Jul 13 2009 Chris Russon
Jaguar beauty through the eye of a raptor
RAPTOR eyes and claws of cat. It sounds more like a witches' brew than Jaguar's design chief talking about the sensational new XJ saloon.
Ian Callum is in exuberant mood. The 54-year-old Scot and his design team at Jaguar's R&D centre at Whitley in Coventry have had fun creating the new XJ - and it shows.
Launched to the world at a Hollywood-style premiere at the Saatchi Gallery in London, the new Jaguar has the same hallmarks of superstardom as those on the guest list such as supermodel Elle McPherson and former Baywatch star David Hasselhoff.
Callum is becoming more daring with his designs and the new XJ is without peers.
He has thrown constraint out of the window and gone for a style which is utterly distinctive yet as classy as a Jaguar should be.
The award winning XF, launched last year, gave a clue of Jaguar's new design direction. The XJ moves that into a new dimension.
Any suggestion that big Jaguar saloons have to be stuffy and old fashioned has been consigned to the history book.
The oblong grille is more upright than that of the XF and dominates the front, there is a bulge in the bonnet - a trait of the original XJ from the 1960s - and the car has a delightfully swish coupe-like profile.
The clever stuff starts with the side windows which have been stretched almost to the body limits at the rear to make the XJ appear as sleek as possible.
Then comes the 'jewellery' which makes the XJ stand out from the pack.
The angular xenon headlamps are what Callum calls the raptor eyes which give the XJ such a dominating head-on appearance.
The cat's claws are the bands of white in the rear lamp clusters which sweep from the back over the top of the wings and are visible from the side giving the XJ an additional stand out factor.
Add on the brightwork of the twin exhausts, the leaping Jaguar emblem on the boot and the shiny side gills and the XJ is a class act from any angle. It's conservative, pure and very desirable.
Inside the XJ is ultra modern while remaining absolutely luxurious, the cabin getting an extra touch of light from a panoramic glass roof.
Leather upholstery and trim and high gloss piano black wooden inserts outlined in chrome give the car the same quality feel as the likes of a Bentley.
A band of wooden veneer sweeps across the top of the facia which is dominated by round air vents and a 'proper' analogue clock.
That is the only concession to convention. The remainder of the instrumentation is absolutely high tech.
A TFT screen in front of the driver shows virtual dials with graphics so good you would hardly know it's an electronic image while the full colour touch screen in the middle of the dash uses the latest dual view magic which enables the driver to see one display while the front seat passenger can look at another.
It means the driver can see the sat nav display at the same time as a DVD is being watched from the other seat.
Other DVD screens are mounted in the back of the head restraints while on a 20 speaker, 1,200 watt Bowers & Wilkins surround sound system can be fitted which, as Callum says, makes the XJ the fastest concert hall in the world.
When it goes on sale later in the year the new XJ - to be built alongside the XF at Jaguar's Castle Bromwich works in Birmingham - will be available in either short or long wheelbase forms with the latter offering almost six extra inches of legroom in the rear.
Priced from £52,500 to £88,000 it will use Jaguar's latest petrol and diesel engines which made their debut in the XF earlier this year.
All are great performers with the 3.0-litre V6 diesel offering high performance with 40mpg economy while the supercharged five-litre V8 is likely to make the relatively lightweight all-aluminium XJ one of the world's finest sports saloons.
At long last it looks as if Britain's high flyers have a home made model which is more than a match for anything the likes of BMW, Audi or Mercedes can deliver.