Comedian and ultimate car guy Jay Leno served as master of ceremonies at a posh gathering in London where Jaguar officially unveiled its new XJ flagship. He was joined by Jaguar boss Mike O'Driscoll and Chief Designer Ian Callum who provided details about the strikingly styled and distinctively appointed sedan that will go head to head with cars like the Audi A8, BMW 7 Series, Lexus LS and Mercedes-Benz S-Class. For the U.S. market, Jaguar plans to offer its new XJ in standard and long-wheelbase "L" variants with both naturally aspirated and supercharged V8 engines.

A major departure from the current XJ, the new-generation car boasts a far sleeker profile that deftly intermingles sporty and elegant visual cues in a 21st century context. While design language first seen in the XF firmly establishes corporate continuity up front, Jaguar traditionalists may well find the crisp character lines and blackout C-pillar treatment that dominate the 2010 XJ's rear quarters require a period of adjustment to fully appreciate.

The new XJ's bolder bodywork contours and sleeker aero detailing are suitably complemented by a cabin treatment that makes a similar leap beyond its predecessor. Embracing both sport and luxury touches, Jag promises that it also will offer an unprecedented degree of personalization potential in addition to its near endless roster of standard features that's literally topped by a panoramic glass roof. Yards of supple leather, chrome and piano-black accents and rich wood veneers are complemented by tech touches like a 12.3-inch Virtual Instruments display and supplemental 8.0-inch touch-screen that controls various supplemental vehicle functions from navigation to climate. Audiophiles also will be able to experience a 20-speaker/1200-watt Bowers & Wilkins sound system that's standard supercharged XJs.

Like its aluminum-intensive predecessor, Jaguar's latest range-topper matches lightweight body panels with an equally low-mass understructure based on a updated version of the firm's highly regarded Lightweight Vehicle Technology design. Now incorporating 50 percent recycled alloy material, it reduces CO2 emissions by up to three tons per car compared to one made from all-new aluminum. Rounding out the basic XJ platform mix is air suspension with Adaptive Dynamics and quick-ratio power steering.

All U.S. XJs will use some iteration the 5.0-liter Gen III AJ-V8 also found in Jag's XF and XK lines. In naturally aspirated, XJ/XJL guise it nets a 38- horsepower rating while force feeding bumps output of the XJ Supercharged and XJ Supersport versions to 470 and 510 horses, respectively. Backed by a six-speed paddle-shifted automatic transmission and bolstered by Active Differential Control on the two supercharged models, these new XJs are capable streaking 0-60 mph in 4.7-5.4 seconds.

Pricing for the new XJ line, which will go on sale in early 2010, starts at $72,500 with the XJL opening at $79,500. In Supercharged spec, those numbers rise to $87,500 and $90,500, with the enthusiast-grade Supersport duo commanding $112,000 and $115,000, respectively.

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