This car isn't kidding. The dramatic new shape speaks of a shift in direction for the XJ nameplate; the driving experience follows up on the promise. It's true that the previous XJ had an aluminum body and roughly the same chassis architecture, so you could argue this is little more than a reskin and a repowering. But in the first few yards, you realize it represents a comprehensive rethink of what a large Jaguar luxury sedan should be.
It's shifting away from the S-Class or A8 or 7 Series. The XJ feels distinctly sportier.
The ride is no longer the waft it was with the old XJ. The V-8 isn't intended to be silent. The steering is quick, the cornering agile. The design isn't meant to communicate formality or businesslike status: It's about panache and extroversion and a bit of fun. Just look at that interior. The most stylish cabin in the world today? I wouldn't disagree.
And as to the exterior: Well, as we drive through Paris, a city where people know about style, they stop and point and stare in amazement. Driving through the countryside north of that great city, where the traffic-free rural roads roads are alternately open and sweeping or twisty and bumpy, your reporter is continually amazed too-at the numbers being passed by the speedometer needle.
That is the achievement of the new XJ. Other big sedans use a wider array of active chassis technologies than the Jaguar does; it does without 4WD or 4WS or active steering or active anti-roll. But when the others hunker into their sport modes, they tend to lose fluency. They take every opportunity to remind you what a task it is to make an elephant dance. The XJ is different. It feels remarkably unflustered and natural.