The British have a penchant for revering (and some say clinging to) things past — old buildings and dentistry from the 16th century, warm beer, 50-year-old double-decker Routemasters, the royal family and the Jaguar XJ. For more than 40 years, the XJ’s basic styling strayed very little through three generations and several midlife updates. About the wildest thing to happen was the addition of square headlamps in 1990 — and they were generally met with a chorus of jeers and “cor blimeys!”
Not since Prince Charles was a teenager had the Jaguar XJ been considered the cutting edge of full-size luxury sedans, even when it introduced a lightweight aluminum frame, powerful V8 engines, active damping suspension and high-tech features like adaptive cruise control, navigation and Bluetooth. Blame the vintage styling, which pleased the Jaguar faithful but was so stale it was practically growing mold.
That all changed when Jag pulled the covers off its radical next-generation 2011 XJ. Gone was the ye olde styling, and in came sexy modern duds unlike anything else on the road. The cabin ditched the stuffy fascia of wood, the ugly green lighting and crotchety old J-gate shifter in favor of a cabin so exquisitely detailed and dramatically designed that it may make a potential Bentley buyer think twice. Really, this would be like Susan Boyle walking into a pub and coming out looking like Keira Knightley. The XJ has truly gone from a forgotten player to a sought-after all-star.