After four generations of similarly styled XJs, Jaguar has given its flagship sedan a new look as well as more advanced features and a hefty price increase.
The idea is to try -- yet again -- to compete directly with range-topping German sedans.
The 2010 XJ, with an all-aluminum body, goes on sale in December with a starting price of $72,500 for the standard wheelbase. That is up more than $6,000 from today's car.
The long-wheelbase 2010 XJL will start at $79,500, compared with $69,975 for the current long-wheelbase model. Jaguar says the new one will have equipment levels comparable to the current $76,850 Vanden Plas version, which is being dropped. All prices include shipping.
Jaguar's new XJ will top out at $115,000 for the 510-hp Supersport model, compared with $94,850 for the 2009 Super V-8 version.
Jonathan Rayner, the XJ's global brand manager, says the company expects the car, with its flashy new shape, to compete with not only the Mercedes-Benz S class and BMW 7 series but also the even pricier Porsche Panamera, Bentley and Mas-erati sedans.
The 7 series starts at $81,125 and the S class at $90,225, including shipping.
Dealers say Jaguar aimed the current XJ at the S class, but it has been more like an E-class rival.
Jim Hall, an analyst with 2953 Analytics in suburban Detroit, says Jaguar wants to avoid the reputation of being the discount alternative.
"If you want to play in the Tier 1 luxury segment, you probably don't get your credentials with a low-priced car," Hall says.
The dealers say the XJ's new styling will lure buyers into showrooms. Standard equipment includes a panoramic glass roof; a 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster; an eight-inch touch screen for audio, video and climate controls; and a new 5.0-liter V-8 engine that replaces today's 4.2-liter V-8.
A new niche
Ambitions may be high, but the volume targets aren't. For the new XJ, Jaguar expects monthly sales of 800 to 1,000 cars, says Chris Lilley, general manager of product planning for Jaguar Cars North America. Seventy to 80 percent of XJs sold in the United States will be long-wheelbase models, Lilley says.
Sales of the current model have fizzled. Only 810 cars were sold through June. In 2008, Jaguar sold 2,452 XJs, down from 4,474 in 2007. XJ sales peaked in 1998 at 16,642 cars.
Mark Hennessy, owner of two Jaguar stores in Georgia, says the XJ has looked the same for so many generations that it stopped selling and hasn't attracted younger buyers.
"The car and the design had become irrelevant," Hennessy says. "The customer you wanted to appeal to didn't want the product."
(Source: Automotive News)