First Drive: 2011 Jaguar XJ

#Jaguar, #XJ

The XJ also spitefully ignores any normal button press - almost every control requires a long, deliberate actuation, including and especially the act of starting the car. And the front doors require a hefty slam to latch.

Lastly, the optional active cruise control doesn't have a conventional cruise mode, so if you order it, you're at the mercy of a radar system that insists upon slowing you far too far in advance of other cars. And should the heavens open up and interfere the radar sensor's operation, the entire cruise system is disabled, leaving you at the mercy of your right foot, which means a momentary attention lapse could find you driving 20 mph faster than you meant to.

Your defense? The XJ is so quiet - see, look at those double-pane windows! - and you were enjoying the clear and accurate sound reproduction from the twenty-speaker, 1200-watt Bowers + Wilkins stereo system. And you were admiring the world's first fully gaugeless instrument cluster. In front of your badly behaved self is a 12.3-inch LCD screen similar a laptop's, upon which is displayed a computer-generated set of analog gauges. While at first glance this seems like a gimmick, the technology allows the engineers to best make use of the prime real estate in front of the driver's face. In the case of the XJ, that means the tachometer can be displaced by warning messages or setup menus. The temperature/fuel/odometer combination to the left of the speedometer gives way to navigation instructions, or with a gear selection indicator when the transmission is in manual mode.

What the XJ doesn't do, however, is take full advantage of the unlimited display opportunities afforded by the LCD panel. Jaguar doesn't (yet) offer the ability to customize the display to the driver's wishes. Why not have a display that could be changed, at the press of a button, to look like the simple, elegant gauges of an old X300-series XJ? Or, for farsighted drivers, an extra-large digital speed readout. Or an enormous navigation map with a small speed readout.

There's nothing small about the Jaguar's rear quarters. The short-wheelbase XJ has about the same legroom as the old XJ8 did, and that means it's enough for full-sized adults. The long-wheelbase version adds 4.9 inches in length but gives 5.2 more inches in which to stretch out. The XJL's back seat is enormous, with as much legroom as its largest competitors.

The parking sensor volume can be turned down using the touch screen - vehicle settings. The touch screen makes a good guess at where you are pressing - wrong presses are rare. It would be better if it reacted faster.

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