The new XJ isn’t all about great design, Jaguar has also squeezed some seriously cutting edge technology into its flagship car. Top of that list for me is that dashboard, which features no physical dials whatsoever. Although many manufacturers have tried doing away with analogue dials in favour of a digital dash, Jaguar has created a truly virtual dashboard.
Instead of a traditional instrument cluster, the XJ sports a 12.3in LCD screen, which can, in theory at least, display anything you’d like. Since its main duty is to be an instrument panel there are some limitations on what it can do – primarily this means that the speedometer must be displayed at all times, as is the law in the UK. The speedo sits at the centre of the virtual cluster, which means that there are two other dials/sections that can offer a little more flexibility.
The right side of the dash can be used to navigate the cars extensive menus without having to interact with the centre console screen. Since the steering wheel has more controls than you can shake a stick at, there’s almost no reason to ever move your hands away from the wheel, or look anywhere but straight ahead. Obviously you don’t really want to be delving too deep into the car’s menus while you’re driving, but it’s nice to have everything under your thumbs.
The left side of the dash can also adapt to your needs, and this is highlighted when you use the car’s satellite navigation system. When navigation is activated, the left side of the dash will periodically display the map and indicate where you’re supposed to be going. It’s a step up from the usual arrow or roundabout symbol that most other cars offer in their dash display, and because the map isn’t there constantly, it’s not a distraction to the driver.
Another nice feature of the virtual dash is the way that the numbers surrounding the needle’s current position are highlighted, making it easy to check your speed or revs with the briefest of glances. Oh, and the way the dials turn red when the Dynamic mode is engaged is undoubtedly cool, despite being nothing but eye candy.
But the best thing about the virtual dashboard in the XJ is just how damn good it looks. I had fully expected the display to be hard to read in direct sunlight, or from an angle, but it simply isn’t. Even if you wear polarized sunglasses (as I do), the virtual dash is still pin sharp and easy to see. That in itself is quite an achievement, since polarized lenses can often play havoc with LCD displays, making it hard to read anything.