionary. OK, maybe revolutionary is a little bit strong, considering that there are many visual aspects shared with the very handsome XF, but the XJ is just that bit more stylish, imposing and downright muscular. This is a car that looks mean, no angry from the front - an aspect that Jaguar was keen to point out, calling it the "rear view mirror effect". Yes it's good marketing speak, but I've got to agree - if you see an XJ in your mirror hurtling towards you, you probably would move aside.
Despite being an obviously large car, the new XJ has a smooth look reminiscent of a coupe, rather than a saloon. I know that Mercedes started this trend with its CLS, but at least Jag isn't actually calling the XJ a coupe! That coupe look does mean that the window line is pretty high, and the windows themselves are relatively small, but if you think that means the cabin will be dark, you're very wrong. You see the XJ also sports a panoramic glass roof as standard, so that beautiful cabin will always be light and airy.
The rear of the car is probably the biggest departure from the traditional XJ styling. Many have already commented that the rear is very Bentley-like, and I can see their point. However, having not been bowled over when I saw the leaked pictures a couple of days ago, when I saw the car first hand I was far more convinced. The way the rear light clusters come up and over the boot line just makes your eye follow that crease all the way along the car. And the three LED brake lights - nicknamed the cats claws by Jag - really do look the part.