The new Jaguar XJ is one of the few new cars that can truly be described as a ‘mould breaker’.
It breaks the big Jaguar mould set in 1968 by the first XJ.
So venerated was the XJ’s design, that even when it was working on the current, all-aluminium XJ, Jaguar felt it couldn’t move away from the low-rise look.
In fact, company engineers had to work very hard to get the XJ’s aluminium panels to stay in shape when they were stamped out.
In truth, Jaguar was literally working against the grain of high-tech material by trying to bend it into an old-school shape.
The new XJ has been freed from such aesthetic restrictions. But it also marks an unexpected leap into the future. Viewed in light of the success of the conventionally handsome, and highly successful, XF saloon, the XJ is something of a surprise.
Rather than building on the XF, the new XJ is much more of a risky move. The low nose and high tail is expectedly modern. However, the devil is in the detailed execution.
The big, bold, grille (which is mounted proud of the rest of the nose) looks like a giant jet air intake. It also dwarfs the slim headlamp units that were first seen on the C-XF concept.
So while the front end is modern and agreeably progressive, the rear is much more unexpected. The combination of upright light clusters that wrap over into the rear wing tops, the unusual boot shut line and the blacked out c-pillar probably add up to the most unexpected Jaguar since the XJ-S was unveiled in 1975.
When I first saw the XJ in the flesh, I have to admit that I struggled slightly with the tall, wrap-over, lights although I can see a welcome hint of Italian glamour about the rear.
The black C-pillar, however, remains a mystery to me. It is a plastic moulding that lines up with the rear screen, but not much else. It is also a slightly different shade of black to the surrounding rubber seals and the black tinting of the edges of the surrounding windows.
Add these hurdles to the fact that there are a significant number of cut and shut lines around the rear of the glasshouse and the result – to my eyes at least – just doesn’t achieve the effect of the side windows sweeping around into the rear screen.
Sure, the XJ would look more of conventional limo without the black C-pillar, but we might see a few owners asking dealers to paint the plastic cover in body colour.
The same thing is happening to a few Mini Clubmans around my way because owners don’t like the wide black strip around the rear doors.
There’s no doubt that the new XJ is imposing and satisfyingly modern – especially at the front end. It’s just that, initially at least, your eye can’t help straying back to a styling flourish that interrupts up the car’s flowing surfaces.
Only time and feedback from buyers will reveal this as either a clever, futuristic move or a step too far. But it won’t seriously hamper the first truly modern XJ for four decades.