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2004, Jaguar, XJ

It takes a lot for a company to put a car on hold. Jaguar made the hard decision to delay it's 7th generation XJ series and it will prove to be the right decision. For years Jaguar was known as the beautiful car with the electrical problems - buy two, you'll need one to drive while the other is in the shop. Not anymore. Jaguar has increased sales - in 2001 Jaguar's annual global sales passed 100,000 for the first time. This comes with a price, a price for future generations. You see, the market only sales so many cars a year. If one vehicle generates a lot of sales, another vehicle losses sales. This catches the attention of the sore loser. Jaguar took sales from Mercedes, Lexus and BMW and in order to continue that lead they are going to have to continue to make a spectacular car. Hence the reason for the delay. Jaguar took the first of the twelve step program and admitted it had a problem. Instead of trying to fool the public and cause more problems it sidelined the car for four months to get it right.

More than half of all Jaguars ever made have been the flagship XJ-series. "This all-new car had to be clearly identifiable as an XJ, capturing the recognised essence and style of the classic lineage... but it also had to have a modern idiom all of its own." Ian Callum, Director of Design. According to Callum, "The new XJ is a luxury car with a true sense of gravitas. The proportions, stance and obvious dynamic quality clearly display that all-important Jaguar DNA and give it real presence on the road." Simply put, The new Jaguar is sophisticated and sensuous, the all-new saloon embodies the XJ heritage and is true in every respect to the glorious tradition of the XJ.

When you think of aluminum most people think of soda cars. Think again. Think airplanes. Think of the not only the same type of aluminum as an airplane but the same construction. Take those images of Rosie the riveter pounding in your head and add the same powerful aerospace-sourced epoxy adhesives, or bonding agents, that the aerospace people use and you've got an idea of how tightly this machine is made. The aluminium body is primarily a conventional monocoque, or unibody, construction, however structural castings and extrusions are used locally to enhance the body structure and reduce the overall panel count. The technique, they say, will allow the new XJ to be repaired more easily and cheaper than its predecessor. On the top vehicle, the difference in poundage is about 440 pounds. And those are real pounds in one year, folks, not just the same five pounds lost eighty odd times. Amazingly, the XJ looks larger than the X-type, but weighs less. The advantages are clear - 40% ligher than steel, a 60% stiffer body, better gas mileage and higher performance. Hmmm, I'm thinking of cancelling that plastic surgeon's appointment and calling an aluminum surgeon for a consultation.

Work on what was known as project X350 was started by the late Geoff Lawson but completed under the direction of the current Jaguar design chief, Ian Callum. The Jaguar design team has subtly transformed the proportions of the new XJ. Longer, taller and wider than its predecessor - which results in more room for occupants and luggage alike. Relative to the current short-wheelbase car, the new XJ is 2.4 inches longer and 2.7 inches wider, but has a wheelbase that is 6.4 inches longer. That is translated into rear-seat legroom, which is now generous and a trunk with lid hinges that have been repositioned outside the load area. The biggest challenge for the designers was making the new XJ 4.3 inches taller. The front overhang is reduced, the dome higher and the windscreen rake is less steep, making it faster. If you see old and new alongside one another they are very different, but the new XJ is still unmistakable as a Jaguar.

Headlights are vital in setting the tone for the look of any car. Jaguar's headlights have evolved into a more distinct element of the front-end style. Now oval in shape, they are arranged in a classic quad design, positioned either side of a new grille that has intersecting vertical and horizontal bars that takes its inspiration from the original 1968 XJ6 (XJR models have a different grille).

This makes it all the more poignant that the famous XJ6 badge is making a return in the new XJ range, taking its place alongside the XJ8, XJR and new XJ Super V8 models.

"The interior of the new XJ is epitomised by true craftsmanship, a sense of greater space and what I believe are the most comfortable seats we have ever designed. There is a warmth and richness that welcomes you into the car and makes you feel special." Ian Callum, Director of Design.

New levels of spaciousness, craftsmanship, ergonomic flexibility and comfort exemplify the new XJ's cabin. Designed from the outset to satisfy the determination that a driver - and any passengers - should always get out of a Jaguar feeling better than when they entered, the interior of the new XJ is the epitome of contemporary luxury, tailored to meet the needs of today's demanding prestige car customers. Here is a car with a warmth and richness that cossets the occupants.

Increased space in every respect - headroom, legroom and shoulder room are improved for all occupants, whether they are sitting in the front seats or in the rear of the car - is only a part of the attraction of the new XJ. The driver environment - the facia, seat and controls - is distinctively new and takes Jaguar's ergonomic standards to fresh heights. It provides intuitive and relaxed interfaces between occupants and vehicle systems.

"You don't have to be a computer expert to operate the new XJ. Our customers are emphatic in their opposition to gratuitous technology and unwanted features intruding on the driving experience, which fits exactly with the Jaguar philosophy of making technology relevant at all times." David Scholes, Chief Programme Engineer.

Comfort is a prime consideration in any Jaguar saloon and here the XJ reaches new levels. At the top of the range of electrically adjustable front seats, for example, is a 16-way seat with cushion-length adjustment and 4-way lumbar support. In the rear, buyers not satisfied with a fixed seat can opt for a powered bench with electrically adjustable lumbar support, backrest and head restraints (model and market dependent).

Adjustable pedals are available to complement the electrically adjustable steering column and allow drivers to find exactly the seating position they need.

In keeping with Jaguar's determination to offer its customers the latest relevant technologies, the new XJ is available with JaguarVoice (voice-activated control of systems including audio controls, telephone, climate control and navigation).

Another advance in the new XJ is a multi-media entertainment system that allows simultaneous enjoyment of up to three different audio, video or games systems. Screens mounted in the rear of the front seat head restraints display television programmes or games, with headphone capability to avoid disturbing other occupants. As an example, the driver could be listening to the radio or a CD, while one rear seat passenger plays on a games system and the other watches a movie on TV or DVD.

To allow driver and passengers to relax in complete comfort, a new four-zone climate control system is available (model and market dependent). This allows the separate adjustment of temperature settings by front and rear seat occupants, with dedicated face vents and foot outlet grilles for individual comfort.

The interior styling of any Jaguar is one of the attractions that marks it out from the crowd but the XJ interior is the ultimate expression of this unique brand trademark. A range of styles is being offered, from a traditional burr walnut finish on Classic models to a warm charcoal facia and grey-stained birdseye maple veneer combination on sportier versions of the car. An entirely new touch is Piano Black trim, a highly polished finish inspired by the deep, lustrous sheen of a concert grand piano. Piano Black features on the centre console and J-gate surround of the XJ, immediately differentiating the Jaguar from other luxury cars.

"A range of modern, powerful engines and an advanced, lightweight vehicle construction is the perfect recipe for a luxury saloon that rewards its driver with outstanding levels of refinement, performance and fuel economy." David Scholes, Chief Programme Engineer.

The new XJ will be available with a choice of four engines. Jaguar's reputation for large capacity, V8 power is legendary and this proud heritage continues with two 4.2-litre engines setting the pace at the top of the range. A 4.2-litre supercharged V8 delivering a massive 400bhp (DIN) powers the XJR model, while a naturally aspirated 4.2-litre engine developing 300bhp (DIN) sits just below it. When matched to the lightweight new XJ, these renowned engines deliver exceptional performance.

Details of power output, performance, economy and emissions figures for all engines and models will be announced at a later date but there is more to the powertrain story than the recognised strengths of Jaguar's 4.2-litre V8s. A new 3.5-litre V8 makes its debut here and again the trim nature of the new XJ allows the best possible exploitation of the highly impressive 262bhp (DIN).

Another engine new to the XJ also marks the return of a famous badge, as once again an XJ6 takes to the road. The 240bhp (DIN) 3.0-litre AJ-V6 engine offers a new level of accessibility with the performance expected of a luxury flagship. This is made possible by the advanced body and chassis design, which keeps vehicle weight to a minimum.

All four engines benefit from being coupled to the outstanding six-speed automatic transmission that Jaguar first introduced earlier this year in the revised S-TYPE. Designed by transmissions giant ZF, this advanced automatic gearbox is the perfect match for Jaguar's spirited engines and in the new XJ the combination is hugely impressive.

"The new XJ is engineered to provide relaxing and refined ride quality, yet can deliver spirited and highly capable dynamic qualities when required. Although larger than its predecessor, the new car is extremely precise in its behaviour, so inspiring driver confidence." Mike Cross, Chief Engineer, Vehicle Integrity.

Under the aluminium skin and body of the XJ are new suspension systems that take ride comfort and dynamic qualities to new heights. Based on a further development of the front and rear suspension technologies utilised in the revised S-TYPE, the XJ systems feature an important additional advantage - self-levelling air suspension is fitted as standard across the range. The adoption of air suspension in the new XJ is a first for Jaguar and perfectly complements the aluminium-intensive construction of the double-wishbone systems. Air suspension ensures that full suspension travel is always available by increasing spring stiffness relative to payload. As well as delivering major advantages over traditional coil-spring suspension in respect of comfort and refinement, the air system ensures ride height remains constant regardless of load conditions - an important factor because in the lightweight XJ, vehicle occupants represent a relatively higher proportion of gross vehicle weight. In addition, the air suspension automatically lowers the ride height at speed to improve stability and increase aerodynamic efficiency.

The new XJ also benefits from an enhanced version of Jaguar's CATS Computer Active Technology Suspension, standard on all models. This optimises ride and handling under all conditions, electronically maximising dynamic performance and driver control. A completely automatic system governed by the same Electronic Control Unit that controls the air suspension, CATS requires no intervention from the driver, the damper settings being adjusted in milliseconds to suit driving conditions.

The delay in production for the new XJ will prove smart for more reasons than Jaguar saw at the time. The United States will have the worst part of the recession behind them. Hopefully, the war will be over and America will be ready to celebrate life again. And what better way to do it than in a Jaguar.

By Lou Ann Hammond
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Images of the 2004, Jaguar XJ

Jaguar XJ (right) with the previous generation XJ
Jaguar XJ (right) with the previous generation XJ
2004 Jaguar XJR
2004 Jaguar XJR
2004 Jaguar XJ Classic Interior
2004 Jaguar XJ Classic Interior