If Jaguar had produced an SUV ten years ago, I’d have been first in the queue to chuck rotten tomatoes at the idea. Indeed when Porsche did no less albeit 11 years ago, I did exactly that, going so far as to say I wish the Cayenne had never been built.
What’s changed in the interim? Everything and nothing. Although they have moved on in technological terms, SUVs remain cars that sacrifice the qualities we profess to desire most – such as performance, handling, fuel economy and ride comfort – for the chance to stand out from the crowd both literally and figuratively. Some even go off-road – but not many.
So they make no sense. But if we only ever bought cars that made the most sense, we’d all be driving around in diesel-powered Golfs. What Porsche realised then and which I took somewhat longer to appreciate is that SUVs are astonishing money-spinners.
For now at least the world – or at least those parts of it that can afford such cars – reckons big is indeed beautiful. Size does matter and if you can drive past your neighbour’s house in a car that says than mine is most definitely bigger than yours, you’ll park outside your place with a smile on your face. Sadly a superior 0-60mph time isn’t much of a response.
So what the Jaguar C-X17 – or the production car it’ll closely resemble – will do if Jaguar has its sums right is turn its business into one that will put it on a more even footing with its Land-Rover sibling whose products currently outsell those of Jaguar by around four to one. With the saloon that’ll be spun off the same architecture, Jaguar should in a decade be selling not tens of thousands of cars, but hundreds of thousands of cars.
Easily said, but this is precisely what Porsche has achieved in a process embarked upon with its SUV back in 2002. In sales terms Jaguar is quite close today to where Porsche was then and JLR executives believe the marque retains massive potential for expansion.
I agree with them: Jaguar may not have sold many cars since its product renaissance spearheaded by the 2005 XK, but that had little to do with the cars and rather more with how they were positioned. Jaguar has done much in recent years to right that wrong, with small diesels for Europe, a small petrol engine for China and all-wheel drive for the snow states of America and the fruits of these efforts are just starting to show. The SUV is the next logical step and it’s likely to be big.