Jaguar’s North Star Saloon

The F-Type is not the quintessential modern Jaguar. This is.

The 2016 Jaguar XF - image via performancedrive
The 2016 Jaguar XF – image: performancedrive

Upon release, Jaguar made lavish claims about the significance of the F-Type. How it would become the fulcrum of the entire Jaguar range. How successive models would reference its styling. This has proved wildly inaccurate because on the basis of the two most recent model launches, Jaguar’s pivot point is not in fact the F-Type. It’s the XF.

While the outgoing XF remains a decently attractive shape, I think its safe to say we had all been prepared to bid it a fond and respectful farewell. However, Jaguar’s bosses have other ideas, believing what we all need is not less XF but more. How much more we’re only now realising, because not only has the template been miniaturised for the XE, we have now been presented with an almost frame by frame remake. In all the decades of same-again XJ styling has there been a new Jaguar that has done as little to move Jaguar’s styling aesthetic onward?

2016 XF - image: performancedrive
2016 XF – image: performancedrive

The XF has been Jaguar’s commercial mainstay since 2008 and in subsequent years, sales have been respectable, if not exactly stellar. It has appealed primarily to those who disliked Jaguar’s retro phase, but traditionalists have proven resistant. More significantly, it has failed to significantly appeal to the market Jaguar has hitherto courted like no other – America. Nevertheless it now occupies the centre of gravity within Jaguar’s saloon range – hitherto the XJ’s heartland. With the XJ now a niche model everywhere except China, it is possible America’s importance to Jaguar is also diminishing.

Jaguar’s management believes the marque lacks sufficient visual recognition, reinforcing the need to establish their identity within the market before they can be more daring. They assert the importance of providing the market with few visual surprises because their rivals do likewise. In this sector, making a statement has become somehow anathema. Yet, standing out was traditionally the raison d’etre of Jaguar ownership. Remove that and surely the point is lost?

Enthusiasts clung to the hope that team Callum would be allowed to produce something with the visual punch of the F-Type coupé or one of their more promising concepts. Yet despite all protestations to the contrary, there’s little of Jaguar’s shapely 2-seater in the XE’s lines. On current form, it’s styling is neat, and well proportioned but ignoring its clumsy rear lamp treatment, it’s all just a bit tame. Whereas the new XF, despite coming over as accomplished, appears barely evolutionary. And I have news for Jaguar: a fleeting suggestion within a tail lamp graphic does not an F-Type make.

2015 XE - image via reedmantolljaguar
2015 XE – image: reedmantolljaguar

Given that we can expect an 6-8-year lifespan for both these new models, the earliest we can expect a new stylistic direction within either model line is 2022. It will be a dispiriting indictment of JLR’s management if the most visually arresting of this new generation of Jaguars is next year’s F-Pace crossover. One can only assume Dr. Ralph Spelth and his minions know something we do not. Current evidence suggests otherwise.

Author: Eóin Doyle

Co-Founder. Editor. Content Provider.

22 thoughts on “Jaguar’s North Star Saloon”

  1. Well, that’s the German influence to you, Eoin. I’m afraid Jaguar isn’t willing to do an Infiniti and consider quirkiness part of that mysterious substance called “brand DNA”, so the German recipe must do for the time being. Which is a bit of a shame, but as we know, X351 wasn’t exactly warmly welcomed, so Dr Speth et al might have a point, from a business point of view.

    It’s still a shame that Jaguar feels forced to adopt Audi’s stylistic approach of employing only the mildest of styling changes. Clumsy rear lights apart, this XF is no ugly car and a small, but welcome surprise insofar as it seems to have gone for larger glass areas and a lither appearance than its predecessor, which is a rare feat these days. But it still comes across as a disappointment, I must concur. I’d still take it rather than the German competition, I suppose.

  2. Both the XE and the “new” XF really fall down out back with their insipid and boring rear lights. The former aping the ancient Audi A5 coupe and the later aping the just departed Mondeo! Honestly. Yes, German conservatism dictates this class should be über conservative but this “new” XF is just an utter borefest. Yes, you keep the bulk of a car exactly the same to draw similarities with the previous one and keep resale values of that one high. But look at the masterful evolution of the Golf. They all look like Golfs but in each iteration there was still surprise and delight with new details and proportions. Jaguar seems incapable of understanding that and just went for a Xerox Russian Doll copy of what went before and yet also managed to take away ALL the surprise and delight details! Sad.

  3. Although I too am pleased to see a more generous glass area, overall it’s pretty damn disappointing. Time may tell it was the way to go, sales-wise, but those of us who want a Jaguar to be something special looking are left unsatisfied. This update of a rather generic looking car is too serious and too dull.

    For me, the Jaguar’s real attraction is that it should be a fine drive, yet a car that passengers will feel comfortable in. That is pretty rare and it should be a massive sales point, but I fear it won’t. Average road manners never hurt Audi and most of those looking for a driver’s car will choose a BMW because, well, it’s the Ultimate Driving Machine isn’t it?

  4. Additionally I’ll point out that all designers have an Achilles Heel, and Ian Callum’s is the side vent. He has stated how important the wing side vent thing is to him, but I don’t feel he is actually that good at them. The XJ’s was a funny little thing. The ones on his resto-rod Mark 2 are totally inappropriate and those shown above don’t impress.

  5. Can I suggest a poll to get the word ‘boring’ and its derivatives voted off these pages? Or would the Editor be kind enough to have them added to the list of rude words that get blanked out (if there isn’t one this is a good place to start)?

  6. It’s a thorny problem Laurent. I do understand that some people bandy around their subjective opinions as though they are absolutes – Sean is particularly bad at this. On the other hand, I think that most people tend to see the invisible “IMHO” (see how I’m adapting to modern jargon) appended to such adjectives and treat them with a pinch of salt. As long as the word ‘boring’ is accompanied by a reasonable analysis of why it is considered boring, I would find it difficult to bring out my blue pencil. In the end, much of this site does depend on one person being (politely) opinionated, and another person (politely) challenging that opinion. Without it, it would be …. boring.

  7. This re-make seems not worth the effort made. Less a shot-for-shot remake more the same film with slightly different angles.
    Does anyone know someone would do a shot-for-shot remake. I don’t watch films.

    1. I think I mentioned a while ago, regarding J Mays Ford GT, Gus Van Sant’s remake of Hitchcock’s Psycho which, although I have never actually seen it, was apparently very close to the original in terms of camera angles, etc. It was not a success.

  8. On the other hand, were I a loyal Jaguar customer, I’d be grateful that my Series 1 XF hadn’t suddenly been made to look woefully outdated overnight. It also means, I guess, that they can go on making the Sportsbrake for a while.

  9. Golly (am I still allowed to write that?)! Such antipathy! I agree that this new XF is disappointingly evolutionary to the point of stagnation. I also bridle at Jaguar (and everyone else, so it appears) doing the Russian doll thing – it will make our roads so much less arrestingly diverse. And, yes, we have been led up the garden path on the F-Type becoming Jag’s “True North”.

    But, rear lights aside (and they are somewhat clumsy – but not abhorrent), I still find it a handsome thing. It looks longer and lower than the current car, and I like the three-light side window profile (in part nostalgia for my lost Legacy). I suspect JLR was burnt by the relative lack of success of the interesting, but flawed and controversial XJ, and so decided it had to play safe. I think it will sell well.

    The F-Type is a lovely thing which looks better the more I see it. Maybe using it as a reference for a saloon would be a bad thing. I shall rest my case by citing the Porsche Panamera.

  10. People should learn ways to escape the tyranny of the new. New doesn’t always mean better, and expecting new and exciting things all the time can only lead to disappointment and despair, particularly with objects. Make up your own excitement, you’ll feel better for it.

    1. That´s a good attitude. It still leaves room to be disappointed by deterioration or the lack of much improvement over a really long time period. I must make clear, I have a professional detachement to these things. I don´t *really* car about whether these designs are good or not. I find the failures as interesting as the successess and some ordinary cars thrill me in a way I can´t describe.

  11. Laurent. As a general rule, you are of course quite correct. However, our job here, thankless though it is, is to expect constant progress towards an absolute perfection …. and to be constantly disappointed.

    To continue that disappointment, the treatment around the rear door and C pillar is not endearing itself to me with re-viewing. At first I thought it was part of a commendable attempt to improve rear headroom and visibility and, though that may be a side-product, I suspect the mundane reason is to differentiate it from the XE.

    1. You mean you’re getting paid for this???

    2. Most handsomely, in theory, although I admit that, since the DTW accountant absconded with all the start-up money, the workplace lifestyle has not been as lavish as I anticipated.

    3. Is that C-pillar a deliberate hommage to the ’90s Honda Accord? Maybe Jaguar are trying to get even with Honda, after they’d pilfered the XJ.27’s rear lights for their Prelude of similar vintage as the six light Accord.

    4. When I saw it first, my initial thought was 4-Series Gran Coupe but on reflection I saw it more as a homage to the Mark 2 Jag. Although I would prefer something more akin to the XF’s original treatment I have a feeling this Mk 2 might turn out to be a grower.

  12. Oh, such negativity! For my twopenneth, I am glad that Jaguar has set upon a style with the XE and XF and are sticking to their guns. Certainly I have never heard anyone with a bad thing to say about the styling of the post face lift XF; the new one continues those themes with an added lissom quality to the surfaces that is perhaps not evident in the photos.

    This consistency gradually built the reputations of the German Big Three: people knew what they were getting and liked it. And even if their cars cost a few bob more, this same again approach ensured that used values were protected. But note my use of the past tense there. In the blind quest for sales, BMW and Mercedes are both hellbent upon watering down their values. In a world in which the 2 Series Active Tourer exists, Jaguar’s diligent distillation of a conservative formula is worthy of praise.

  13. I admit to oscillating. Having sat on the pages of TWBCM and seen endless, ill-considered scorn thrown at Jaguar’s efforts, with little justification, I certainly don’t wish to be seen to be putting them down. And they need and deserve to prosper. One particularly dubious criticism was that an Indian company, Tata, were not suitable stewards of Jaguar’s fortunes. I think that rather reactionary (to put it politely) opinion should have been seen off by now.

    And if the only way for them to prosper is to follow the ‘German’ model of cautious evolution, then so be it. In fact, were I in the market for a mid-size sporting saloon now, I’d certainly choose the new XF because, beneath the skin, I think it would offer me the best experience. So, yes, I’m certainly nit-picking and dreaming of a utopia where brave designs are rewarded by big sales, whereas I know full well that is seldom the case.

  14. I wouldn’t have become the Jaguar obsessive I am based on looking at this XF, that’s for sure. But as it is, I understand what JLR is trying to do, which is probably wise in this day and age. So while I’d prefer a more daring approach, I understand that the last time they tried that, it failed, so if I want Jaguar to survive, I better accept this car as what it is and thank the Lord that it’s not another X or S-type.

    Chris and S. V. certainly have a point I tried to make earlier: this XF is no ugly car, and in some regards prettier than the one it replaces, which needs to be acknowledged. It’s just not the stunner some of us might have hoped – yet, getting back to the earlier argument, a slightly dull Jaguar is still an awful lot better than what we were served by the company in the late ’90s.

    It may not be the time to rejoice, but it’s not the time to sharpen the knife, either.

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