The Jaguar XJ of old is a car that epitomised luxury and comfort. Unfortunately, it also epitomised excess, due to its lack of eco-friendly credentials and its close association with punch-happy politicians. You might assume there would be little room for such a car in modern society, but, with the release of the 2010 XJ, Jaguar is out to prove the doubters wrong.
The XJ sits above thein the jungle pecking order, and it's easy to see why. The minute we laid eyes on our test vehicle, a silver, 3-litre diesel, Portfolio special edition, we fell in love. It shares DNA with the XF, but has evolved to feature a larger, more aggressive front grille, a longer, sleeker silhouette, and a beautifully minimal rear end. It's a gorgeous slab of metal -- make no mistake.
The gorgeous exterior of the XJ plays second fiddle to the interior. Rather than recycle the already impressive cabin from the XF and, Jaguar has started with a blank canvas.Leather and wood feature heavily, but your eyes will be drawn immediately to the XJ's headline features: an 8-inch, dual-view display that can show two images simultaneously -- one to the driver and one to the passenger --and a 12.3-inch TFT screen that functions as an instrument panel.
A poor workman blames his instruments
The XJ's 'virtual instruments' panel is recessed in front of the steering wheel. It's a proper TFT screen that displays all the car's gauges using computer graphics. The screen has a circular speedometer in the centre, flanked by a rev counter on the right, and a third circle on the left that shows fuel levels, the engine temperature, and status messages related to the audio-visual system.
The 'virtual-instruments' graphics are dynamic and context-sensitive. Access the engine computer, for example, and the rev counter is replaced by a colour menu that provides access to a host of vehicle set-up functions, or colour graphics indicating what buttons the driver should press to activate a given function. Receive new directions from the sat-nav, and the fuel gauge is temporarily replaced with a full-colour map.Activate the car's sporty 'dynamic' mode and the entire display switches from a chrome colour to an angry red, hinting at the car's increased readiness to shred tarmac. The radio-station indicator in the centre of the left-most circle fades away, to be replaced by gear indicator numbers, leaving the driver in no doubt as to what gear has been selected via the car's flappy-paddle gearbox.
Jaguar has stopped short of allowing drivers to skin their virtual instruments, but, in theory, the system can replicate the visual styling of just about any car dials you can imagine. Virtual instruments come as standard on all UK XJs.
Let me infotain you
There aren't many in-car gadgets cooler than a foot-long digital instrument panel, but the XJ's dual-view infotainment screen -- which feeds different images to the driver and passenger simultaneously -- just gets the nod. This, like most vehicle interfaces, provides touch access to common car functions, including climate-control, communications, navigation and audio features. But it'll also allow the passenger to enjoy the car's on-board Freeview television system, a DVD, or DivX films (via discs).
Relatively simple technology is behind the dual-view display. The screen comprises a backlit colour LCD and a special mask placed over the liquid-crystal layer. Images for the left and right viewing angles are shown simultaneously on adjacent pixel columns, while the mask distributes the picture in opposite directions. The driver sees an image constructed of the first, third, fifth and other odd-numbered pixel columns, while the passenger's image is constructed of the second, fourth, sixth and subsequent even-numbered columns.
It works beautifully in practice, although image-quality junkies should note that the screen's standard 800x480-pixel resolution is reduced in dual-view mode, giving each side a total resolution of just 400x480 pixels. The dual-view display comes fitted as standard on all the Portfolio and Supersport versions of UK XJs.