Luxury in Focus: Jaguar XJ

By Guy Bird for Interior Motives, Oct 2009

How Jaguar's new flagship cabin went from minimal to sportscar

Jaguar XJ

  • Vehicle type: Production four-door saloon
  • Design director: Ian Callum
  • Interior design director: Mark Phillips
  • Project started: Spring 2006
  • Project completed: Spring 2009
  • Launch: Saatchi Gallery, London July 2009

 

Supplier  –  Component

  • Bowes & Wilkins – Stereo
  • Bosch – TFT driver dials screen
  • Visteon – driving cluster software
  • Draxlmaier – console/IP mouldings
  • Kostal – gear selector
  • Ohlo – ball vents and console surround
  • Intier – door panels and panniers 

 

The XJ is the second vehicle in Jaguar’s product renaissance after the XF. Lead interior designer Mark Philips had a clear vision: “I wanted to appeal to a more design-savvy and younger audience, to make a big and very contemporary statement relevant to modern consumers.” Two architectural studies were explored under the names ‘Structure’ and ‘Fluid’. The more organic, non-linear ‘Fluid’ study was dropped and the ‘Structure’ study – including the wraparound veneer ribbon that made it all the way through to production – was selected and taken forward to the development phase. At this point another very linear theme option was developed by Nic Finney called ‘Harmony’ to, in Philips’ words, “double check that the ‘Structure’ study was the right route to follow.” By the summer of 2006 this ‘Structure’ study model had been built but still featured a centre console and transmission tunnel that ducked under the IP rather than connect with it.    

“Through a combination of focus groups and soul searching I’ve learnt that there is a point where minimalism doesn’t translate to sports car luxury”

Colour and materials manager Kim Challinor developed various themes for the interior. The ‘navy’ theme shows influences from the bespoke and tailored look from Saville Row mixed with the precision and fine detail of a Tag Heuer chronograph watch and the subtle colour, hand-crafted feel and contrast stitching of a Hermes bag. For the ‘tan’ theme a Vertu phone was selected for its stitching, colour and chrome detailing excellence alongside a Les Altiers Ruby Helmet for its nappa leather lining and colour contrasts and the unknown pictured chair’s elegantly formed leather. The final ‘cashew’ theme references Ilse Lang’s Tribo stool for its linear wood grain, refined form and satin finish, a Cartier bag for its grain and texture and a Celine bag for, among other things, its careful mix of leather and metal. 

The sketch by Philips in October 2007 shows how the design has moved on again to one much closer to the final production interior, this time with an integrated IP and centre console plus more pronounced and rounder vents. The finished production interior is significantly different from the early ‘structure’ and ‘fluid’ studies and even the first chosen clay with its different vent cowling and detailing. Philips explains the reason for the change: “The ‘structure’ clay was ultra-minimal, but through a combination of focus groups and soul searching I’ve learnt that there is a point where minimalism doesn’t translate to sports car luxury. As soon as the console was linked to the IP and round ball vents added we gained that sports car feel, a feeling that it meant business.” 

Overall chief designer for the XJ project, Giles Taylor, explains that this move away from ‘minimalism’ was not about going retro either, but rather about following a new kind of luxury, as he says: “We wanted a more tactile sense of luxury, to reach-out and touch something that is enjoyable to twist or the cold feel of a metal knurled ring. We feel a tactile sense of luxury coming through as a trend and believe our round vents could symbolise a clear break from a more iPod-style interior. The very dominant vents are not there to pander to a kind of retro feeling, to any kind of iconography of a Mk10 Jaguar or anything, although the ‘three-dial read’ – with two ball vents and the analogue clock in the middle presented along the centre line – does gives a subliminal ‘read’ to older Jag models.”

The centre console – here shown in piano black – doesn’t, and will never, sport an old-school wood effect though, as design director Ian Callum stresses: “There’s no fake wood on our cars, it’s all real, and that’s why we chose not to put wood in our centre console, because we couldn’t get it to work there so we wouldn’t put fake stuff in there instead – like other makers do. I like the honesty of that.”

Isn’t the XJ's knurled detailing ‘a bit Bentley’? Philips disagrees: “Not at all, there has been knurling on components in past Jags and Bugattis too. It’s got a no-nonsense texture and ‘old money’ status associated with it but it’s also very contemporary”

The XJ launches with short and long wheelbase versions at the same time, partly to cater to the limousine and non-driving businessman markets so strong in Asia. Both cars are over five metres long (5122 and 5247mm respectively) and create excellent rear legroom, ranging from 987-1121mm. The centre console features blue illumination at its rear edge behind the parking brake, among the ball vents, and in the trinket boxes to add drama to night-time driving while the chrome inlays and soft-feel paint improve the switchgear’s haptic quality.

The wood veneer ribbon wrapping round the front of the cabin is one of the defining features of the new XJ but was a difficult effect to achieve as Taylor says: “Our absolute mission was to get the IP low and suspended off this veneer curtain, it’s actually lower than the XK, but we had to work very hard with the engineers to move the HVAC unit and ensure correct airbag deployment, to get this lovely low-slung sporting IP. The old XJ’s IP was very high and monolithic, but this one is all about taking your eye all the way to the base of the windscreen to get a sense of depth, and a feeling of control and sporting luxury.”

The large flat screen of a Loewe TV inspired the brushed metal slim surround for the centre touchscreen while the leather detailing on the new sporty three-spoke steering wheel was informed by bespoke men’s hand luggage and its chrome buttons by Nokia and Siemens mobile phone handsets. The triple driver’s dials are completely virtual – displayed on a TFT screen to follow in the footsteps of the revised Range Rover’s similar display. The design of the virtual dials and their associated graphics was influenced by exclusive Ikepod and Graham watches. As there is no physical shape to them, the Jaguar designers spent considerable time making them appear more 3D, to the extent, Taylor reveals, of designing 3D models and virtually lighting them within Alias software to produce credible drop shadows for the dial rings. Bosch supplied the screens, Visteon provided the final software and consultancy Imagination assisted with some of the design animation. 

Throughout the XJ cabin quality details abound but the overall interior is a success because it doesn’t feel overdone. Design director Ian Callum explains the new strategy: “We started by creating a very simple architecture so that left us wide open to embellish it in a much more indulgent way. That’s the secret, keep the architecture, the basic sense of line and structure as simple as possible.” Given the success (and cost) of developing some of the surprise and delight details for the XJ’s XF sister model, some parts have been carried over, most notably the rising gear selector. But even on this part subtle changes have been made, namely making the knob knurled on the XJ rather than ridged, as on the XF. But isn’t such knurling, also featured in other areas of the XJ cabin, all ‘a bit Bentley’? Philips disagrees: “Not at all, there has been knurling on components in past Jags and Bugatti too. It’s got a very no-nonsense texture and ‘old money’ status associated with it but it’s also very contemporary and romantic and gives a tactile sportscar feel.”

 

  • Length: 5122mm
  • Width: 1894mm
  • Height: 1448mm
  • Wheelbase: 3032mm

 


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