Jaguar will be keen to reclaim some of the XJ’s heyday back in the late 90s, when the car sold nearly 10,000 XJs a year in the UK alone. That was when the new AJ-V8 engines had just spruced up the reskinned X300 version of the XJ40.

The XJ has since lost that lustre, despite its advanced aluminium chassis. That’s largely because of the relentless popularity of the Mercedes S-class, now the default choice for self-made businessmen or company directors.

S-class sales in the UK overtook the XJ’s in 2001. The XJ reclaimed the top spot between 2003 and 2005, but in some years since then the S-class has outsold the Jaguar two to one.

The good news for Jaguar is that the tables will be turned next year, according to forecasts by consultant IHS Global Insight. In its first year of sale (2010) the new XJ is expected to top the table again, and IHS predicts this lead to last until 2014 at least.

There’s competition from elsewhere, though, meaning that a return to 10,000 sales a year is not likely in the near future.

“Traditional saloons such as the XJ face huge competition from 4x4s,” says Colin Couchman, analyst at IHS Global Insight. In the UK, the top 10 luxury SUVs outsell the equivalent 10 luxury saloons three to one.