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Will the aging Jaguar XJ transform into a high-tech electric car?

Jaguar XJR575
The XJ is Jaguar’s flagship sedan, a rival to the likes of the Audi A8, BMW 7 Series, and Mercedes-Benz S-Class. But while those German land yachts have all been redesigned fairly recently, the XJ has soldiered on with an aging design. But that might be about to change — dramatically.

The Jaguar XJ will get a redesign that could include an all-electric powertrain, reports Autocar. The electric XJ will be unveiled at the end of this year to celebrate the model’s 50th anniversary, and go on sale next year, according to the magazine. If this report proves true, Jaguar could leapfrog its competitors and take the fight to Tesla with a high-tech luxury electric car.

The XJ has been Jaguar’s flagship sedan for decades but, unlike the German luxury automakers, Jaguar hasn’t used the car as a platform for new technology. Aside from the introduction of an aluminum body on the 2003 XJ, Jag has been fairly conservative. The current-generation XJ, introduced in 2009, features radically different styling to any previous XJ, but is fairly conventional in terms of technology. So an electric XJ would be a major change of pace for Jag.

But the automaker won’t be starting completely from scratch. Jaguar will launch its first all-electric model, the I-Pace SUV, later this year. Lessons learned from that model could be applied to the XJ. Autocar also reports that Jaguar’s sibling brand, Land Rover, is developing a more car-like SUV code-named “Road Rover,” which will ride on the same aluminum-intensive platform as the new XJ.

An electric flagship sedan also makes a lot of sense for Jaguar’s image. Jaguar and Land Rover plan to offer hybrid or all-electric powertrains in every model they make by the end of the decade; an electric XJ would be a great poster child for that effort. Jaguar also fields a race team in the all-electric Formula E series, which could be a powerful marketing tool for an electric road car.

Going electric might also be the only way for the XJ to survive. Sedans have fallen out of favor as buyers flock to SUVs, and the XJ isn’t even the most popular model in its class. But Jaguar plans to pitch the XJ as a “cutting-edge alternative” to more traditional luxury sedans, according to Autocar, depicting it as a different type of vehicle rather than just another A8/7-Series/S-Class competitor. That approach worked for Tesla: The Model S has snagged a few sales from the big German luxury sedans.

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