Jaguar's next-generation XJ will be electric, but it won't bend design rules

Ronan Glon

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Jaguar's next-generation XJ won't roar like a lion or purr like a kitten. It will ditch gasoline-powered six- and eight-cylinder engines in favor of electric power, the British company confirmed, but that's not an excuse to completely change its proportions. It will still be recognizable as a member of the decades-old XJ family.

"We're there to make the best-looking cars we possibly can, so the new XJ, it does have a [hood] on it. It's a very, very elegant shape; it's probably a little bit more traditional than the I-Pace," explained Julian Thomson, the man who replaced Ian Callum as Jaguar's head of design, in an interview with magazine Auto Express.

The aforementioned I-Pace is a segment-bending crossover with short overhangs and an unusually spacious cabin; it takes full advantage of the possibilities offered by compact electric technology, and it looks like nothing else on the road. Thomson confirmed his team won't take the XJ in this direction, and spy shots (pictured) taken far north of the Arctic Circle illustrate his point while keeping finer details under a swirly black and white wrap.

Although it's built on a massive lithium-ion battery pack, the next-generation XJ seemingly wears the typical long front, short back proportions that have characterized the model for generations. The most dramatic change is the presence of a hatch instead of a trunk lid. It was added to give the sedan a more fastback-like appearance than its predecessor; it has nothing to do with what's under the sheet metal. The XJ has been the segment's underdog for many years so keeping the classic three-box silhouette would have been marketing suicide.

"It's going to be a very, very luxurious, very, very calm, tranquil piece of transportation. But, it's not overtly flashy, it's not overtly expensive," summed up Thomson. His comments suggest it will be a better match for the Mercedes-Benz EQS, which is being designed around comfort the firm is known for globally, than for the Porsche Taycan, which stays true to the badge on its nose by putting a greater focus on performance. The electric version of the seventh-generation BMW 7 Series due out in the early 2020s will split the difference.

Jaguar is putting the final touches on the next-generation XJ, and it plans to introduce the model before the end of 2020. It's too early to tell if the big, silent cat will make its debut at one of the few auto shows left on the calendar, at a standalone event, or online. Either way, sales likely won't start until the 2022 model year.

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