The F-Type is not the quintessential modern Jaguar. This is.
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. The XF is now a decade old and while it remains an 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 XF template been miniaturised for the XE, we have now been presented with an almost frame by frame remake for the newly announced XF. 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?
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 despised Jaguar’s retro phase, but traditionalists have proven resistant. More significantly, it has failed to significantly appeal to the market Jaguar has 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 Ian Callum’s team 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, well proportioned but ignoring its clumsy rear lamp treatment; it’s all just a bit tame. While the new XF, despite coming over as a very accomplished piece of work, appears barely evolutionary. And I have news for Jaguar: a fleeting suggestion within a tail lamp graphic does not an F-Type make.
Given that we can expect an 7-8-year lifespan for both these new models, the earliest we can expect a new stylistic direction within either model line is 2022 at the earliest. 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.