Now Arriving On Platform E

Getting to grips with brand-Jaguar’s new hatchback by not talking about it. The real story is beneath the skin anyway…

Probably its best angle. Image: autocar

One thing we cannot quibble with is JLR’s ability to get the most out of their platforms. The current LR-MS (or whatever they’re calling it now) platform underpinning the new E-Pace is a prime example – maybe even a unique one given its convoluted ancestry – a matter possibly deserving its own episode of “Who Do You Think You Are.” Shared with the current Range Rover Evoque and Discovery Sport, it is in effect a heavily re-engineered variant of the Ford-EUCD platform, one which continues to do duty underneath the current (if soon to be defunct) Volvo S/V60 range.

EUCD incidentally also formed the basis for the Disco Sport’s predecessor, the L359 Freelander, which itself can trace its DNA back as far as the Ford engineered CD132 platform which gave Henry’s Mondeo some backbone, not to mention of course, Jaguar’s ‘much loved’ X-Type. So while it might be a good deal more than six degrees of separation to mention the ‘X-word’ in relation to E-Pace, it isn’t as facetious as it might initially appear.

Whether it’s seen as a pejorative however is another matter. That I suppose depends on which side of the fence you position yourself. One could go on at length about how generic and downright ordinary E-Pace looks, but what’s the point? No, what’s interesting here is the realisation that JLR has achieved what Ford might once have considered but never dared carry out. They have brazenly introduced a Jaguar-badged five door hatchback on a front wheel drive platform. Not only that, but neither the massed ranks of motoring journalists nor the buying public will bat a single mascaraed eyelash between them over such a move. And that kids, right there is the magic of crossovers.

Of course all of this makes excellent commercial sense. JLR need the volume and moreover, they need brand-Jaguar to finally start paying its way. The plan was for XE/XF to have catapulted sales, if not into German big three stratospheres, to at least have outgunned those of Volvo. However with things as they are now, the game plan has hit a few pieces of inconvenient street furniture, so while group-JLR achieved group sales of 583,312 vehicles last year and look set to achieve something in the region of 650,000 once 2017 runs its course, it’s clear that projections for this new model brook no sloughing off behind the bike sheds for a cheeky fag, like its saloon-twin stablemates.

Oh dear. Image: daily express

But it is at Gothenburg rather than Ingolstadt, the Petuelring or indeed, Sindelfingen that the denizens of Gaydon are casting increasingly concerned glances. Both combined businesses are of broadly similar size, producing similar volumes aimed at more or less the same customer base. Volvo’s reach in compact cars (and estates) is deeper, while JLR punches harder in SUV/CUV’s. Both companies are competently managed by motor industry veterans with hands-off ownership from afar. Both are impelled by an urgent need to grow in order to weather the changes coming thick and fast as the motor business enters the most climactic phase since its inception.

Becoming a 1-million cars a year business is the aim and stated place of safety, but while both companies remain some way adrift, it is Volvo who is not only showing the fastest growth, but appear to be reading the runes more adeptly. Their recent announcement over future propulsion for instance was a master-class in media manipulation. It makes little difference that the world’s media misread Volvo’s intentions and reported something else entirely, it put them on Global front pages as progressives, driving the agenda. In PR terms: priceless. Cost to Volvo: negligible.

In a sense Volvo have no choice but to take the course they espouse, they have invested heavily in diesel and have been caught on the wrong foot. They don’t have the resources of the really big players, so they must now try to box clever. JLR are in a similar position, yet their recent utterances around diesel (while pragmatic) sound hollow and worse still, in PR terms, sound like yesterday’s news. There is little doubt they will be forced to take a similar tack as the Swedes – the difference being, the flag in the sand is Swedish. Despite being in a position to steal a march on their rivals by introducing a production-ready pure-electric car in the autumn, JLR now appear like followers rather than leaders.

Well, I suppose the interior isn’t hateful. Image: CNET

Another aspect to the issue of scale is that of platforms. Because all of Volvo’s vehicles are front wheel drive, they can be spun off the same modular, scalable ‘architecture’. For JLR, it’s not so simple. A pressing priority for them going forward is to replace LR-MS with something more modern, lightweight and modular. But to amortise that investment, they need scale. Lots of it.

This imperative has also led to some of the more fanciful outliers of the motoring press to deduce scenarios where JLR buys the Vauxhall business from PSA as an entrée into the mass-market – a prospect that would be palpable nonsense even if Britain wasn’t hell bent on leaving the EU. If JLR wanted to burn cash, they have no shortage of deceased brands in their kitty just waiting to be expensively and futilely reanimated, and one thing Ralph Speth isn’t is a fool.

If JLR is to find the volume they need, they are likely to do so with what they’ve got. At last night’s E-Pace launch, Ian Callum didn’t rule out a smaller Jaguar branded model, saying it’s a possibility, albeit one not in the current product plan. Yet. Some have suggested a Smaller Range Rover to sit below the Evoque. That’s unlikely however, Range Rover being too valuable a brand to risk. Not so Jaguar. Not any more. No, all further trips downmarket are likely to be on the back of the leaping cat.

Author: Eóin Doyle

Founding Editor. Content Provider.

9 thoughts on “Now Arriving On Platform E”

  1. Perhaps chastened by the disappointing reality of the X type, or perhaps convinced by the superlative claims for their new aluminium architecture, JLR confidently asserted that every new Jaguar would be based on their new platform.

    Quite clearly, then, this E Pace wasn’t in the product plan three years ago. Conceptually it really isn’t all that different from the X type – but it has more confident design and a more modish body style. Within the confines of what they were working with, the designers have done a typically professional job.

    The platform really is a problem though. Perhaps beefed up on account of its age, it is at least 200kg too heavy, and the already mediocre Ingenium engines are overwhelmed. JLR claims to be readying a diesel hybrid which is a terrible idea – near unsalable outside Europe and unlikely to win many friends within the old continent either. Diesel hybrids are both expensive and heavy and suited only to commercial applications.

    As a piece of product design, the E Pace looks good and will no doubt make money. As a piece of technology it is off the Pace.

    1. I would suggest that a vehicle of this ilk was in the product plan, more that it was originally intended to copper-fasten the gains made by the saloon twins and of course the F-Pace. With that plan looking somewhat shakier now, E-Pace has a much deeper remit – to compensate for the saloons’ lack of sales success. I expect this platform wasn’t their first choice, but in order to keep costs down they had little alternative.

      As I pointed out in the piece, JLR need growth to justify the costs of a new FWD platform, which they require if they are to push further downmarket, as is their stated aim. The current one is too old and isn’t sufficiently modular. They could do this by going into a joint venture with a rival car company, but this is unlikely. A JV with TATA could work however, in a similar manner to that of Volvo and Geeley. This seems (on the face of things) the most likely route, but even then, the likely costs (and risks) are vast.

      If JLR can get at least 250,000 units out of the Jaguar brand by 2019, the Coventry cat could become a viable proposition. If E-Pace is a success (as it is likely to be), this is attainable. But growing it further involves moves into market sectors hitherto unthinkable. Hold on to your hats Jaguaristes, it’s going to be a bumpy ride.

    2. The RR Evoque and Disco Sport are big sales hits, so this little kitten is riding on their success. But when cities get tired of diesel SUVs and start banning them outright, what next?

      Jaguar’s new I Pace is a huge investment. Might they just stretch that platform up and down to create a whole new family of electric cars?

      I have long thought that we have entered into marginal gains territory with these platform architectures. Something like VW’s MQB or BMW’s CLAR might be as sophisticated as they get – multi-material monocoques with ICE drivetrains. For electric cars, it seems that the Tesla model of a powertrain ‘skateboard’ and a body on top is the accepted way forward… in some ways, a return to the methodology of the olden days.

  2. I guess it was no accident that you wrote the RD-6 article so close to the launch date for this car – the contrasts are withering. It’s a sign of the times that Jaguar should become so conceptually and commercially bereft as to resort to jumping on the SUV bandwagon in an attempt to justify its existence. The 2003 concept car was a thoroughly refreshing and inspiring thing and it still looks futuristic in its clean, stripped and lean surfacing that wraps more voluptuous forms. For some reason, the forthcoming I-Pace has been blessed with some of that look. In the case of the E-Pace discussed here, there is the odd hint that it’s there (I think the rear haunch – a feature I generally detest on an SUV as it just does not belong functionally on such a vehicle – actually looks OK because of the way it has that similar RD-6 style of execution to it), but then the rest is so contrived.

    Putting F-Type alike headlamps on an SUV is just wrong (I felt as strongly about 911 alike items on the Cayenne). The shaping and depth of the side DLO looks weak, particularly at its rearmost apex, and, yes, like it’s been lifted from the old ix35. The grille is mounted too high and proud, it makes me thing of a pigs snout (I like pigs, but not cars that look like them). That said, I prefer it to the F-Pace, the Stelvio, the Levante and the A3. I guess one can conclude that I just don’t really like SUVs, especially those that are trying to ape sports cars from sporting brands.

    I much prefer the likes of the Kodiaq for its more honest approach, the LR DS, and, most of all at a reasonable price, you guessed it, the new CX-5 (sorry!). The new star SUV is the Velar, of which I must have seen about 10 with ‘Prototype Vehicle’ in smallish script stuck in the front bumper, just below the grille. I hate to say, but our Gerry and his team have nailed it.

  3. I’m going to stick my neck out here and bet that the E-Pace is going to do good business for Jaguar. We can bewail the platform but that never hindered the Evoque. People shopping for this sort of car just aren’t bothered about dynamics; it is all about the pose. Priced right, it will sell.

    1. “Compact premium SUVs are a no brainer going forward”, it says here in my copy of the latest focus group research.

      But if the backlash against diesel continues, JLR are in a vulnerable position. In my view they really need to get some sort of petrol hybrid to market quickly.

  4. The Velar is a gamechanger – from a stylistic point of view anyway. I confidently predict that once it hits the roads in earnest it will drive everyone back to the drawing boards – it really is that visually accomplished. The depressing thing, (actually one of many depressing things) about this E-Pace thing is that there isn’t a screed of the Velar’s invention or bravura in its appearance. It’s simply a giant ‘Partridge Shrug’ of a design. Mind you, for every Velar there is an equal and opposite LR Discovery. That, my friends is the plot lost right there. Gerry (IGMG) McGovern isn’t infallible it appears.

    I believe the forthcoming I-Pace platform is scalable. Frankly, for it to be anything else would be utter folly. The only hope for Jaguar now is they don’t screw the kitty with this one. If it falls short, I genuinely believe the cat has had it.

    1. I’ve seen a Velar up close in the metal, and it leaves me cold. But then I have a general distaste for SUVs. The Velar seems to me like a Range Rover Sport distilled – smaller, sharper, perhaps a little smarter, but basically the same idea.

      What is interesting though is the pricing structure and the premium JLR now places on its brands. This E Pace is basically a RR Evoque underneath, but will be cheaper. The Velar is closely related to the F Pace, but will doubtless cost more.

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