The all-new '10 Jaguar XJ, making its global debut today in London, represents a dramatic departure from the outgoing model, says the auto maker’s top North American executive.

“It’s certainly more than just a progression for the XJ,” Gary Temple, president of Jaguar Land Rover North America, tells Ward’s in an exclusive interview.

“We had the current design for a long time. We did what we did with the XK and XF because it’s important to attract new market areas, and with the older design we weren’t going to get there.”

Temple admits the new XJ shares some design cues with the XF sports sedan, especially the grille, but argues the new design is more upscale than its predecessor and will help Jaguar reestablish itself in the auto industry as a brand “about beautiful, fast cars.”

Although the '10 XJ has a vastly different design than that outgoing model, Temple says study groups, which include current Jaguar owners, approve of the new look.

“Consumer groups we’ve done think we’ve hit the mark,” he says. “They’ve certainty told us they’re happy with the direction we’re going.”

While the outgoing XJ had a classic Jaguar look, the design theme couldn’t be pushed any further and a change was needed to attract new buyers.

“There will always be those that love the current design, but it started 40 years ago and it didn’t change much,” Temple says. “We think the majority of customers are ready to see change. Everybody that buys a new car likes their neighbors to know it’s new, and with a consistent design that’s difficult.”

Cues from the XF will adorn other Jaguar models, Temple says, stopping short of confirming production of a rumored roadster.

As with its predecessor, the '10 XJ boasts extensive use of lightweight aluminum in its body structure. But unlike the outgoing model, which experienced launch complications linked to aluminum body-panel manufacturing, the new model’s production process has been refined, Temple says.

“We certainly believe we’ve smoothed out any problems. It’s an all-aluminum vehicle. In fact, 50% is recycled aluminum. It’s very lightweight.”

The XJ’s aluminum structure makes it some 300 lbs. (136 kg) lighter than a standard steel body structure, which benefits performance, handling and fuel economy, Jaguar says.

The '10 Jaguar XJ will be available in the U.S. with a choice of three engines: a 5.0L 385 hp naturally aspirated V-8; 5.0L 470 hp supercharged V-8; and a 5.0L 510 hp supercharged V-8.

In naturally aspirated form, the XJ generates 380 lb.-ft. (515 Nm) of torque, while the supercharged versions develop 424 lb.-ft. (575 Nm) and 461 lb.-ft. (625 Nm), respectively.

European markets add a 3.0L V-6 diesel mill to the engine lineup.

The interior features chrome and piano-black detailing, as well as leather and veneer surfaces. The '10 XJ will come in four different trim levels – XJ, XJL, Supercharged and Supersport – and be offered in both standard and long wheelbase models, with the latter boasting an additional 5 ins. (13 cm) of legroom for rear-seat passengers.

Temple declines to discuss volume projections, but says Jaguar is expecting it to sell better than the outgoing model, with the bulk of sales coming from North America.

Through June, Jaguar delivered 598 XJs in the U.S., down 32.0% from year-ago, according to Ward’s data.

The '10 Jaguar XJ will go on sale in December in the U.S. and Europe. The U.S. starting price is $72,500, including an $850 destination charge. It will be assembled at the auto maker’s Midlands, U.K., facility.

bpope@wardsauto.com