Things seem to be going quite well for Jaguar all of a sudden, don’t they?
Well enough that we might even risk a hostage to fortune: a hope for the future. Here’s mine. That in five, 10 or even 25 years’ time – once the model catalogue is more fully fleshed out, the balance sheet is handsomely repaying Tata’s investment and this great British brand is finally selling enough cars that any talk of its dreaded ‘untapped potential’ becomes a thing of the past – someone in long trousers has the good sense to say: “Enough. That’ll do. We’ve made it, everyone. This is what success looks like for us.”
God knows how many cars the firm needs to shift annually to reach that point. I’d say a lot more than it does now but significantly fewer than any of the German manufacturers with which it’s routinely compared.
The key thing is that Jaguar isn’t a typical premium automotive brand. In my book, it’s something of a minority-interest car maker – and long may it continue to be. It serves the interests of keen drivers looking for handsome, desirable, real-world driver’s cars tuned a bit differently from the Bavarian bunch. It does not, and need not, serve those looking first and foremost for engineering monoliths, 150mph office cubicles, car park status symbols, lifestyle machines or any other concept currently used to part global middle classes from their hard-earned.
There, I can get off the soapbox. Now to this week’s good news: evidence that Jaguar understands all of the above, coming in the shape of the new XF.
It’s a measure of the historic significance of 2015 for Jaguar that it can roll out a replacement for the car that effectively turned around its fortunes eight years ago and almost no one seems to notice. The reason is because the XF represents Jaguar doing something it has hardly needed to do at all over the past decade: consolidate.
Under the skin, the XF is all new. Inheriting the aluminium-rich modular platform, Integral Link rear suspension, Ingenium four-cylinder diesel engines and electromechanical power steering of the smaller XE, the car is longer of wheelbase and cabin but shorter overall than its mostly steel predecessor. Significantly lighter, more aerodynamically efficient and more economical, it has the makings of a much-altered car.
And yet it isn’t: not to drive, and not in so many other ways, either, all of which we’ll come to. Jaguar has had the confidence to use transformative technology in a discreet and non-transformative way with this car. To say: “We like the niche we’ve carved out for ourselves here, and we hope you do, too. So we’re sticking with it.”
That impression becomes unmistakable when you line up the new XF against one of its key competitors and, bit by bit, weigh up what it does well against the not so well. Our first opportunity to do that has come in the contrasting shapes of the Jaguar in headline diesel 3.0d S form and the BMW 530d, the long-time preferred choice of the upwardly mobile business set willing to pay for extra performance and prestige.