This week, Steve looks towards an enthralling electric future for Jaguar and reflects on his Bentley Bentayga V8 - his latest long-termer was delivered this week.
Jaguar will be an all-electric brand in four years’ time! You will surely have heard this by now from multiple sources, but it was extraordinary to see and hear the bombshell drop as the week was just beginning. It was great also to see new Jaguar Land Rover boss Thierry Bolloré deliver a radical, well-conceived plan with such impressive eloquence and then hear from insiders that work behind the headlines is already roaring ahead.
The biggest excitement for me comes from the bold assertion that Jaguar’s future must now be founded on supremely beautiful, emotionally engaging cars, not mere competitors in sectors. As someone who remembers the impossible magnificence of the XK120, Volkswagen Mark VII, C-Type and D-Type, and then the E-Type and XJ that crowned them, I’m impatient for such feelings again.
I drove Autocar’s spectacular, newly arrived Bentley Bentayga V8 long-temer up the Fosse Way to a Midlands address for a whiz in the new 1.0-litre Dacia Sandero Stepway. The bloke on the gate knew the mag and me, so we engaged in some lively banter about how the hell you can reach a sensible judgement about a £13,000 car when you’ve come to assess it in something six times as powerful costing 14 times as much.
This isn’t the first time the question has arisen. For us, the answer lies in three words: fitness for purpose. On that basis, you can compare a Bentley with a Dacia. Speaking for myself (and not our road testers, who have to fit every car into a complicated matrix of rivals, sister models and predecessors), such fitness accounts for four of my judgemental stars. The fifth, or fractions thereof, depends on the car’s ability to delight and inspire. On that basis, both of today’s machines earn a personal maximum.
The latest manufacturer to embrace an all-electric future is Ford of Europe, which will have its first European-built BEV on the market by 2023. I discussed the implications of this over the phone with Mr Editor Tisshaw: we decided that it marks a historic watershed. From here, the default new car is electrified. Pure petrol and diesel models will soon seem beside the point.
Respecting the above, it was still fascinating to see Mercedes-Benz’s Christian Früh, the chief engineer behind the soon-to-launch new C-Class saloon, determinedly lay out the advantages of saloons with longitudinal engines and rear-wheel drive, at least in a premium application. Batting away suggestions that Stuttgart should have embraced fashionable front-wheel drive, Früh claimed the traditional layout delivers uncorrupted steering plus levels of comfort, handling and stability that are “clearly superior to a front-wheel-drive car”. The good news from the coming EV era is that rear-wheel drive should be easier to deliver than ever.