The next-generation Jaguar XJ, expected to be launched around 2019, will be “something that is visually stunning on the outside and luxurious inside”, according to design boss Ian Callum.
Jaguar Land Rover is believed to have hotly debated the new XJ as it evaluated how to develop a flagship design for the next generation of cars while boosting sales in a class dominated by the Mercedes-Benz S-Class. Discussions are understood to have swung as widely as dropping it from the line-up and developing a large SUV, to sticking with an ultra-conventional saloon.
Callum said the next generation could have a higher roofline to improve the rear packaging, but other changes could be more “nuanced”. The decision to stick with a saloon is said to be motivated by it still being recognised in most markets as a key differentiator of premium brands.
“The XJ today isn’t a traditional limousine,” said Callum. “It balances style, performance and comfort in a unique way. It’s a car with many admirers and it’s a car that establishes Jaguar’s credentials in quite a cool way.
“We could address head room, but other changes could be more detailed. We have a cool car. We don’t want to lose that.”
XJ to live on as super-luxury hybrid
After months of debate Jaguar bosses have finally pushed the button on reinventing the XJ as an “indulgent, super-luxury” car.
The new XJ is likely to feature mixed-materials body construction, a new-generation V6 hybrid drivetrain, an entirely fresh look for the interior and much more of the technology needed for connected and autonomous driving.
It’s expected to arrive in showrooms in spring 2019 and a concept version could be seen in 2018, the 50th anniversary of the original XJ. The image above shows Autocar's expectations for the model.
According to inside sources, the debate on how to replace Jaguar’s flagship model was wide-ranging. Some in the company thought the XJ could be remade as a kind of super-SUV similar in concept to the Range Rover Sport.
Others proposed an end for the XJ, believing the investment in a large saloon to take on the Mercedes-Benz S-Class might not make a sound business case. Sales of today’s XJ have risen steadily to 20,000 units per year, but that’s only a fraction of S-Class sales.
It was also suggested that the latest XF had undermined the case for the new XJ to be a conventional big saloon. Today’s XF, which is based on the latest D7a aluminium architecture, is marginally more spacious than the current seven-year-old XJ.
Autocar understands that debate over the XJ’s future went right up the chain of command to Ratan Tata, father of the Indian brand that owns Jaguar Land Rover (JLR). As recently as summer last year, an XJ replacement wasn’t even on the official model cycle plan.
In the past few weeks, Jaguar design boss Ian Callum obliquely referred to the future of the XJ while taking about the F-Pace. When asked by Autocar if the F-Pace SUV would, like Volvo’s XC90, become Jaguar’s de facto flagship, he disagreed.
“Proper luxury brands have to have an indulgent car in there somewhere,” he said. “We’ve got two: the XJ and the F-Type. If you want the room of an XJ, you might as well buy an XF — there’s not much in it — but the whole point of luxury is indulgence, so you need a car like that, something that acts as the bookend for the brand. I think we will always have that.”
Autocar understands from various other sources that the decision to replace the XJ and the form it should take was made in the light of a number of market developments.
The first was the huge success of the current S-Class, which confounded analysts’ forecasts that conventional luxury saloons were being undermined by SUVs and perceived as upmarket taxis.
Indeed, at the Geneva show, BMW board member Ian Robertson underlined the primacy of the super-luxury saloon when he insisted the new Rolls-Royce Phantom would be the brand’s flagship rather than the Cullinan SUV.
The second development was the arrival of the new BMW 7 Series, which introduced a hybrid bodyshell using carbonfibre, steel and aluminium. The lavish interiors and craftsmanship of the BMW and Mercedes cabins also made Jaguar planners realise how far the bar in the premium market has been raised.
Jaguar bosses also know their brand needs to catch up in terms of serious drivetrain electrification and autonomous driving technologies.
Finally, a new XJ saloon will provide an opportunity for Jaguar to develop a new generation of design language, both inside and out, especially now the XE/XF/F-Pace family has been launched.
Autocar understands the new XJ will be based on the same basic D7a aluminium architecture, with sections of the structure replaced by lightweight carbonfibre.
Because the JLR aluminium platform is constructed using rivets and adhesive, it is remarkably straightforward to incorporate carbonfibre panels and structures. The upshot is a structure that will be lighter and stiffer, which is especially important if the XJ is sold mainly as a V6 plug-in hybrid.
The new XJ’s drivetrain is rumoured to be built around an all-new V6 Ingenium engine. A spin-off from the threecylinder Ingenuim engine being prepared for a Range Rover Evoque hybrid, the new six-pot will replace the current AJ-V6 engine, sister unit of the AJ-V8, which dates from 2000.
The new V6 will be offered in petrol and diesel forms, but there’s no news yet about whether the new XJ hybrid transmission will be coupled to one or both fuel types.
The company’s design team is said to be determined to completely reboot the idea of a Jaguar interior and significantly upgrade the interior quality and treatment.
The styling is expected to be much more luxurious and lavish than the XE’s and XF’s and will feature a more radical digital screen treatment for the instruments and even touchscreens for both the infotainment and transmission control on the centre console.
It’s encouraging for Jaguar — which, ahead of the start of F-Pace sales, remains a relatively small company — that the investment in the new XJ will go mainly into the interior, because the common platform and transmission strategy across JLR is now paying dividends.
Executing a reinvention of the XJ — a model widely regarded as the best car in the world when it was launched in 1968 — will not be easy, but Jaguar needs to stay in contention with its German opposition.However, the good news is that a new XJ will rely more on sheer creativity than the need for massive capital investments.