Jaguar used to be renowned for their warm and inviting cabins. No longer.
Jaguar’s current stream of new models is testament to the enormous sums being spent on reinvigorating the brand – unfortunately, the new car’s interiors make every effort to appear as though they were lowest on the list of priorities. A new family of combustion engines doesn’t come cheap. Neither does an all-new aluminium platform. But is that enough to explain quite why the cabins of Jaguar’s new-from-scratch XE, XF and F-pace models are so blatantly disappointing?
Matters regarding style are, of course, highly subjective, which is why this text doesn’t touch the subject of these cars’ lacklustre exterior appearances. Because far more pertinent, and actually alarming, is the way in which JLR management, engineers and stylists have botched the new models’ interiors in such grand style.
Sharing components, by the way, isn’t the issue, which is why the fact that F-pace and XE have to make do with the very same dashboard isn’t lamentable in itself. It’s that this dashboard isn’t just uninspiring as far as its design is concerned, but that its materials are so disappointing that it’s bordering on the suicidal.
The overall style is actually very much in keeping with the cars’ exteriors, which means Jaguar has chosen a very conservative – demure, actually – approach for the cabin ambience. The previous generation of Jaguars certainly appears positively flamboyant in comparison, as does, astoundingly, the German competition.
So what is the problem with all of this? What if people simply prefer a more sombre, matter-of-factly flair than Jaguar had previously striven for? When approached as a case of “if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em”, the Jags’ unamusing interiors may at first appear sensible, if it wasn’t for that big, fat, farting elephant in the room: perceived quality.
Just as the German premium brands have taught Clive Repman that what he wants is a car whose interior exudes a flair of clinical, technical excellence, they also pointed out to him that the way plastics feel does matter. A lot.
How JLR could fail on such an astonishing scale to include this part of the German Formula is hard to grasp, and it should cost them dearly, given the vitriolic reception by not so much the motoring press, but an alarming number of prospective buyers who actually had a look at the cars.
All this comes as quite a surprise, given Jaguar’s track record in this area in recent years. Admittedly, perceived quality has never reached Audi levels of credibility of materials, but the X250-generation of XF’s dashboard was an enjoyable deviation from the norm, just as the X351 XJ’s cabin remains among of the nicest in any car currently on sale.
Tracking down the concrete reasons for Jaguar’s failure in this area is quite difficult, apart from the obvious, ill-advised basic impetus to copy the German brands that’s at its very core.
Issues regarding the funding would be the next best guess, what with the engine and body engineering having taken up enormous chunks of the budget, before the styling department had any chance of asking for an allocation. Yet the brother brand, Land Rover, is doing quite a bit better, employing similar components.
So outright competence appears to be a factor (yet again, sadly). It’s simply unfathomable that the same people who came up with X351’s glamorous, charming cabin could have been in charge of designing these barren surroundings. In hindsight, the F-type’s disappointing cabin should have acted as a warning, but that wasn’t even nearly unappealing enough to prepare anyone for the current crop of uninviting interiors.
Jaguar having given up to try and offer a genuine alternative to the Germans’ style is sad enough in itself, but the appalling execution of this imitation programme may actually turn out to be at least as dangerous as having tried to keep on ploughing one’s own furrow would have been.
Facelift time cannot come soon enough for this batch of cars. Und vergesst diesmal wenigstens nicht die Haptik!