Currently reading: Steve Cropley: Jaguar's new design direction will be worth waiting for
Our columnist resurrects a dormant car brand, says goodbye to his lockdown motor, and talks design with Jaguar this week

In this week's automotive adventures, Steve thinks about what is to come from Jaguar, chats with an F1 commentator, bids goodbye to his lockdown motor, and more.

MONDAY: Our interview with Jaguar’s new(ish) design director, Julian Thomson, makes me impatient to see the new direction he’s promising for the marque’s future cars. Outgoing boss Ian Callum put Jag Design back on the rails; Thomson wants even more Jaguarness, more richness, more beauty. He’d also like to create some smaller cars, he says, although that road is paved with difficulty because they cost as much as big ones but are less profitable. Still, Thomson led the team that created Land Rover’s LRX concept that led to the Range Rover Evoque, Jaguar Land Rover’s last real rule breaker, a good omen.

Thomson talked affectionately about Jaguar’s 2003 R-D6 concept (“we all still love that car”), which was proposed as a kind of grown-up Mini Cooper, but Jaguar’s (Ford) management didn’t like it. To me, that car did two precious things: used the ‘shield’ grille better than anything before or since, and utilised the D-Type’s wonderful curves in a modern way. More, please.

New rd6 pic

TUESDAY: Reckon you could change the automotive world? If you’ve had a great idea, now’s the time to reveal it – and enter our Drivers of Change competition. With the help of key sponsors, we’re offering generous cash prizes to innovators in the industry’s most important fields. Three of our writers have even come up with entry examples to get you started. Please give it a go.

WEDNESDAY: Good fun talking to Martin Brundle, former Formula 1 star and Sky F1 commentator, for a motorsport feature further inside. I’ve known him a long time – since the days when he was Michael Schumacher’s team-mate at Benetton – and I’ve always found him thoughtful, helpful, lucid and thoroughly normal. Which is exactly as he comes across on the Haunted Fishtank.

Whenever we talk, I’m reminded of stuff he told me years ago about the unseen challenges of driving: what F1’s cornering, braking and acceleration forces do to the long-suffering body. In high-downforce braking, the retardation can be so huge that moisture from your tear ducts gets thrown forward onto your visor, and you can have trouble lifting your foot off the brake pedal.

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And after just a couple of laps, the forces can make a tightly adjusted harness feel amazingly loose. The only solution is an extreme tightness. “I used to get my mechanic to pull down on the straps until they passed the threshold of pain,” he told me, “then give ’em one more.”

THURSDAY: A nice bloke called Derek came this morning to collect the lockdown Bentley Flying Spur after eight weeks. I’ve only driven 150 miles in that time, but I’m still missing it. Guess that’s the test: how you know a car’s truly desirable.

FRIDAY: Doubt I’ll ever buy another old car (new ones are too appealing), but if I did, one candidate would be an early Bristol. Because of that, I particularly enjoyed working with our resident car designer, Ben Summerell-Youde, to propose an all-new model for this issue. It’s apparent (and our expert, David Brown, confirmed it) that to do anything decent nowadays, you need a modern donor car that can contribute its interlinked powertrain, fuelling system, clean air gadgetry, instrumentation and more. With DB’s help, we alighted on the Ford Mustang.

Must say I find Ben’s sketches amazingly convincing – imagine driving that through London – and I can’t believe someone, somewhere won’t acquire the name and breathe low-volume life into it again. I showed our proposal to Bristol expert Richard Hackett (, who proved instantly willing to get involved in selling a car like ours, even at £295k a throw.

AND ANOTHER THING: Had a tough lockdown? Imagine how it’s been forreader Paul Fasey, whohad his family’s two carsflattened by this mightytree in a recent overnightstorm. In a letter wrylyheadlined ‘It neverrains….’ he says that atleast the insurers, LVand Admiral, areplaying ball.

Tree crashed car


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Steve Cropley

Steve Cropley Autocar
Title: Editor-in-chief

Steve Cropley is the oldest of Autocar’s editorial team, or the most experienced if you want to be polite about it. He joined over 30 years ago, and has driven many cars and interviewed many people in half a century in the business. 

Cropley, who regards himself as the magazine’s “long stop”, has seen many changes since Autocar was a print-only affair, but claims that in such a fast moving environment he has little appetite for looking back. 

He has been surprised and delighted by the generous reception afforded the My Week In Cars podcast he makes with long suffering colleague Matt Prior, and calls it the most enjoyable part of his working week.

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jer 25 May 2020

Big challenge

My view as an owner of multiple Jags on design. Exterior design unremarkable - front particularly. But it's interior where they're stuck with the same basic design from the Honda era at Rover. Unbelievable that they made latest XF worse inside than first at a time when competitors made huge leaps.  Never look back other than the odd design cue, pastiche doesn't work.

joe1.0 22 May 2020

Stay customer focused.

He'll be ok as long as he doesn't revert to retro NOBODY WILL SPEND MONEY BUYING A RETRO DESIGNED CAR and that he understands an XE customer is different to an XF customer is different to an XJ customer.
They are aimed squarely at different people. Ford never understood this and simply tried to make different sized Jaguars.
TheBritsAreComing 22 May 2020

Take Inspiration from Bentley for Future Jags

Jaguar needs a less generic design language. Something that is instantly recognisable as a Jaguar. I always saw Jags as being less aggressive and more elegant than they currently are. Bentley are the benchmark in this regard. Their current range of vehicles are beautiful. I hope that Julian Thomson can take inspiration from the likes of the new Continental and the Flying Spur mentioned above as well as older Jags to find something truly distinctive and worthy of the Jaguar brand.

joe1.0 22 May 2020

Absolutely. Nothing retro.

Absolutely. Nothing retro. But something that completely stands out as a Jag from the distance. You can feel the presence of a Bentley in a car park a mile away. Jag needs to recreate that.