With the modern automobile's mass generally increasing year by year, it is often said that the mark of a good vehicle is its ability to shrink around the driver -- to drive like a smaller, lighter car than its lengthy list of standard equipment and safety features would suggest. Here, on the impossibly tight and windy sections of Malibu, California's famed Mulholland Drive, the 2011 Jaguar X
J L Supercharged -- Jaguar's newest flagship luxury sedan -- does exactly that.
More than 4000 pounds and 206 inches of luxury sedan isn't exactly in its element hustling the fine, treacherously narrow line between jagged, rocky canyon walls and perilously steep drop-offs, but the Jaguar
is sure-footed and well-composed. The winding ribbon of well-traveled gray asphalt seems custom-made for a 7/8ths scale car -- a diminutive Lotus Exige
, perhaps. Still, the long-wheelbase, aluminum-framed JAGUAR XJ
is up to the task, turning in with precision and quickness decidedly against the norm for the executive transportation class. But then, Jaguar
has never been enamored with the norm.
In the mid-1960s, Jaguar's once-glamorous sedan range was looking outdated and outclassed by more modern competition. In 1968, Jaguar
founder Sir William Lyons made a clean break with the past, creating the first-generation JAGUAR XJ
sedan and declaring the car to not only be the best his company had ever produced, but also among the fastest when equipped with the optional 5.3-liter V-12 engine. The last car to be designed by Lyons himself, the sleek, low-slung JAGUAR XJ
was a marked departure from the stodgy, old-world sedans that characterized the class. The automotive press bestowed accolades on the new model, and some even named it the best car in the world.
In recent times, dwindling profits have again found the British automaker seeking a new image. Hot on the path of the brand-revamping JAGUAR XF
is this all-new JAGUAR XJ
-- a car that for the first time in its 40-year history sloughs off its old skin for a totally new appearance. Gone are the dual-humped quad-headlights. In their place are sleek, angular units inspired by those of the sporty XF. An oversized, vertical front grille gives the imposing image Jaguar
design chief Ian Callum sought, while an arching roofline and blacked-out D-pillars instill four-door-coupe style that puts the nail in the coffin for the traditional three-box XJ. Out back, French styling similarities can be found, with a somewhat abrupt trunk line and dramatic vertical taillights that curve up towards the XJ's C-pillars.