“Will the new 3 Series kill the Jaguar XE?”
“Yes, I think so…”
The answer to the oddly pointed question came from BMW chairman Harald Krüger, but before it sparks an international incident, it is worth stressing that it was uttered in the spirit of friendly but determined rivalry, as opposed to anything overly aggressive.
A smile and a laugh later, Krüger was back on track, extolling the virtues of the new BMW 3 Series, unveiled at the Paris motor show, with only passing, oblique references to rivals. In short, with 15.5 million 3 Series sales to date, BMW was feeling pretty confident.
But what of the Jaguar XE, which was outsold by the 3 Series by a factor of about six in Europe last year? In many regards, the launches - and sales and profits - of the Jaguar F-Pace and then E-Pace have pushed the XE into the shade, and certainly customers have not been lining up at dealerships in the hoped-for volumes.
The disappointment is also something of a surprise, for the XE remains a good car - and a truly great one if you like driving. Yes, it is compromised, most notably in terms of rear space and some of the infotainment technology, but in this cut-throat category, being exceptional at something has usually been enough, be it the Alfa Romeo Giulia’s on-the-edge dynamics, the Mercedes C-Class’s cabin ambience or the Audi A4’s high-tech leanings.