Sleek and glam, the Jaguar XJ was not such a looker just a few years ago. When it switched to an all-aluminum body in the 2004 model year, it emerged with too-conservative sheetmetal that all but hid its new lightness from sight.
With today's shape, Jaguar never can go back to that past, and to that, we say...whew. The 2013 XJ's all about showing off its body, to the point where some of the excessive details could use a Chanel moment in front of the mirror.
The shape is so avant garde, the need to remove some accessories doesn't call itself out at first pass.
Some callbacks to the Rapide aside, the XJ does everything to discard the past, and to recast its lot with the modern crop of ultra-luxury executive sedans. The fenders swell in sync with the low roofline, and the grille's embossed in sharp relief now, while the rear pillars sail almost out of sight, when seen in profile. It's intriguing, and almost without flaw--but the treatment of that back roof pillar in black cries out for a brushed-aluminum look. The bracket-shaped LED taillamps call out the spareness of the XJ's rear end: it can seem too spare, or directly inspired by some Citroen greatness. In the past, the first-generation Mercedes CLS struck us as the most French of the non-Gallic four-doors; the XJ's smartly trumped that status.
It's inside where the XJ could pare down some of its glitzy details. It's a wiki of classy, but a few of the details are slighted by finish. The massive glass sunroof drenches the cabin in sunlight, playing up its square feet of wood and chrome. The bubbled-up air vents, the pop-up transmission controller and wide bands of wood on the doors and dash neatly distill the themes of the other Jaguar cars, with notable side adventures. A leather headliner, upgraded leather seats and laser-inlaid wood trim and new custom trim options bring nouveau opulence to the game.
In all it's a decadent place to sit--but the liberal use of piano-black plastic and metallic trim is one of those taste borderlines that might have been tripped over. The stuff's a fingerprint magnet, for sure. Then again, so's an Apple iPad. While we're picking nits, the XJ's dash clearly saved time by keeping the former car's structure. We'll admire the efficiency and maybe even swallow the styling line about the big band of wood on the dash echoing the lines of a luxury speedboat, but we're just as inclined to see a lot of Nissan Maxima in the way it's carved out a lot of the old dash's visual heft.
You should also be a technophile if you plan on savoring the XJ's electronic platter of delights. The gauges and secondary controls all but abandon real dials for a large high-definition LCD screen that displays all the usual functions, while also changing colors subtly to indicate performance driving modes with a soft red glow. There's also an LCD touchscreen that interfaces driver and climate, audio and navigation functions without using buttons. It's all very Starship: Enterprise, not at all Jefferson Starship in the way the old XJ might have handled the same cues.