There were more memorable cars that I drove in 2015, more exciting ones, faster ones… You get the idea. But none held as much significance as the Jaguar XE, my own car of the year.
This was the car on which Jaguar bet the future of the company, and as such it simply had to get it right. New chassis, new engines, new factory - such significant investment doesn’t come around that often, so the pressure was on to deliver.
The first XE I drove was a late pre-production petrol V6-powered model in Germany. The late-April weather was horrible, cold, wet and dreary, much like most of the German executive cars sat outside Stuttgart airport the day I landed there.
The XE was waiting for me outside a hotel. It was bright red and stood out like something really bright and cliched in front of something dull (it’s been a long year, dear reader). Basically, it looked very nice indeed.
Jaguar engineers have long spoken about how the feeling you get from a car in the first few yards defines much of your later experiences in it.
I make no apology for wanting and desiring Jaguar to do well, so it was pleasing that those first few yards delivered: the XE had nice control weights, good steering, a comfortable ride. Yes, the XE and I were going to get on very well.
Over the next few days, I drove it all over southern Germany, racking up some 500 miles or so from city centres to the foothills of the Alps. As those first few yards hinted we would, we did indeed get on very well.
Two things stood out from that trip. One was parking the XE in the middle of Stuttgart’s main pedestrian area, opening up all the doors, boot and bonnet, and then watching people flock around it and take pictures.
No one really knew what it was, which shows how far Jaguar has got to go with its brand recognition in Germany, but all were impressed by it and wanted to know more. It was fun to watch.
The second was, to be honest, a bit of Alan Partridge moment. It was late at night after more than 12 hours on the road. The Autobahn into Munich was still quite busy, and even wetter than earlier, but the XE was a calming place to be.
I could have my music on, eat a bar of chocolate, drink a can of coke and drive a comfortable, peaceful and attractive car with as good a turn of pace as you’d need even on the Autobahn. Small things, but it turned what could have been a stressful journey into an enjoyable one.
Just as a good executive car should do.