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Techno Tour de Force

When it comes to technology Jaguar has really pushed the boat out. For a start, the new XJ has no physical dials on its dashboard. Yep, that's right, no dials, no gauges, no needles, nothing. Instead there's a 12.3in TFT screen that can display, well, pretty much anything really.

The default dash layout places a speedometer at the centre, a rev counter on the right and temperature and fuel gauges on the left. However, the left and right areas are completely customisable, so you could, for instance, display the satellite navigation map on the left, while the right side can be used to cycle through the car's plethora of infotainment menus. Oh, and if you happen to select the Dynamic drive mode, the dials take on a red hue, while the currently selected gear is highlighted on the left and glows red when it's time to change up.

Another innovative display medium is the 8in dual-view LCD screen in the centre console. Like most screens of this type, it's used to visualise and navigate the car's infotainment system, but this screen has a neat little trick up its sleeve. The dual-view moniker is referring to the fact that the driver and passenger can be viewing entirely different content on the screen simultaneously. So, if the passenger wanted to watch a DVD movie, not only would that not distract the driver, but the driver could still be viewing the sat-nav at the time.

I didn't have a chance to play with the dual-view functionality of the centre screen, but I'm looking forward to putting it through its paces when I get my paws on a review car. In case you're wondering how it works, the system is based on alternate lines of pixels being angled in different directions - in other words, you've got two screens interweaved, but with entirely different viewing angles.

The XJ also comes equipped with a 30GB hard disk, which is used for storing the maps for the sat-nav, as well as acting as mass storage for the media hub. And since all XJ models come with a Bowers & Wilkins sound system, you can rip your CDs to the hard disk as uncompressed WAV files, ensuring the best possible sound quality. The car also has the Gracenote database built into it, so all your artist and track information will automatically be tagged to each file as it's ripped. I did ask how Jaguar was planning to keep the Gracenote database current, and whether it would require the owner to take the car back to a dealer, but I was told that the updating solution is yet to be confirmed.

The Bowers & Wilkins sound system comes in three different flavours, depending on your audio needs and, of course, your budget. The top of the range system pumps out 1200W of power through 20 speakers, with support for Dolby Pro Logic IIx and DTS Neo:6 for multi-channel surround sound. So, whether you're listening to music or watching a DVD, you'll be treated to high quality audio.

I spent some time sampling the top end B&W system, and sound quality is simply staggering. In fact, if I closed my eyes, I could easily have imagined that I was sitting in a listening room, on a very comfortable chair. What's so impressive is the fact that no matter where you're sitting in the car, you feel like you're in the sweet spot - mainly because Jaguar and B&W have engineered the soundstage to sit at the end of the bonnet, rather than in the cabin, making you feel like you're in the audience at a concert.

And don't think that the 1200W of power is all about window shattering volume levels, oh no. What this system gives you is enough power to make sure that you've got all the high end clarity you could want, coupled with thumping (but never distorted) bass, while never losing the mid-range, like so many in-car stereos do. Of course you've got USB ports for connecting iPods, MP3 players or USB sticks. While you also get both FM and DAB radio, along with analogue and digital TV tuners.

If you opt for the rear entertainment package, you'll get a further two 8in LCD screens mounted in the headrests of the front seats, and a wireless, touch-screen remote control, so that the rear passengers can control the media hub. For ultimate flexibility, there's an option for up to three sets of wireless headphones to connect to the system, so that all three passengers could, if so desired, watch three different movies without disturbing each other. And it goes without saying that the audio is streamed to the wireless headphones uncompressed for maximum sound quality.

On top of all that, there's full voice control, Bluetooth mobile phone support, A2DP audio streaming over Bluetooth and a host of other gadgets to play with. When I secure a review car I'll be testing all the technology that the XJ has to offer, so check back for the full story.

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