Pebble Beach 2009: New Jaguar XJ

By Brian Alexander

2010 Jaguar XJ

Fidel Castro, Keith Richards, the Fender Stratocaster and the Jaguar XJ. No, this isn't the setup to a bad joke -- it's a list of things that haven't changed for as long as we can remember. To say the XJ was due for a refresh is like saying Amy Winehouse could cut back a bit on the crazy pills. But Jaguar finally broke the streak, revealing last month the most radical change in design the XJ has seen since 1973. That's right, the car has looked about the same since before the world knew Chewbacca. We told you it had been a while.

We finally got our eyes on the XJ for the first time at this year's Pebble Beach Concours d'elegance, and much like the XF which came before it, it represents a radical stylistic departure for Jaguar. A blunt nose sets an aggressive tone at the front, flanked by recessed, squinty headlamps that fold into flared fenders. The belt line moves up as it sweeps back, coming together with the blacked out C-pillars at the rear before trailing out into a high deck lid. Up top, the roofline sweeps back at a shallow angle and vertical taillights are equipped with three LED strips each which, when lit under braking, resemble the scratch marks of a feral cat. This isn't a boring Cold War-era sedan anymore.

Inside the revolution continues, from the cylindrical gear selector from the Jaguar XF to blue halo mood lighting and an HD touchscreen interface. And being a Jaguar, it would be foolish to assume natural woods, plush leather and power... well power everything wouldn't be included. If the base model XK isn't roomy enough, a long wheelbase model is also on offer.

The "base" engine is the new 385 horsepower 5.0-liter AJ-V8 Gen III engine, while supercharged models use forced injection to pry 470 hp from the same 5.0-liter block. The top of the line 510 hp supersports takes things a step further. All models are driven by a 6-speed automatic gearbox. We can't wait to get behind the wheel and, perhaps moreso, have a chauffeur take us for a spin. After all, isn't that what the XJ is all about?

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