New XJ : Why I’m disappointed

Keith Adams


It seems like a week for confessions – several of AROnline‘s readers joined me and came off the fence to admit their positive feelings towards the German cars they own. If you’re in the same boat, do speak out and, conversely, you think we’re off our tree, give it to us with both barrels.

Anyway, here’s another confession. I am underwhelmed by the new Jaguar XJ’s styling. Yes, it’s imposing, yes, it’s modern and, yes… it might tempt a few people out of their Audi A8s, BMW 7 Series and Mercedes-Benz S-Classes, but the lack of innovation is disappointing, especially after the gorgeous XF seemed to work so well.

We’re supposed to go ‘wow’ the first time we see a car of this importance. What did I really think? ‘Meh’…

Don’t get me wrong, it looks good, and there’s undoubtedly plenty of road presence thanks to its full depth plasti-chrome grille and C-XF headlamps, but, now the marque has been rebooted, why not try being a bit braver with the flagship XJ?

The glasshouse is pure Audi, the rear end is less than a happy homage to Bentley’s Continental and only the front end works well as a Jaguar. I’ll no doubt be something of a lone voice in criticising the XJ, but there you go: I am disappointed and I think Ian Callum and his team can do so much better…

This one’s going to run and run.

Keith Adams


  1. The original XJ still has the ‘wow’ factor… but, like Keith, I just don’t get that same deep down excitement from this new design.

  2. I agree about the rear of the XJ but I’ve got to admit, as a package I love it. The front is full of muscle and menace and shape as a whole works very well for me. Better, for me at least, than the XF does. It seems to flow better from front to rear (although the less said about the illegitimate love child of a Bently Continental and Citroen C6 thats masquerading as a Jaguar rear the better), the creases are sharper giving it a more muscular appearance and yet it retains the slightly sinister of previous XJs, almost as though it’s about to be used in a bank robbery, even while sitting still in the picture above. And those headlights? I always wondered why they didn’t carry through to the XF from the prototype. Now I know why. They were being saved for this.

    If my wallet extended to it then I have to say, Jaguar would have at least one order on their books, even with that rear end.

  3. If this was a new flagship Kia we’d be slagging it off, Keith. It’s all pretty studio shots but in the metal we might have another “Geneva Lagonda” on our hands… I hope not. However, the dash does have a P6/Espace 1 homage to it.

    On my drive is a SD1 – I think that with black and chrome Lexusesque lights (urrggghhh) front and rear, flush detailing and glass, and topped with 18″ wheels and buffalo leather upholstery, it would have an equal wow factor.

    Maybe cars have evloved as far as they can go? The last ones to upset the playing field were the McLaren F1 and the Espace/Chrysler minivan.

  4. Sorry Chaps – but I can’t agree. Can you in all honesty tell me you’d buy an A8, 7-Series or S-Class over that?

    It’s nowhere near the monstrosity that was the Geneva Lagonda.

    You might have a point about the SD1 though Mr E.

  5. I think this is as brave as Jaguar could afford to be with this car, given that its design was signed off well before the XF launch and the current financial situation.

    Taking it for what it is; which is a reskin of the existing excellant driving XJ, I think they have given done a credable job.

    It is still conservative in its approach, but then other than the politicians paying for it with our money money, how many of the customers are not going to be conservatives in nature and politics?

  6. I had the initial reaction that it hadn’t gone as far as I’d imagined – but come on, look how far removed it is from the previous XJ which looks positively antedeluvian in comparison. Car design always seems to follow fashions and the new XJ is no exception. If it is to lure people away from the Germanics then it needs to be ‘the same but different’ to convince them it’s a viable choice and not a risk. This is a very, very high end car and not for the feint of wallet which is why I think the rear and interior have a different approach to the XF. Let’s hope that the government are first in line to make this the regular ministerial car.

  7. I agree, I am left feeling no emotion about it. The front doesn’t seem to match the back end. The Interior is – in pictures at least – less stunning than the less messy and more modern XF. The exterior – well I just don’t have anything that comes to mind. Except it remins me of an old Audi A6 and the new Citroen C6 all morphed into one. I dont think it’s a bad car, but it certainly isn’t the stunning advancement I was expecting. Shame…..

  8. I agree – but really hope it looks better in the metal. That dashboard, though: shades of facelift Rover 25 anyone?

  9. Really chaps, what a bunch of miseries! Yes, it could have been truly outrageous, but that would have killed off sales for good. It has an aggressive front end that reinforces the new Jaguar face, and a rear end that evokes luxury. Alright, so the rear might be reminiscent of the Bentley, but when that came out people said it was a copy of the VW Phaeton. The point is that this whispers “luxury car” into the ears of those that matter, the buyers, and most of them do not live in the UK. As for the interior – fabulous!

    Having said that, it is a shame that Jagaur is renewing its models in this order. Instead of the XF, it should have started with a truly iconoclastic XK to shatter all preconceptions, then the XJ and finally the XF (with a new X-Type in due course). Circumstances, however, prevented this from happening.

    By the way, is it now safe for me to admit to driving something that might have been made somewhere near Munich?

  10. I’d say it works up to the back edge of the back doors but then it all goes horribly, horribly wrong. Had they played it a little safer and gone for a conventional 3 box layout (admittedly a smooth slippery coupe-ish one) and lost the black D-pillar this car would have looked superb. I know – I’ve tried it.

  11. I really like it but some detailing seems clumsy.

    As German cars seem to be getting heavier and more lumpen with every generation this looks lithe and refreshing to me.

    I can’t wait to see one in the flesh.

  12. I think I am disappointed that you are disappointed. Merc Audi and BMW only move on their styling incrementally and even Bangle’s flame surfacing was applied to a bog standard 5 series bodyshell. The XJ6 takes the style of the XF and beefs it up considerably as befits the top of the range. So the big question is whether the customer wants a sleek fast back style or is it too much for them and they will stay with the German three box job with a few creases added year on year.

  13. You are all sooooo wrong. It will sell, sell, sell and it will go down as yet another great Jagwah. Hold judgment until you see it in the metal etc.

  14. I agree with Keith to a point. The new XJ looks impressive and I guess in time when a few (or more) are on our roads we will get used to seeing it and affection will grow. Just a pity it does look very much like a “fatter” XF. I think they should have given both cars distinct differences in their styling cues. Having said that, I hope it’s successful for Jaguar!

  15. I can’t fault it – I think it looks superb. It’s big enough to wear the sleek shape, bulging in the right places and not looking pinched, and it looks British (yes, there’s a Bentley reference) and much more like a Jaguar than the XF. I’m surprised they’re not more similar but the XJ is the better. Light years ahead of its predecessor and very much a Jaguar for the 21st century.

  16. Without seeing it in the metal, the front 3/4 does look like a mildly facelifted XF. And how many of those are on the roads? Too few to keep Jaguar afloat I’d warrant.
    There’s almost a Rover 75 look about the grille angle.

  17. There is no way Jaguar could have produced another XJ styled to look like the 1968 original. The last car, despite being a brilliant piece of engineering, bombed because of its styling.

    I think Jaguar have got it spot on with the new car. It has the presence and gravitas of cars like the S Class and 7 Series without being a clone of these vehicles.

    I am also pleased that we haven’t ended up with a rescaled XF. The XJ is its own car. At last the XJ can showcase its aluminium construction and intelligent design with real style.

  18. Oh it’s a Jaguar, I thought it was a new Ford Granada. Seriously though, I too am slightly disappointed in the XJ Keith. It looks to me more like a bloated Mondeo than a jag, and the protruding front grille looks a bit Volvo V70, not a bad thing, but it hardly has the wow factor that the XF had. I’m always upset when model ranges morph into corporate identity rather than stand alone models. Seriously, if you had the cash would you buy one? People will of course, but I’m from Jags spirtual home of Coventry and I wouldn’t want it. Another pointless flagship Jag – why spend all that cash on one of these when you could get a better specced XF for less money?

  19. Obviously Jaguar are trying to creat a new ‘family look’ and it’s brave and modern to appeal to the car buyers of today. Fine. The biggest problem I can see with this particular car is it’s name. If Jaguar is going to put the XJ tag on this on this car they’re unfortunately going to get the traditionalists comparing it to the original and that’s a comparison one would think they’d rather avoid. Personally it would probably have been better to give this car a new name of some sort and let the XJ name pass on. As with many classic cars, any attempt to ‘modernise’ them invariably seems to lead to a certain amount of unfair comparison.

  20. I agree Keith. The XK8 is a beautiful car but Callum’s other designs are not up to the mark and derivative. They should have got Keith Helfet out of retirement; he was the real designer of the original DB7 nee F type.

  21. It suffers from exactly what the Rover P8 did.. and that’s why it’s wrong. It will sell, for the same reason the Bangle BMWs sell: the badge on the front.. and that’s it.

    We have reached a stage where, if the badge is right, it makes no odds how awful the car behind it looks or so it seems.

  22. Flipping heck – two Jags running with a fundamentally similar grill design (albeit here with a Volvo overtone) – are they finally going to get a consistent brand identity like the German competition?

  23. ‘Ere, Stewart – badge on the front? S and X type had the same badge on the front and they didn’t set the world alight. Not sure the old compact 3 series fared very well either and I have to say I’ve barely seen any Benz CLS coupes (pretty but too much of an oddball market segment?). The dire 7 series wasn’t warmed to either. Was the Audi A2 really a success???
    Of course I don’t have the exact sales figures for the above but I honestly think most consumers need a tad more than a badge.

    I think the XJ’s pretty OK by the way.

  24. Keith, I think they have got it about right actually. Pause to think the main buyers will be existing XJ owners and those changing their ugly german offerings. This car offers more for both customers.

    The rear may well be something akin to the Bentley but at least it is a little ‘risque’ for a jag which i think is what you wanted to see.

  25. @Stewart

    Stewart, i think you are about right with the ‘i’ll buy anything if it has the right badge’ remark… surely the best example of this is the absolutely awful BMW 7 series… in my opinion, probably the ugliest car, for the money for sure, on the road. How anyone can drive that lump let alone splash a lot of cash defies belief in any rational sense. I hope we never see the day when a jag becomes truly ugly… i am sure it is not in a Jag’s DNA.

  26. German cars? Our family had an Audi once and it had quite a cheap feel to it. I am not impressed by German cars and I would never get a warm feeling from any of them. I did once get a warm feeling over an Italian car – when the distributor caught fire and I put it out by shoving my jacket over the flames. Happy days. Now I have a rather boring 420GSi Tourer which never catches fire.

  27. My 1992 214Si two-door is a lot less rusty than a lot of younger mercs I see knocking around Newcastle.

  28. I think such a dynamic car will surely meet huge success and high demand phase will at least last for a couple of years. What is sad to admit is that after having extended original XJ design “frozen” for over 40 years, designers team ran completed out of good ideas and, finally, they only released a BMW/MERC/AUDI/LEXUS competitor rather than a new Jaguar. I could have agreed on such a decision for cheaper car (see smaller Jags), but – hey – what about British cars heritage, always a worldwide trademark (as well as guarantee to reach selling targets)? William Lyons did indicate – in the first half of the eighties – the guidelines for the future styling by promoting the XJ40 design… Few months ago he passed away and X300 – in 1994 – seemed to destroy last Lyons job an confirmate traditional XJ styling was the only design resource. XJ40 was then forgotten, and now we’re facing this Jap-Jag. You might this XJ40 wasn’t exactly a marvellous car, but that was the new step (remember the evolution from MKI to MKII? The S-type’s to 420?) Good luck Jaguar guys, I’m not dreaming of a Jag any longer. Domenico (Taranto, Italy)

  29. sorry I wanted to say William Lyons passed away few months later (not ago) XJ40 launch. Sorry. Domenico

  30. The problem I see is that Ian Callum lusts after the S-Class Merc design that, by rights, should have been a Jaguar design. Look very carefully at every edge of that car and it looks like *the* natural evolution of X308, and the cars that came before it. It even has the same critical ‘flaw’ of the sloping boot lid – I say ‘flaw’ because Richard Woolley would perhaps be critical of the S-class shape given his comments on XJ40/X300. S-Class was the benchmark that Callum measured the new XJ design by and in my opinion – after the sudden shock of seeing the car jump through design evolution by two genetrations, the car does seem to be growing on me quite a lot – Although I would like to have seen more implementation of the C-XF interior… even down to the blue strip lighting.
    Altogether controversial? Yes. Can it be ignored? Nope.

  31. I guess it’ll be hard to adjust to the “new look” Jags – after all, most of the big sedans the company has produced over the last 40 years have been evolutions of the 1969 XJ6. Kudos to the original design team for having created such a timeless design. I recently saw an XF on the road in Montreal and it looked great; miles better than the S-Type. The jury is still out on the new XJ – in all fairness it is so different I wonder whether they should have given it a new name.

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