|May 06, 2010
||Posted By: Paul Brian
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Even they say it themselves: "Nobody needs a Jaguar."
I suppose they're right, although it did sound strange to hear it from the mouth of one of the storied marque's top executives. What they do freely and happily acknowledge is that while no one needs a Jag, it's hard to find anyone who wouldn't want one. And just so you know early on, I'm one of those who has wanted one for a long time, but for one reason or another, one hasn't appeared in my driveway-yet--but in the spirit of any old-time revival, "There is still time, brother!"
The toughest part is that they keep making it more difficult to choose which one I'd select--and I'll be darned if they didn't go ahead and compromise my thought processes about what I'd select as a full size luxo-sedan if I were in that market. Up until last week's trip to LA to preview the new XJ8, I had thought that my choice would be an Audi A8L. Why? Well, it just seemed to do everything correctly and without a lot of fuss, great seats, instrumentation and power. "Oh, come on, Paul! You can find that in a lot of brand offerings, can't you?" you'd write and ask. Well, yes, but there's a certain element that almost defies description or definition that has just made the XJ8 the new leader in the clubhouse.
So let's first walk around the outside of the car. Perhaps you should bring a drool rag as we do, though. Slobbering is so--Lady Gaga--and we're about to walk around Jennifer Aniston. Cars like this don't develop over a year or two. They're on the boards for a lot longer (more like 4-5 years before seeing production models roll) and still, the designer of the car, Ian Callum, is effusive when he talks about the new XJ. He didn't take the assignment lightly. His excitement is contagious.
This is a car that looks elegant, yet seriously able to deliver when asked.
"You have to be very careful when you're drawing a car like this," Callum said. "You want it to be new and fresh and yet every Jaguar (and he says it just the way you hear it when a Brit or Scot lets it slide out in proper dialect) has to have certain elements: Style, Sport, Materials and Heritage. If you go too far with any of those elements the overall effect is vulgarity, and that's not what an XJ, especially, is about. We tended to think about things that we could leave out rather than new things we could add. In any case, all of the elements are addressed. As you walk about the car, you're almost frozen in spots to watch how lines delineate, compliment, offset, create shadows, aggression, and the appearance of power--both potential and kinetic. It's beautiful and the best part is that you're not going to see yourself coming and going on a regular basis. Part of the charm and desirability of this car is its exclusivity. They're going to build two lengths of the car, one "normal" wheelbase and the other an "L" extended-length version. They're thinking that the majority of the US sales for XJ will be in the normally aspirated V8 "L" model.
Perhaps Callum was sounding a bit like Coco Chanel, who was famous to say, "When leaving your home, look in the mirror and take one thing off."
Get in the car with me, please. Oh yeah. Oh yeah. This must be where people get hooked on the leather thing. It's not only supple and beautifully styled, but when you slide into the driver's seat it just seems . . . right. The instrument panel is laid out logically and much lower than the older XJ. I was surprised that Callum had opted for air vents that were (to me) reminiscent of the original 1986 XJ wheels