Until its most recent redesign, the Jaguar XJ has had a familiar shape: fronted by round headlights, with a tapered rear end and not a lot to separate the older ones from the newer models. That all changed, and tradition was traded for a modern look with some surprisingly forward-looking design elements.
The XJ does everything to discard the past and recast its lot within today's crop of ultra-luxury executive sedans. The rear pillars are hidden by gloss-black panels, which is supposed to have them flow visually into the rear glass. The grille is in a pronounced inset, framed by cat-eye headlights that integrate large circular elements. The fenders swell in sync with the low roofline. The look is almost without flaw--but we do think that the rear roof pillar is begging for a brushed-aluminum surface. It's a beautiful shape overall, recalling older French design as much as anything else..
In stark contrast to the spare exterior design, the XJ's interior comes across as almost too glitzy and over-the-top. The massive glass sunroof drenches the cabin in sunlight, playing up its square feet of wood and chrome. The round 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. And there's a soft opulence to the leather headliner, upgraded leather seats, and laser-inlaid wood trim. The only judgment call that we question is the use of piano black trim throughout the dash--something that's as common on Kias as it is Jaguars today. At least in the Jaguar's defense, it's a richer finish and less likely to show scratches
While we're picking nits, the XJ's interior designers clearly saved time by keeping the former car's dash 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.
The latest XJ takes a step toward more advanced interfaces, and provides what some might see as a little more visual dazzle than is necessary. 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, indicating performance driving modes with a soft red glow. There's also an LCD touchscreen that controls climate, audio, and navigation functions, with some redundancy from real buttons. We welcome the buttons, since the screen can take some time to react to selections.