It’s the end of a long week and you find us today in a somewhat reflective mood.
It was a daring gambit on the part of Jaguar’s styling hierarchy to overturn what had become a stagnant design aesthetic, but ten years on, the X351 series XJ has not lost its power to polarise opinion. Certainly, the passage of time has failed to leaven its more visually unsettling aspects – most of which, (as recently discussed on these pages) centre around the D-pillar area, where a good many visual strands converge in a not altogether harmonious fashion.
With all due consideration, it’s quite possible to imagine that Jaguar’s Ian Callum frequently finds himself awake at night scouring his memory to recall exactly what it was about the 351’s D-pillar’s treatment he was so enthusiastic about at the time.
Because a decade on from the car’s official introduction and despite the many protestations of the Whitley styling leadership, I have yet to hear a convincing argument for the visual methodology espoused, apart from one of sheer blinding wilfulness. After all, had the design intent been to have created the visual illusion of a floating or cantilever roof, surely the thing to have done would have been to have painted the cantrails and roofpanel the same colour as well?
But while the XJ’s rear three quarters maintains its capacity to shock and awe – at least with regard to its aesthetic merits, it does have one shining attribute to its credit. As we have noted elsewhere here on Driven to Write, the manner in which light plays upon a car’s surfaces can subtly alter our perceptions of them. Similarly, one could argue, the manner in which said vehicle’s surfaces reflect back both natural and artificial light can be quite striking. In X351’s case, (as illustrated) it is, I might be moved to suggest, really rather lovely.
Given that Adam Hatton’s X351 exterior design proved such a radical departure from the cosily (over?)familiar, it’s interesting that no alternative proposals (and there would undoubtedly have been more than a few) have ever seen the light of day. But perhaps along with becoming wedded to a (flawed) styling theme; one which nonetheless proved compelling, it’s possible that Jaguar’s styling leadership might have become captivated by the manner in which both light and reflection played upon the contested surfaces of ‘351’s rear three quarters? We may never truly know.
Given that its ten-year anniversary is imminent, we will return to X351 in greater detail during the course of the year. But in the interim, perhaps this minor meditation can leave us with some matters to reflect upon?