How do you improve on 75 years of classic automotive history? Enter the Jaguar mega factory in Castle Bromwich, England as we uncover the design secrets that gave life to the new XJ. The first car in the company’s history to use aerospace influenced aluminum space frame technology.
The third-generation Jaguar XJ emerged in the 2004 model year, completely reworked with new aluminum construction techniques–bonded and riveted like airplane fuselages–that transformed the car’s structural quality. Strangely, Jaguar gave the 2004-2010 XJ an even more traditional look than the prior edition, and it virtually fell off the radar with luxury-car buyers faced with avant-garde new versions of the BMW 7-Series and the like. Still, the XJ’s performance never was better, with V-8 and supercharged V-8 engines mated with one of the first six-speed automatics ever built. Reliability was so improved, Jaguar leapt to the top of quality ratings from J.D. Power; rear-seat room was so improved, adults found ample space in back. In all, the switch to aluminum gave the Jaguar some of the lightness it desperately needed to distinguish itself.
With the fundamentals in place, Jaguar set out on a radical path for the fourth-generation 2011 XJ. Ditching the formal look, the newest four-door looks utterly modern, from its rakish front end to the sexy kicked-up tail. The cabin wears lots of gloss piano-black trim, leather, wood and chrome–and though it sacrifices some space for the roofline, it’s still a usefully roomy sedan. Handling and steering are superb, deft, light to the touch. And with a choice of a 385-horsepower V-8 or a 510-hp supercharged V-8, straight-line performance is thrilling. With the latest XJ, Jaguar finally has a true challenger to the likes of BMW, Audi and Mercedes-Benz.
Watch National Geographic: Megafactories Jaguar XJ – Turn off the lights
Megafactories Jaguar XJ,