Eighth Generation Jaguar XJ Saloon -X351

A completely new direction from Jaguar for the flagship saloon

Ian Callum with Jaguar X351

When Ian Callum took over from Geoff Lawson as Director of Design at Jaguar he inherited a range of models that had already been signed-off for build.  Consequently, he oversaw the X200 (S-Type), X350 (XJ) and X400 (X-Type) through their final development stages and into production.  This may have been frustrating but Callum is a professional and got on with the task.  Later he was able to inject some of his design flair into updates of the three saloons and also the established X100 (XK8) GT.  As is normal in any car business once a new design has been agreed into production the next generation is already in the planning stage.

Ian Callum provided two clues, with the concept R Coupé and R-D6, as to possible new design influences on future production Jaguars.  The ALC (Advanced Lightweight Coupé) concept was an even bigger clue, though it was built after the design for the new XK, by Giles Taylor, had been agreed and made ready for production.

Callum now tackled the existing range of saloons and refreshed the overall styles with small changes to keep them current until the saloon he had in-design was ready to be revealed.  This first model was the S-Type replacement XF; it broke new ground and was quite unlike any Jaguar saloon that had gone before.  Callum did pick up a few ‘Jaguar cues’ from older models, such as a front grille that bore a passing resemblance to the 1968 XJ6.  In spite of the S-Type underpinnings, the XF represented a striking new design theme for Jaguar.

Flagship Designs

This sketch was the first to be made by exterior lead designer Adam Hatton from an original idea by Julian Thompson

Design of the X351 – Jaguar internal code – began in 2005; the Jaguar Design team was headed by Ian Callum but it was Matthew Beaven who led the XJ design group, which included Giles Taylor, Adam Hatton, Mark Phillips, Nicholas Finney and Kim Challinor, and they were given the task of producing a new body style using much of the underpinnings of the out-going X350.

Julian Thomson, then Head of Advanced Design and subsequently Director of Design at Jaguar, recalled: “When we started it was during a period of great reinvention.  We had started to realign the brand from classically styled cars to those that were more intelligent, innovative and imaginative.  We all contributed to what we thought the new XJ should look like and all of us had our own personal vision for the XJ and in the end the team had eight virtual CAD models for viewing.”

Another drawing by Adam Hatton showing the proposed X351.
The exterior styling remained identifiable as the design progressed

While the team wanted to keep the ‘Jaguar look’ and pay homage to the original XJ6 they were determined that the X351 would take the marque to a new level.  Consequently, one of the first decisions made was to discard the four-headlamp arrangement that had been a staple XJ look since 1968.  Once this hurdle had been overcome the design progressed smoothly.  Ian Callum: “We also wanted to get rid of the small grille style that had been around in various forms since 1968.  We knew that the size of grille was important and initially our new designs seemed extraordinarily assertive.  If you don’t step that little bit beyond the comfort zone you will regret it.  So we took the view that we would keep the grille as strong and powerful as possible.”  The XF grille was the starting point but, as Ian noted, the first X351 version was far more assertive and business like, with much greater rear-view mirror presence.

There was a long way to go with the overall design, though the X350 mechanicals would be used, the new Jaguar flagship had to deliver a style that would fit in with the XF and XK, which had already been successful in the market sector.  Matthew Beaven said at the time of the unveiling of the X351: “We developed a portfolio of designs, from a very sporty concept, nicknamed Goodwood, to conventional ‘big’ saloons.  We did not produce anything physical but we developed conceptual and virtual CAD models to get the feel of people’s perceptions.”   Daily meetings were held where the team discussed the drawings and viewed the CAD models which, as Taylor said, “…allowed us to see the car being driven around from all angles.  From this we worked out exactly which elements of the various designs we liked.”

Early car with glass roof trial fit was photographed at Whitley and later issued to press for pre-publicity of model

By March 2006 the fundamental design had been established.  Callum noted: “The key building blocks were in place and we wanted something truly special for the latest XJ; the glass roof for example and the front-end strategy.  These were in place, now we had to work towards a final theme.  Adam Hatton managed the exterior design team but we all worked together to make the X351 really stand out.”

While the use of a computer aided design programme was standard in the studio, both Callum and Thomson encouraged their team to create sketches of what they thought the XJ should look like.  Ian remembered: “The whole design team will put sketches and ideas in, then Giles Taylor, Julian Thomson and I will pick from these and amalgamate them into the design of the car.  Sketching is still very much part of the formula of creating designs.  When you start with a sketch, and the car really started from a sketch that Adam Hatton did, it evolves so much that you will find very little recognition between that initial sketch and the final car, but it is a starting point.”   These sketches are sometimes little more than an impression which would mean little to someone outside the design department, they would find it difficult to visualise how that sketch could be turned into a real car.  “We, as designers, understand that language,”  said Ian,  “and we have the vision to see where that sketch will take the vehicle.”

Engineering Aspects

Involved from the on-set were the Jaguar engineering and manufacturing departments, after all they would have to convert the design into a production car.  Jaguar was by now a world-leader in the use of aerospace technology in the car industry.  The X200 (S-Type) had shown the way to use large sections of aluminium and X350 (XJ) and X150 (XK) had developed the use of alloys being bonded and riveted to form a strong and light structure.  The X351 was taking these technologies to a new and exacting stage by the use of larger panels together with the overall size of the car.  These were challenges that the engineering and manufacturing departments had to tackle and solve.  Using their experience with the earlier XJ and XF aluminium build techniques the engineers at Castle Bromwich devised new ways of reducing the number of components that make up the body structure.  An example being instead of using three aluminium components for the doors, as with the X350, the X351 used a single-piece design which was lighter, stiffer and more durable.  The X351 also saw the use of a Jaguar-developed ‘Fusion’ alloy where high-strength aluminium is sandwiched between layers of alloy.  It enables panel thicknesses to be shaved by 10 per cent, reducing weight further and increasing the strength of the structure.  Jaguar also built more than 50 per cent of the X351 body using recycled aluminium.  As there is no difference in quality between new and recycled aluminium Jaguar has continued to increase its use of recycled material in building vehicles.  Another benefit is that almost all of the aluminium used can be recycled when a modern Jaguar reaches the end of its life.

Design Continues

Once the basic design was established the group continued to refine, adapt, develop and expand the envelope and for the next six months work continued without a break.  Callum and Thomson had other responsibilities apart from X351 but they were on hand on a daily basis to watch over the progress of the team.  Adam Hatton said at the unveiling of the car: “As we worked on the car towards the final design, what we called the ‘go-for-one’ we changed details but the basic shape stayed and by November 2006 we had the chosen design ready to be developed further.  Through 2007 and for the first half of 2008 we designed one car for the final sign-off.”  This design went through several CAD stages and full-size and scale model clays were made to view and show to the Jaguar board.

Having got rid of the four-headlamp arrangement and restyled the grille there had to be a suitable replacement.  Adam Hatton: “Because we wanted more aggression in the front-end of the XJ, we looked at the details, the nature of the lower vents, the front blades and the Xenon lamps all going out to the extremities of the car.  Julian asked me to design some new headlight shapes on the clay model, and he sketched a feline form which I developed into a more aggressive shape.”  From the above one can see that the team were not simply going for a soft-option Jaguar XJ that looked like a natural follow-on to what had been on offer since 1968, but were determined to produce a completely fresh new design that would put the flagship model ahead of the competition.

This shows an early mock-up of the XJ at the Whitley design studio – it was one of the first images released before the car was launched

While the design is clearly linked to the XF, Taylor used the extra length and the distinctive teardrop shape of its new three-side-window design to give the new saloon a new quality of sleekness, emphasised by a class-leading drag coefficient of 0.29.

Unlike the XF, the new-style tail features a wide and full rear deck and wrap-over tail-lights that are unique to the X351.  Ian Callum said at the time to this writer:  “We wanted the XJ to appear in someone’s rear-view mirror and create an immediate impression and when it overtook them the distinctive rear lights would be a lasting impression.  That could only be a Jaguar.”

Mark Phillips noted that the R Coupé concept from 2001 (now in the JDHT Collection), was the inspiration for the interior. “The values of the exterior design set the character and personality of the interior.  Rather than using wood in the foreground we pushed it into the background as an architectural statement.  One of the more enlightened things we did was to drop the dashboard down 50 mm – quite a lot – which allows a fairly slim, low-slung dashboard.  The benefit being that the driver and passengers do not feel they are hiding behind a wall.”  A key feature when one sits inside the X351 is the light and space afforded by the use of a glass roof.  As we have noted this was established almost from the onset and was something that Ian Callum was keen to progress with and see through to the production car.  As one walks up to the X351 one can see much more of the interior thanks to the glass roof, which also looks superb. Callum:  “You only need to sit in the car to find out how much roof we have created.  We have put the coupé roofline behind the rear head-form, so the exterior looks very sporty but the XJ is still a full five-seater.”

The glass used for the roof was specially toughened and a heavy-duty safety film was bonded to the lower surfaces.  A clever touch was the introduction of a hidden aluminium panel that stretched across the XJ above the rear-seat passengers to add strength to the bodyshell and to give them a sense of security.  Giles Taylor remains enthusiastic about the glass roof and commented;  “It gives a tremendous feeling of spaciousness and when you look up the view really is panoramic.”

Jaguar has a reputation for elegant interiors with much wood and leather but with the XK and XF other options were introduced.  For the XJ the choice was even greater with carbon fibre, aluminium, wood or a mixture and all available with a choice of leather trim options.  The flagship Jaguar allowed the customer to select and build an interior that suited their personality.  There was a large range of customer choices: for example there were twelve wood or carbon fibre trims and seventeen body colours available; a mix of leather interiors, headlinings, carpets and other furnishings.  In addition, fourteen different alloy wheels were offered and the car itself could be had as a standard or long wheelbase variant from the onset.

Power was supplied by the 3.0-litre V6 or the new 5.0-litre AJ-V8 petrol engines and the 3.0-litre AJ-V6D diesel Gen III engine.  Three versions of the AJ-V8 were available in 385 bhp, 470 bhp and 510 bhp; the latter supercharged and reserved for the XJ Supersport.  The 275 bhp AJ-V6D replaced the 2.7-litre engine that had been Jaguar’s first diesel unit.  These three engines were ideally suited for the X351 and gave the large saloon a sporty 0-60mph capability and a limited top speed of 155mph.  Inside, the driver could keep track of the car’s performance using the virtual instruments, another first for Jaguar, that replaced the more usual fare of needles and dials that had been standard on all cars for decades.  Unusual when one first got behind the wheel but one soon got used to seeing a screen display, not unlike that of a glass cockpit in a modern aircraft control panel.

Prototypes of the X351 were built and tested as usual across the world in hot, dry, humid, wet, cold and freezing climates. Jaguar’s development engineers and drivers piled on the miles in proving the new car.  Mike Cross, Jaguar Chief Engineer of Vehicle Integrity, has overseen several models over the years and he was impressed by the X351’s ride and handling.  Mike’s job is to make sure the car drives and handles safely and delivers a smooth, sporty ride that is so much the mark of a Jaguar.  He has adapted the test methods over the years and before a single prototype goes out on test they analyse the model using computer programmes.  This gives the team an impression of how the car will behave in any given situation; once the data is studied the cars can go out for actual high-speed testing on Jaguar’s own facility at the Nürburgring.  There were no surprises except on how well the X351 handled.  “We liked the fact that for a large saloon the XJ handled superbly,” said Cross,  “it did not feel big and zero to sixty in 4.7 seconds is certainly impressive for a car of this size.  What really stood out for me was the performance from fifty to seventy miles per hour; pulling out to overtake or just accelerating out of a bend, the car simply goes and that I thought remarkable.  When we tested the long wheel base model, that’s some 125 mm longer than the standard X351, we did not want there to be a difference and we have made them as similar as we can, with the focus on driving enjoyment.  Both cars are nimble and will surprise people with their handling, speed and comfort.”

Testing for build and production of the X351 was extensive and varied

The design for the latest generation of Jaguar XJ had started in 2005 and by late 2008 several running prototypes were being tested around the world, from cold and freezing weather to hot and high climates.  Added to this the X351 was being tested to virtual destruction at Jaguar’s own facility at the Nürburgring and on other test tracks in the UK and the USA.  A car that looked as if it was a heavy limousine-like vehicle was in fact a light and well-engineered sports saloon.  It was firmly in the mould of that original 1968 XJ6 which had astonished the motoring world as a comfortable, fast cruiser that remained welded firmly to the road; the new XJ was this and much more thanks to the major advances made by Jaguar’s engineers in all aspects of car design.

This writer recalls one early tester (Howard Walker) of a pre-production X351-XJ saying:  “When you first see the XJ you expect weight and bulk but in their place you get balance, grip and poise.  Once you are behind the wheel and moving one is impressed by the acceleration and then you come to the first bend and immediately one senses the agility of the car and what’s more it lets you know that you are in command.  Turn the wheel and the steering feels precise and direct, responsive to the slightest input.  Like a thoroughbred sports car the XJ aims where you point it.  When you exit the turn and put on the power the forward surge is breathtaking but controlled.  That engine sound too reminds you that you are in Jaguar with a heritage of sporting credentials.”

There were three engine options and a choice of standard or long wheelbase versions from the outset.  This decision was taken at the start of the programme, not just to satisfy a customer base but also to aid the overall design.  Ian Callum explained:  “There’s a status benefit in a long wheelbase car, but there’s also a style benefit in the exterior if it is executed in a fairly subtle, tasteful way.  Therefore it was important with the new XJ that we designed the exterior of the long wheelbase version at the same time as the standard wheelbase car.  Historically, companies tend to start with a standard wheelbase design and then stretch the longer body.  However, it can be difficult to extend a car’s natural lines on details such as longer doors.  With the new XJ, we did not want the two versions to be consciously similar or consciously different.  We wanted both to work and look good in their own right.  We took the lines of the body and roof structure into consideration when we designed both, so the longer wheelbase would be a pure design and not a compromise.  This ensures passengers in the rear benefit from the comfort of extra legroom and style.”

Mike Cross, Jaguar’s Chief Engineer of Vehicle Integrity, commented about the two wheelbase versions.  “There was a debate at the start (of design) whether the standard wheelbase XJ should be the more dynamic model, while the long wheelbase should be optimised for comfort.  We took the decision to make them as similar as we could and make it a real driver’s car.” Something that usually enters the equation between standard and long wheelbase models is weight; it stands to reason that a larger car will be heavier.  In fact the use of aluminium and magnesium to construct the XJ made little difference in weight between the two models, just 20 kgs more for the long wheelbase model.  As Mike said: “Any extra weight between the two is compensated first by the XJ’s rear air springs, which can maintain a constant ride height, and second by the Adaptive Dynamics suspension with its constantly variable damping.”

Paint Schemes – Jaguar Colour and Materials Department (JCMD)

Something that added to the style, and one that was (and is) not spoken about a great deal, was how the Jaguar Colour and Materials Department (JCMD) were involved with the X351.  This fairly-recently developed section in the overall design scheme was tasked with highlighting the model.  They had already contributed to the XK and XF line-up and now they took on the XJ; colour and trim is important and giving the customer a wider choice was paramount.  The Colour and Materials team experimented on a daily basis in seeing how a single colour could be enhanced and it can take up to four years to choose, develop and test new colours, paints and pigments.  Consequently, the process needs to be just as forward-thinking as the designers and engineers of each new Jaguar model.  The JCMD take the available colour spectrum and finely-tune it to between 15 and 20 distinct colours that will form the core choice for each model.  Naturally, as the model year changes, so too does the colour palette; that is why colour schemes appear and disappear as the model is developed and changed.  The department works closely with paint manufacturer Du Pont and new Jaguar colours are developed to be introduced at the start of a new model year or they can make their debut with a prominent new launch, such as the X351-XJ in 2009.

While you are reading this [written in 2019] the Colour and Materials team has already finalised the colours for new Jaguar models due in 2020, 2021 and 2022; they are now deep in discussions for Jaguars that will be announced 2024 and 2025 and beyond.  Some colours are designed for export-only markets and will not be seen in the UK or Europe; this is done to reflect the market trends in, for example, China, Russia or North America.  In the last-named there is a preference for lighter colours in California and Florida and more conservative schemes in, for example, New York City.  The palette is available and it is up to the customer to make a choice.  Working with the supplier (Du Pont) the JCMD team arrive at the final colour and then computer programmes to view a vehicle in the colour.  For a better understanding on how that colour would work on a car sheets of aluminium with a half dome in the centre are painted.  This enables the team to see how the light and pigments work together on a curved surface.  Further, the quest for the correct shade of the colour is perused until the team is happy with the final iteration.  Then, usually in December, a full-size car, either an existing model or a new design, is painted for final approval and sign-off by the Jaguar board.

This writer has been asked why a solid green, apart from British Racing Green, has not been available.  This is not Jaguar’s making but the shift away from a dark green has been seen over the years, in answer the Colour and Material team designed and developed an interesting Botanical Green for the X351’s debut.  However, it has long since disappeared and British Racing Green, albeit adapted by Jaguar, is available but not across the model line-up.  As may be noted the Colour and Material team have to keep an eye on the market, interview dealers and customers and keep one step ahead of the competition.  In recent years the Jaguar range of colours has been exciting, different and innovative.  Some may not like the choices on offer but there is no denying that Jaguar aims to lead the trend and not follow it.

Debut in London

9 July 2009 Jay Leno at X351 Launch
at the Saatchi Gallery in London

To launch their flagship model, Jaguar chose the Saatchi Gallery in London’s King’s Road.  This had once been the Duke of York’s Regimental Headquarters and is an imposing building both inside and out.

Jaguar invited over 500 guests from all walks of life to the launch party on 9 July 2009, and who better to reveal the new XJ than American talk-show host and comedian Jay Leno.  He is well-known as an enthusiast with an amazing collection of vehicles, from early electric and steam cars through to modern supercars.  Leno also collects motor-cycles, including rare British models which he holds in high regard.  He has the only operational General Motors gas-turbine car from the 1960s and also in the Leno collection are several Jaguars, E-Types, XKs and XJs.

Leno is not just a collector but he knows how to fix the cars when they go wrong, as he told this writer, “When you drive some old cars, and I mean really old like 1900s or before, they can be tricky and the Auto Club do not have the skills or the parts to fix them if you break down, especially on one of the small roads up in the hills near Los Angeles where I exercise some of the cars.  I love getting my hands dirty and fixing stuff, and when time allows I’ll be there in the garage working on the cars as the need be along with the team I have helping me.  It’s great!”

At the launch of the XJ, Mike O’Driscoll, then Managing Director of Jaguar Cars, said: “The XJ is a car that exemplifies our new spirit of independence, our renewed confidence in the future.  It’s a car that has been created with the passion that can only come from a very special team of people.  A team dedicated to producing cars that make the pulse race and the heart beat faster.”  He went on to speak about Jaguar and future plans for the model line-up and also to pay tribute to the army of individuals who made the XJ possible; from the design group through to the engineers and the workers at Castle Bromwich. “It’s a team effort and one that is determined in making Jaguar, Jaguar again.”

Ian Callum, as the then Director of Design, was naturally singled out by the press, but he has never taken sole credit and has always brought the design team into the spotlight and it was no different at the XJ launch. Callum had them on stage and introduced them to the assembled guests.  They were encouraged to mix with the guests who were keen to ask questions about the new XJ, which was applauded by all as a real treat for the eye. Several of the guests were from the world of entertainment, fashion and design, so they were keen to see the new model from a favourite brand. A cynic may have commented that those invited were only there to be seen and treated the whole evening as an excuse to catch up with their friends and have a good time. Maybe some of those attending were but many really were happy to help launch the new XJ and see Jaguar into a new phase.

Green Machine

Something that did appeal to the audience was the fact that this Jaguar was a ‘green’ machine; that it used much recycled material and almost all of the structure could be recycled at the end of its life.  Jaguar has been leading the way in recycling material, as we noted in the piece on the X200 S-Type.  This use of materials was taken to a new level with the X351: a notice issued before the launch of the model stated that if one took 12,000 aluminium drink cans and melted them down that was the amount of reclaimed, recycled aluminium used in the construction of the XJ body.  Martin Brown, then Jaguar’s manager of sustainable attributes, commented: “That’s fifty per cent of the weight of the new XJ’s body structure and a potential saving of 3.3 tonnes of CO2 for each new XJ compared to using 100 per cent non-recycled aluminium.

“Ten years’ ago we (Jaguar) laid down a strategy for building more efficient cars with a development of a lightweight aluminium body structure.  Advanced aluminium construction – based on aerospace methods – delivering a body with great strength and rigidity but with dramatically reduced weight compared with steel.  The result was the new XJ saloon in 2003 and the all-new XK sports car in 2006.  It’s an enlightened, intelligent approach that focuses on every stage of the XJ’s life cycle, from its design, throughout its assembly and the moment it takes to the road, right the way to the time it ends its life. Remember, if it takes 100 per cent of energy to create new sheet aluminium, only five per cent is required to recycle waste into sheet metal again.

“When the time eventually comes for an XJ’s life cycle to end, Jaguar engineers have designed the car to be no less that 85 per cent recyclable.  It’s all part of Jaguar’s focus on making cars that are exhilarating to drive as well as being environmentally responsible to own.”

This ‘green’ programme made use of the X350 XJ and its successor; both cars were used in the ‘Limo-Green’ partnership programme between MIRA and Jaguar.   In its first incarnation the X357 XJ was given a small 1.0-litre engine and batteries to operate as a hybrid to test the installation.  With the X351 a Lotus-designed three-cylinder 1.2-litre engine was developed with the Jaguar team specifically for the programme.

Since then Jaguar has gone on to develop Mild Hybrid and Plug-in Hybrid (MHEV and PHEV) platforms based on the Ingenium engines which have been launched in the E-Pace and F-Pace models.

Other Markets 

On release of the XJ, Russia and China quickly adopted the fast, luxury saloon, there was no shortage of takers and even though the North American market had shrunk, the XJ was deemed a success.  In India too the XJ became a familiar sight on the crowded roads.  Tata Industries, parent of JLR, has invested heavily in the two marques and to meet demand factories in China and India manufacture some of the models.  They are sent out from Castle Bromwich as CKD (Completely Knocked Down) kits but with some locally-sourced materials used in final production.  These items are usually trim, electrics and various ancillaries.  In 2014, with the XF already in-build at Tata’s Pune facility, the XJ was added to the line where the Freelander was also assembled.

The XJ was available in two trims, Premium Luxury and Portfolio and powered by the 3.0-litre V6 diesel engine.  The premium features the rear seat comfort pack, increased headroom, electric rear side window blinds, LED reading lights, 10.2 inch entertainment screens and a new business table.  In India, the XJ was also available with a 2-litre petrol engine but only the diesel model of XJ is assembled locally.  The same engine was also used in the locally assembled XF and was not available in the UK for the XJ/XF.

All Wheel Drive (AWD) for Winter Driving

Jaguar X351 On Snow

Having addressed the wider market, Jaguar turned to a specific requirement in North America where all-wheel or four-wheel-drive models account for some fifty per cent of the market.  Indeed in the snow belt states and Canada that figure rises to eighty per cent.  Jaguar had a valid all-wheel-drive (AWD) system with the X-Type but it was from the Land Rover stables that they took and developed a new AWD system for the XF and XJ for the 2013 model year in Jaguar’s left-hand drive markets, but sadly the AWD XJ was not for the UK.  The system was available exclusively with the firm’s new supercharged 3.0-litre V6 petrol engine.

To fit the new system into the XJ a thorough re-engineering of the luxury saloon’s underpinnings was required.  A new front sub frame was fitted, along with a revised steering rack, a new exhaust system, new engine mounts, new front knuckles, new damper mounts, new front and rear differentials, a new prop shaft, new cross members, a new undertray, and acoustic heat shields to hide the noise from the transfer case.  On the dynamic front, all-wheel drive XJs got specific tuning for the suspension bushes and dampers, a different steering set-up and a re-calibrated V6 engine, which was the only engine that could be equipped with the new AWD system and, as it was developed with that technology specifically in mind, the sump was designed specifically to work with the driveshaft.  The AWD system featured a transfer case control module mounted on the back of a revised eight-speed automatic gearbox.  It was a continuously variable system, which split the torque from all-front or rear, or rear, and any combination in between, depending on the situation.  Once again the Jaguar test drivers put the cars through their paces, especially at the snowy and icy JLR test ground at Arjeplog in Northern Sweden.  Not neglected was the AWD’s performance in rain and stormy conditions at other test tracks and on normal road in various countries.

Jaguar engineered the system to retain the feel of a rear-wheel drive car in its performance with Normal, Dynamic and Winter modes.  When Winter was selected the XJ became an all-weather machine with 70 per cent of the torque going to the rear wheels, in Winter mode the car always pulled away in second, which eliminated any wheel spin.  One test driver in the wilds of a Canadian winter commented that hill-starts, lane changes and brisk driving on side roads showed the XJ could tackle even the most treacherous of road conditions.  Perhaps Jaguar should have made the XJ-AWD into a full-blown Rally Car with a works-sponsored team.  That would have been interesting!  Since then the new XF and F-Type have been made available with the AWD option.

Supercharged XJ and Final Run

Introduced in 2013, the XJR was a high performance variant of the XJ and was available in short and long wheelbase configurations.  The 5.0-litre supercharged V8 engine gave an increased top speed of 174 mph (280 km/h); a new front splitter and aerodynamic sill section combined with an additional rear spoiler and unique ‘R’ bonnet louvres, marked this model out, as did the discreet 575 R badge on the boot.  New 20-inch ‘Farallon’ forged alloy wheels with specially-developed Pirelli low-profile tyres were introduced with the XJR.  Unveiled at 2013 New York Auto Show and then shown in the UK at the 2013 Goodwood Festival of Speed the model was available for 2014.

2012 XJR Nürburgring ‘Ring Taxi’

To showcase the XJR, Jaguar announced that it would be offering passenger rides around the Nürburgring circuit in Germany, in an XJR, taking on the notorious BMW M5 ‘Ring Taxi’ with their own ‘Jaguar Ring Taxi’.  Jaguar chose to use a specially modified XJR Supersport for the hot-laps basing it at the Jaguar engineering test centre which is located near the Nürburgring .

It might not seem like the obvious choice of car, but the XJ is often the one car in the Jaguar range that surprises people the most with its dynamic ability.  The XJ’s aluminium structure means that the XJ is incredibly strong and light, but more importantly fast, meaning it could lap the Nürburgring in only 8 minutes and 30 seconds.


This ‘Ring Taxi’ was retired in 2018 when Jaguar replaced it with an XJR575 and a 575 hp Jaguar F-Type SVR. It then joined the Jaguar Daimler Heritage Trust Collection.

All eight generations of XJ Saloons
XJ50 Special Edition in Centre

When the XJ was given a new ‘face’, to match the XE and XF in 2016, it was also offered with the up-rated V8 engine developing 550 bhp.  A new series of external colours and interior trim options was also offered, as was a set of revised alloy wheels.  Jaguar made an effort to cater for all market combinations and made the XJ an even more attractive proposition. Three petrol engines and one diesel engine were listed, they were standard Jaguar fare but had been improved and modified since the XJ’s introduction in 2009.

Much was made of the remodelled front, with a new more upright grille and headlamps with ‘Double J’ Daytime Running lights.  The rear bumper and lamps were also revised and included brighter LED ‘light pipes’ technology.  Inside the cabin, only minor modifications were carried out and remained a very comfortable place for driver and passengers.

In 2018, to mark the fiftieth anniversary of the XJ, a limited-edition model with an ‘XJ50’ badge was released.  As the XJ came to its last year of manufacture (2019) the choice of body colours and interior trim was modified and several options were discontinued although there was still a wide choice as XJ dealer stocks were run down throughout 2020.  It was a worthy successor to the XJ badge and has become a sought-after model with prices to match.  Certainly worth considering as an entry-level XJ; cheaper than a fully-restored 1960s XJ6/XJ12 and more user-friendly as a daily driver.

2019 The Last Traditionally Powered XJ

A final note from Mike Cross who refined the handling of the XJ: “We wanted to make the XJ to be sporty and alive when you want to drive quickly, yet refined relaxed and comfortable when you don’t.”  Mike and the teams of engineers and test drivers are modest in their claims but anyone who has driven the X351-XJ will only confirm their aims and comment that the entire team at Jaguar, from design to build, succeeded in producing one of the most remarkable cars from any builder.

XJ production finished on 5 July 2019 with the last UK Right Hand Drive (RHD) production example of the X351 being handed over to the Jaguar Daimler Heritage Trust for preservation.  This car is fitted with the 3.0 litre V6 diesel engine and as the next generation is planned to be electric vehicles (EV) this is the final UK specification, traditionally powered XJ saloon.

In 2021 the electric XJ programme was cancelled and a new Jaguar model will now appear in 2025.


Author: François Prins and Tony Merrygold

© Text and Images – Jaguar Daimler Heritage Trust