Customers tend to be drawn to Jaguars by the looks, the growl of the engine or the prestige of the cat on the grille -- not by the navigation system.
But a slick computer interface has become a necessity for luxury brands, putting pressure on Jaguar Land Rover, long criticized for balky, dated radios, to modernize its dashboard.
Now the British automaker, flush with cash under the ownership of India's Tata Motors, is showing the fruits of a recent investment in high-powered computers.
The next-generation Jaguar XF sedan, unveiled at this month's New York auto show and due to go on sale this winter, will be the first nameplate with JLR's new top-of-the-line infotainment system, InControl Touch Pro.
InControl Touch Pro, touted as running 10 times faster than its predecessor, has a quad-core processor from Intel Corp., a 60-gigabyte solid-state hard drive and Ethernet to rapidly sift through data. And it will use a new open-source operating system, making it easier to layer in new technology, Matt Jones, head of future infotainment at JLR, said in an interview.
"By taking a common software base -- in our case, Linux -- and building on it with chunks of software that come from a multitude of different suppliers, we get to pick and choose the best of the components for each feature you'd want," Jones said.
The outgoing XF used a proprietary operating system running on a head unit supplied by Bosch. It worked fine, but it kept Jaguar's engineers busy; they had to rewrite software whenever the hardware changed, even for the radio.
Much of Jaguar's new operating system comes from the Linux Foundation and Genivi Alliance, which are building the underpinnings of a standard infotainment system with help from dozens of companies. Automakers set themselves apart by designing the interface that a customer actually sees, and by inking deals for exclusive content.
Jaguar, for example, worked with Nokia to tap into the telecom company's Here mapping service.
If a driver plans a trip using the Here app on a smartphone, the destination shows up automatically when the driver turns on the XF's navigation system. When the driver gets within about 220 yards of that destination, the car's display shows a 360-degree street-level map. If the driver parks before reaching that destination, the route gets transferred to the smartphone, so the driver can continue on foot or on public transit.
"We wanted a system where we could say, 'This is the best media player technology,' and we could go and take that," Jones said. "We wanted to be able to take the best navigation engine out there. We wanted the best natural-language speech engine. And there wasn't necessarily one of the classic Tier 1s that could offer all of that."