Jaguar stunned the automotive community in 2007, with its then-new XK coupe. The XK looks and drives like a $200,000 Aston Martin, but it costs half as much. It signaled a new, bold era for Jaguar, and many wondered if the storied British automaker could retain its class and sophistication as it lunged into competition with German rivals Mercedes, BMW and Audi.
Now Coventry has redesigned its flagship XJ sedan – a breathtaking motorcar that executes a straddle between classic and cutting edge. This lavish sled boasts the driving dynamics and must-have technology goodies needed to challenge its German rivals. And yet, it offers something none of the German sedans bring to the garage: the intangible aura and warmth of British sophistication, soul and heritage.
Indeed, the XJ’s opulent interior feels more like that of a Bentley or Rolls Royce, but just like the XK coupe (which looks and feels so much like an Aston Martin), the XJ sedan costs about half as much as a new Bentley Flying Spur.
Of course, Jaguar’s XJ remains out of reach for buyers in most tax brackets. Its base price of $71,600 – about the same as a Lexus LS460 -- is hardly plebian, though it is significantly less than a BMW 7-series or Mercedes S-class. Few buyers with this budget place orders for a base model. A typically loaded Jaguar XJ costs anywhere between $90,000 and $112,000. That’s about from $4,000 to $40,000 less than competitors, but don’t let the price tags fool you. Jaguar’s XJ and Audi’s A8 are my favorites (and incidentally the two least expensive) in this prestigious pack.
Thanks to its new aluminum frame, the roomy XJ rolls as quickly and with the agility of a BMW 7-series. Its three available V-8 engines range from 385 to 470 horsepower and launch first-class passengers from 0-60 miles per hour in as few as 4.7 seconds.
As with its styling, the XJ’s road manners blend sporting dynamics with luxurious sophistication, excelling on the speedway and on Broadway alike. In fact, some luxury cars feel downright humdrum and electronic compared to the smooth and soulful XJ.
Inside, the XJ’s passenger cabin is an opulent collage of carbon fiber, warm wood, chrome and leather. A touch-screen navigation system, multiple DVD screens, individual climate zones and fold down “picnic” tray tables emit the ambiance of a Gulfstream private jet, on polished 20-inch wheels. All those touches add up to a prestigious warmth and class not found in sedans south of $200,000.
In all, Jaguar’s redesigned XJ is a game-changer in a field of established stalwarts. Country clubs and nightclubs are awash with BMW and Mercedes sedans. It just takes one glance – or preferably one drive – to learn that Jaguar’s XJ offers personality and spirit unlike the more common German sedans.
For drivers in search of an opulent ride with soul, Jaguar’s surprising balance of timeless with technology simply must be tasted.
The all-new XJ’s leather dash, chrome and carbon fiber accents feel more Bentley or Rolls than Jaguar.
© 2010 John Dickerson