Introducing the Hard Line

The 2007 XJ facelift was tasteless as it was expedient. But there are things we can learn from it. 

2007 Jaguar X358 XJ. (c) automobilemag

Let us get one thing abundantly clear before we progress. Designing Jaguars is fiendishly difficult and if you doubt this for a moment, try it. Therefore anyone who makes a decent fist of the craft deserves credit rather than opprobrium. Having said that however, there are a few strictures a Jaguar designer ignores at his peril – the primary one being a matter of discernment.

There is a very simple process one can perform: I call it The Sir William Test. It’s quite simple really. When presented with a problem of a stylistic or creative nature, the Jaguar stylist should ask themselves, ‘would Bill Lyons have approved this‘? If the answer is in the negative, you’re really not in the business of creating a Jaguar. Because, as I’m fond of pointing out, Jaguar’s founder and creative éminence grise was a man in possession not only of an unimpeachable eye for line, but exquisite taste. But for something so apparently straightforward, the people tasked with continuing his tradition seem at times to have been oblivious to this apparently straightforward nostrum.

The post-millennium decade ought to have been a fruitful one for Coventry’s leaping cat. A period when Ford’s investment in product came to fruition with Jaguar for the first time in its history fielding a full range of cars. The last of the saloon-trio to be developed and the most significant both in brand-image (not to mention profitability) terms made its debut at the 2002 Paris Motor show. The X350 series XJ saloon was new from the ground up, sharing almost nothing with the outgoing model – one which in essence dated back to 1986, and in overall concept, further still.

The first of a new generation of Jaguars to employ a fully aluminium bodyshell, the X350 programme proved lengthy, costly and fraught with setbacks. The primary source of difficulty lay with the aluminium body, which was problematic from both a production engineering perspective and a stylistic one.

Having initially settled upon an exterior design theme which closely reflected that of the X200 S-Type, it was (prudently) decided to revert to something more iterative in form. But according to former senior Jaguar designer, Fergus Pollock, the approved body proved impossible to productionise. Hence, the resultant car, (the work of amongst others, Sandy Boyes) which had been created around a stringent set of packaging hardpoints, proved to be something of a fudge.

The merits or otherwise of X350’s styling have been debated at length on these pages, but suffice to say, the car’s introduction was greeted with perplexity rather than acclaim. Because while X350 was in essence a fine motor car and a worthy bearer of the XJ nameplate, its visuals left a good many observers, not to mention prospective customers underwhelmed.

2003 Jaguar X350 XJ. Image: Favcars

In referencing the original XJ6, Jaguar’s designers (or more to the point the senior management who approved it) seemingly couldn’t quite decide whether to create a full-throated homage or something more modernist in approach. The resultant car – in a similar manner to that of the S-Type, albeit, better executed – attempted to balance both imperatives, pleasing neither camp.

Of its styling deficiencies, perhaps the most glaring (assuming we ignore the launch car’s over-fussy detailing), was X350’s rather apologetic stance – a common bugbear of all Geoff Lawson-helmed production designs. Ian Callum inherited Lawson’s position at Whitley under trying circumstances in 1999, but the X350 design had gelled by then and Callum did not feel sufficiently emboldened to challenge senior management over the car’s execution.

But with X350 in the field and its lukewarm reception reflected in lacklustre sales, it was clear that action of a remedial nature would be required. By mid-decade, it was obvious to Ford management that not only was the X350 programme failing to capitalise on its investment, but that the Blue Oval was not prepared to continue to pour money into Browns Lane indefinitely. It would once again be a case of make do and mend. With few mechanical or technical revisions for what was theoretically a mid-life refresh, the primary objective was to beef-up X350’s limp stance and for it to display more assertive ‘down the road graphics’.

The most obvious changes were centred at nose and tail, where redesigned one-piece bumper assemblies were added. These were more angular than the outgoing treatment, and while they were intended to draw the eye inward towards the body-in-white, they gave the appearance more of an aftermarket addition than an OEM fitment.

Particularly hamfisted was the front bumper section, which was not only heavy-handed in appearance, but came with a visual coup de grâce. While the original car’s under-bumper air inlet formed an elongated oval shape, spanning the width of the car, the revised inlet, clearly intended to harmonise with the grille above formed a gaping maw which dominated the car’s visage. The days of XJ as shrinking violet were over.

Another alteration was the revision of the original car’s grille, which had been inspired by the treatment of the very first XJ6. In this application it looked pinched and mean-looking. Here it would appear that the stylists were hamstrung by the XJ’s body construction. In order to mitigate against potential insurance costs arising from the car’s aluminium body, an extruded cross-beam was engineered to provide a literal buffer against 10-mph impacts without incurring structural damage. This is likely to have ensured that any major front-end changes would come with a hefty price-tag. Hence the grille, while maintaining the same size and shape, now featured a simplified mesh treatment with a large central spar, topped with a growler emblem.

(c) : autocentrum

On the flanks, just aft of the front wheels a faux air vent, for reasons best known to Mr. Callum, was added. Serving no technical nor visual purpose, it simply underlined its lack of gravitas. And so to the rear, where revised bumper section apart, little of note was altered. One further visual addition was that of (another of Mr. Callum’s obsessions) a brushed metal light bar bearing the Jaguar legend, which spanned the tail-lamp units.

The original interior (overseen by Giles Taylor) was well-considered enough to be largely left alone. Minor changes amounted to revised seats and some trim and equipment changes. Technically, the addition of the 2.7 litre twin-turbo diesel power unit was the biggest news, while the 3.5 litre AJV8 unit was dropped. Wheel sizes went up with either 19” or 20” rims being the order of play, which also lent the car a more assertive mien, but did little for ride quality.

While team Callum was rightfully lauded for the facelift carried out on the S-Type in 2004, the revised XJ (dubbed X358) received nothing but derision – largely because it looked at least as cheap as it undoubtedly cost. Yet in one aspect it did succeed. It lent the somewhat limp X350 a decidedly more predatory appearance and to some eyes at least enhanced a design which can best be described as a colossal missed opportunity.

However, by most accepted measures, the X358 facelift was ill-judged and frankly, rather tacky. Of course we’ll probably never learn under what strictures and privations it was created. Were Jaguar’s designers more fixated upon the next generation of cars while the XJ facelift was being enacted? Only Ian Callum can truly answer those questions – or indeed explain how such changes were steered through senior management.

(c) motorauthority

In retrospect, what we have is perhaps the first genuine marker of the outgoing Jaguar stylistic leader’s taste – a matter which would crystallise over subsequent years. Because despite a number of highly noteworthy concepts with which he is associated, not to mention several excellent production car designs overseen by him, X358 would not be the only Jaguar created under Callum’s supervision which would have conclusively failed the Sir William Test.

As unfair a comparison as it might first seem, everyone who attains stylistic leadership at Jaguar must at some point dash themselves against the towering creative legacy of the marque’s founder. For Ian Callum, it appears he was content to swerve Jaguar’s knight-gaffer’s patrician shadow, but now in the wake of the Scot’s departure, the quality of his contribution comes into sharper focus. How will he be remembered? He must hope it is not by this.

 

©Driven to Write. All rights reserved.

Author: Eóin Doyle

Founder. Editor. Content Provider.

26 thoughts on “Introducing the Hard Line”

  1. Good morning Eóin. A thoughtful dissection of the X358 facelift, thank you. In fairness to Callum et al, I think the task they were set was impossible. The explicitly ‘classic’ style of the X350 did not lend itself at all to the sort of ‘modernisation’ attempted. Viewed in isolation, the front and rear ends are ok(ish). It’s in the side profile and front and rear three-quarter views where the mismatch in styles really jars. There’s a lot of detail in the body sides (waistline groove, rising line above the sill) and the relative lack of detail in the bumper mouldings makes them just look heavy and bulbous.

    At the rear of the car, there’s an odd effect caused by the new bumper moulding whereby the lower edges of the light clusters appear to be not horizontal but rising towards the centre of the car.

    After the facelift, did the x358 sell any better than the X350? I must take a look and see.

  2. Here are the XJ sales figures for Europe and the US (2003 and 2004 US numbers not available to me).

    Year – Europe – US
    2009 – 1,266 – 884
    2008 – 2,211 – 1,514
    2007 – 3,485 – 4,474
    2006 – 4,424 – 5,027
    2005 – 3,581 – 8,304
    2004 – 5,073 – N/A
    2003 – 7,216 – N/A

    It looks like the 2007 X358 facelift was money down the drain: no sign of any fillip in sales. It’s a moot point as to whether X350 sales would have declined faster without the facelift, of course.

    1. In fairness Daniel, the sales figures alone tell only a partial story. As I pointed out in the earlier article on X350, several factors conjoined to hobble the car’s business case – not least the fact that customer preferences altered quite significantly in the interim between the car’s initiation and release. For X358, timing was also an issue. Introduced in 2007 as a 2008 model for the US market, it arrived in time for the market crash of that year – a matter which would have adversely affected its sales prospects, even had it been what the market was looking for.

      Its replacement was shown the following year, although it didn’t actually go on sale until 2010, but once the new car was out there, interest in the older design (except perhaps to those not enamoured of its style) dwindled further.

      One wonders if X358 was more about demonstrating to prospective buyers of Jaguar (the company, not the car) that Ford was still investing in product? After all, it was the most half-hearted refresh of all the Lawson era Jags – and by some margin.

      I ought to detest it on so many grounds, but somehow don’t. In fact the facelift car, despite its obvious flaws is the only X350 variant that turns my head. The maddening aspect of X350 is that they are believed to be very good to drive and in durability terms, pretty reliable – (by Jaguar standards at least – and as long as one avoids the diesel – an engine known to be troublesome in all of its applications).

      Christopher: It’s been stated by former Jaguar stylist (and chronicler), Nick Hull that X350 was what we might term a ‘packaging car’ insofar as very firm instructions were issued from Dearborn over the dimensions of cabin and boot. In the event, some luggage space was sacrificed for styling reasons. The idea of a ‘packaging Jaguar’ seems about as far from the platonic ideal as is possible to imagine for the leaping cat, but there you are. Uncle Henry knows best.

      As Christopher will undoubtedly recall, Professor Randle told us about the 18-point checklist Ford issued, which everyone had to adhere to when initiating a new model programme. He intimated that it made for perfectly good Fords, but wasn’t how one would ideally go about creating a Jaguar. (And before anyone gets on their high horse, I accept that pre-Ford Jaguars were not paragons of build or durability.) My point here is simply to repeat that while the blue oval got many aspects right, they lost something more nebulous and precious – the quintessence of the marque. And it has never been recaptured.

  3. X358 is a mongrel, unquestionably. Inconsistency doesn’t even begin to describe it. Yet, like Eoin, I believe to have a faint grasp of what Team Callum tried to achieve, insofar as the facelifted car looks rather more planted than the original design, which, on larger wheels (which it otherwise needed), appeared as though it was on stilts.

    Coming back to the fundamentals of the original design, rather than the details of the facelift, the canopy deserves mention. The brightwork on the c-pillar remains a source of irritation to me (though next to how BMW handle this right now, X350’s solution appears almost elegant), but the basic shape and proportions of the roof are the true dealbreaker – its apex appears to be above the rear axle, rather than the centre of the roof or somewhere ahead of it. This makes for very awkward proportions, in the most un-Lyonesque of ways, as the canopy’s outline is suggestive of deceleration (like a car under braking), rather than acceleration (when the front of the car, rather than its rear would rise) . I assume this was a packaging-driven choice, as X350 was a substantially larger car than X300 and was supposed to finally deal with the issue of the XJ’s traditionally constricted interior space. But to me, it’s what sounds the death knell for a deeply compromised design.

    X350’s basic proportions also highlight just how superficial Jaguar’s then-custodians of the marque and its clientele was. If any X300 customer was asked whether he or she would’ve liked more interior space, the answer would obviously and inevitably be affirmative. But what would the response have been if they’d been asked to trade in the traditionally lithe, athletic appearance of the XJ for more interior space? I guess X350’s sales figures answered that question.

  4. I do wonder if the much vaunted aluminium architecture wasn’t more of a curse than a blessing for Jaguar? The X350 (in both SWB and LWB forms) had a 160mm longer wheelbase and was roughly 100mm longer overall, 60mm wider and 150mm higher than the X308. The big stretch in wheelbase and height should have made it enormously roomy inside, but I don’t recall it being so. Moreover, the X350 weighed roughly the same as the SWB X308, at around 1,800kg.

    My F-Type convertible, which uses a similar aluminium structure, felt tight inside compared to my Boxster and had a ridiculously shallow boot, yet was 100mm longer and 120mm wider than the Boxster. I appreciate that they are fundamentally different layouts, of course, but I’m wondering if Jaguar’s aluminium construction is responsible for them being pretty inefficient in terms of internal space vs external dimensions?

    1. I would guess so. I come across an XE pretty much every day and marvel at the thickness of its pillars every other time or so. Audi’s ASF architecture (despite being a space frame – as the name suggests – in contrast to Jaguar’s monocoque design) doesn’t seem to come with this kind of extreme trade-off, even though I’d be very surprised if the actual aluminium used by each manufacturer differed significantly in terms of its respective structural properties.

    2. Aluminium is very soft and if you want to make load bearing box sections of a car’s body from folded and welded/riveted aluminium these structures have to be very large to take the loads. Jaguar’s body structure is largely made from such sections. Honda made the same mistake with the NSX which gave away much of the aluminium’s weight advantage because it had to use so much of it. Audi’s ASF uses castings and extrusions wherever possible. These elements are compact and immensely stiff at the same time and can take enormous loads because they are seamless and can be randomly formed to take and dissipate the loads.
      Jaguar body structure showing pressed elements
      https://bioage.typepad.com/.a/6a00d8341c4fbe53ef01b8d0fa8c41970c-800wi

      Audi ASF with high proportion of cast or extruded elements – the a and b posts’ visible parts are extrusions and the lower a post is a casting.

    3. Yes, absolutely, thanks Dave.

      Now I’m wondering why they used magnesium for the strut brace in the first diagram.

    4. Magnesium is twenty-five percent lighter than aluminium and this is worth the enormous effort (and considerable risk) of corrosion proofing this otherwise most suspect material.
      Lightness is also the reason why the latest ASF shown in the upper picture uses so much ultra high tensile strength steel despite of the considerable corrosion risks of the resulting material mix.

    5. Dave, would you happen to be aware of the differences between Audi’s space frame and BMW’s design, as used for Z8 and the RR Phantom? Any insight would be appreciated.

    6. Mention of the BMW E52/Z8 immediately brings two things to my mind: terminal corrosion of the space frame in no time (expensive) and terminally bent chassis after a single hit by a pothole at the wrong speed or angle of attack.
      https://www.bmwz8.us/forum/attachment.php?s=356b51ed01b9c98c54ae19e6f88b8d82&attachmentid=535&stc=1&d=1137124496

      That’s similar to the Lotus Elise’s chassis which being a one piece unit has to be replaced after a hit at a front corner even at relatively low speed, making for very expensive repairs

      You also see that the Elise’s chassis is made from intelligently used extrusions where only the bend in the main chassis spars are very expensive to produce because large section extrusions need to be bent.

    7. A SWB X350 4.2 V8 is 1650KG in the brochure and about that when I put mine on a weighbridge; about 150KG lighter than an X308 for a significantly larger car with a lot more “stuff” in it. It feels light to drive, and goes well with 300bhp; the 4.2 AJV8 with proper VVC on intake and exhaust was the engine it should have been at launch.

      Having owned both the X350 is far roomier inside and has a much bigger boot, I’d say roughly commensurate with the increase in exterior dimensions, but the pillars are indeed very bulky. The X308 was outright cramped for all occupants, particularly those in the back, with a lot of packaging compromises to keep the car low to the ground. Something the X350 does keep is the sportscar esque “legs out in front” seating position rather than the SUV style sit up and beg seating position that is de rigeur now.

      What I find odd is that in the first generation aluminium car Jaguar/FoMoCo seemed to really reap benefits in terms of weight savings but all of the subsequent aluminium Jaguars have been overweight; no lighter than their competition.

      I think time has been kind to the X350; when it was compared to it’s immediate predecessor it did indeed look like a great pudding of a thing but if it is compared to contemporary large cars it fares much better and looks quite handsome and restrained in modern traffic. Nobody could build anything like X300/X308 in the 21st century and expect to sell any, and I think Jaguar simply lacked the design talent to find a truly new direction (and still do). The detailing on the launch cars was truly awful, as it was on all PAG era Jaguars, but the ’06MY facelift removed the rubbing strips and some of the chrome to great effect before this awful X358 facelift.

      I have heard is said that the X350 is a much better car than the X308 but a worse Jaguar, and I can’t disagree with that sentiment. They are holding up very well though, with most of the petrol ones built still going; I think Jaguar quality hit a high point in the late PAG era that it will most probably never reach again.

  5. I’ve just spent a very enjoyable and informative thirty minutes or so re-reading Eóin’s earlier critique of the X350 generation XJ and erudite comments thereon. (Follow the link above to the piece titled ‘The Luxury Gap’.)

    For me, Sean Patrick, late of this parish, sums up the X358 perfectly with a quip describing it as: “really…ridiculous, like pensioners who have been to Top Shop”.

    Where is Mr Patrick these days? He’s well, I hope?

    1. Daniel: I’m gratified that you enjoyed the piece. Thanks for your enquiry as to the health and welfare of co-founder Sean. In truth, we’re not entirely sure what happened to him. There have been rumours amid the DTW water cooler-contingent that he eloped with Myles Gorfe and the word is that they now run an artisan cheese stall together in Whitstable. But you know what office gossip can be like…

    2. I thought Myles Gorfe had got back together with Brenda and was still working on his Granada restoration project. The front wings and subframes are still being welded in Latvia. No sign of their return.

  6. Admittingly not a complete fan of the X350’s exterior styling, however drawing upon the retro styling of previous XJ models are one of its plus points and the right direction to go even if more work was needed to fully sort it out. Whereas it seems the S-Type featured the wrong styling in being too overly retro at the front-end, with the X-Type in turn featuring the wrong platform.

    Felt X350 lacked a 2-door 4-seater coupe bodystyle as revival of a latter-day Jaguar XJS, which unlike the related 2+2 X150 would also feature lower-end 3-litre V6, 3.5-litre V8 and the 2.7-litre V6 diesel engines. Also of the view the X350 and hypothetical XJS coupe variant not only inexplicably missed out on an earlier introduction of the 3-litre V6 diesel, but also on the 3.6-litre V8 diesel used in the Range Rover and Range Rover Sport with an uprated version possessing a figure closer to 300-320 hp, having an eye on the V8 diesels produced by rivals from BMW, Audi and Mercedes-Benz.

  7. Were the earlier X350 designs ever made public? I wonder how much it was changed, and it is good to hear that the too-conservative final result was not the intended one.

    I don’t think it was mentioned but the facelift dropped the rub strip too (remember those…)

    1. John, if you either follow the link embedded in the piece, or click on the ‘related article’ above, titled The Luxury Gap, you will find some of the X350 proposals. Car Design News also ran a piece a number of years ago which went into some detail about the design process and the various proposals. However, this now lives behind a paywall. Alternatively, you could spend the considerable sum of money being asked for Nick Hull’s tome on Jaguar design, where the programme was both discussed and illustrated in some detail.

      What is clear is that the eventual car was perhaps the lesser of several evils stylistically, although as former Jaguar senior designer, Fergus Pollock told chroniclers latterly, if one placed X350 next to the aborted XJ90, one would always have chosen the latter. But Bill Hayden in his infinite wisdom said no to that one.

      Incidentally, the rubbing strip was (mercifully) deleted around 2005 or so, well before the X358 facelift.

      David: I’m not entirely sure I’d go along with your contention that Jaguar necessarily lacked design talent. What they seemed to lack was strong leadership at Design Director level, or indeed senior management with sufficient understanding of the marque. From the point at which Ford took over, I don’t think Jaguar had an MD with the slightest idea about the direction Jaguar styling should have taken. And while I have not seen any striking evidence of lost styling masterpieces hitting the cutting room floor during the PAG years (R-D6 study aside), that doesn’t mean the talent wasn’t available to create them.

      Similarly, in my view, JLR management stifled Jaguar design and have only latterly realised their error, just as FoMoCo did eventually. In Julian Thomson, Jaguar may finally have the design leader they deserve, but I fear his appointment is probably too late.

    2. Thanks Eoin. The pictures I found weren’t particularly more modern, so presumably there are others. I like the X350 but it was a mistake, although in light of the poor performance of the X351 I wonder if it would have made enough difference.

    3. John: Allowing for the fact that matters of styling are subjective, I have to say that all the proposals for X350 (that have been made public at least) were, without exception, hugely disappointing. I’d love to tell you that a modernist, progressive theme had been scuppered by the carmaker’s ability to produce it in aluminium, but sadly, no. The favoured proposal was a really unfortunate confluence of XJ and X200 S-Type cues. Frankly, it was an embarrassment. The production design, for all its faults, was the lesser of several evils.

  8. I had forgotten that this model was Daimler’s last gasp, with the Super 8. Not sure what the silver thing in the front wing is meant to be.

    Daimler Super 8 Lwb

  9. I have to agree with the comments regarding the X358 , for me the facelift provided one useful upgrade which was the indicators incorporated in the door mirrors . Much has been written about the X350 shortcomings regarding its overall design but I have to say that in my opinion it has stood the test of time better than any of its contemporaries , there is no sight more pleasant nor typically English than an obviously cherished example making its way along our roads .
    Its also an interesting topic as to how the Trade view them currently with close to £20k often being asked for low mileage supercharged variants .

  10. To my eyes the X358 expunged some of the X350’s most egregious faults, chiefly the over liberal application of chrome and oval shapes. Less forgivable was the fit of the face-lifted parts, introducing comically large shuts around the grille and lights.

  11. I have a dark red 358 with 20 inch 5 spoke wheels.

    The first day I bought it the postman knocked on my door to say ‘what a fantastic looking car!’. This has been repeated many times at traffic lights, petrol stations etc.

    Never have I driven a car that has received so many compliments, with one possible exception.

    Jensen Interceptor.

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