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First look video: 2011 Jaguar XJ

Consumer Reports News: October 27, 2010 12:13 PM

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We drive over 100 new cars each year here at the track. Most of them are perfectly pleasant. Some are downright nice, while a handful get banished to the outer edges of the parking lot once the test miles are done. But not that many cars are exactly what I’d call special.

Jaguar’s luxury flagship sedan, the XJ, qualifies as special. You might argue that any car with a sticker price of $81,575 should be special, but that isn’t always the case.

What makes the big cat stand out? Previous XJs had traditional styling; you couldn’t tell if the car was brand new or 15 years old. This time Jaguar broke from the past with an eye-catching sleek new design. It inspires some controversy, especially in back, but it also gets attention.

The bespoke cabin has more universal appeal. It’s simply a cut above what you find in mass-produced cars, even luxury liners like the Lexus LS and Mercedes S-class. The suede headliner is lovely, leather covers the dash, and there are even fold-down tray tables on the front seatbacks.

Finally, the big Jaguar is a joy to drive. Several of us think it drives the way the BMW 7-Series used to drive (but does no more): nimble, light on its feet, and very responsive. Somehow we’re managing to make do with our car’s sweet-sounding base 385-hp V8; a supercharged version is available.

If you’re looking for the near-perfection of the anodyne Lexus LS, this isn’t going to be a substitute. We’ve chronicled some early frustrations with living with the car; a comprehensive software update now keeps the battery from draining if you don’t lock the car when you park it (say, in a garage.) Beyond that, controls range from simply unique to far-from-simple. Our long-wheelbase XJL has lots of legroom in back, but the low roofline makes the car feel snug inside and crimps driver visibility, especially to the back. These shortcomings are what buff books called “character” 30 years ago.

Check out the video for further impressions of the Jaguar XJ. We’ll have our full road test and ratings in the coming weeks.

Tom Mutchler

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