Jurors the Dawn, Dusk and Midnight Silently Attend

To save this village we must destroy it. And similar logic applies to the next Jaguar XJ. Altered to be saved. 

2017 Jaguar XJ: source

That is the common theme to reports from this, this and this source but not this one***.

Join these dots: It has worked well for Tesla, this big, five-door luxury car idea. Lexus has been able to sell hybrid V-8s since 2008. Land Rover has been competing for the top-drawer luxury market for at least twenty years or more. Five doors and luxury are not strangers to each other. Sales of conventional luxury cars are not what they were, not unless the Panamera nameplate is involved.

In particular, the current XJ whose sales appear to be in the low thousands. Twenty one years ago the XJ sold 10,000 units annually – not stellar, not terrible. Today even those kinds of numbers aren’t sustainable. Those were the dots. On the basis of this kind of background, Jaguar have decided that they simply must

Bit of a success**: Tesla.com

stop making cars like the current XJ which offers a range of engines biased towards the meatier end of the spectrum: five and three litres jobs with a tax-dodge 2.0 four thrown in to surprise me (It’s not listed at Jaguar’s UK website). If Jaguar had fielded a car this good in 1997 they would have done extremely well against their competition, the German big three and perhaps a few other big-ticket sports cars and powerboats. It’s not 1997 any more.

My introduction shows that the old certainties of the Blair years are gone. People will accept diesel in Alfa Romeos. BMW has gone front-drive. Porsche sell an SUV. Everyone makes SUVs… So why is it Jaguar need to cleave to a formula formulated in 1968?

The point is to sell a luxurious, competent car at a certain price point but be flexible about it. As Tesla, BMW and Lexus have shown, unorthodox powertrains are entirely acceptable if they do the job. Aiding the decision to put more electrons into the Jaguar line-up is Land Rover’s development of an electrically-powered vehicle known as Road Rover (all cars are road rovers, aren’t they?). The i-Pace is paving the way too. Neatly this allows economies of scale which the current XJ does not enjoy, to say the least.

Seen one lately? Source: Lexus.co.uk

The 2020 XJ’s designers will be faced with a pair of widely spaced stools between which they must not fall. On the one side, is the Tesla stool. It’s a fast vehicle with quite usable range yet it is plainly not actually a luxury car. Anyone who has sat inside one will remark the thin veneer of quality and nasty sheen throughout, bested easily by any well-specced Audi A4. It doesn’t have a rear-centre armrest either. It doesn’t have a rear centre armrest.

On the other side is the stool of over-engineered competence of the ICE competition from BMW and Mercedes. Carefully driven, the S-class, 7-series and even an A8 will get you from Aachen to Freiburg-am-Breisgau with some fuel left to waste on the parking space hunt.

What Jaguar won’t want is a car compromised like the Tesla (the BMW buyer might not like Tesla-style weight reduction strategies) and an electric car enthusiast might not tolerate the performance implications of the kind of refinement required to keep XJ customers on board.  Autocropley reports the e-XJ will have five-doors not four. Already there is a potential surprise for Jaguar buyers, counterpointed by Audi, BMW and Mercedes selling lots of five-door cars (see above).

It’s uncharted water. It’s choppy. There are sharks. As a Jaguar agnostic I have no strong attachment to any particular engine arrangement for the XJ. It seems as risky to keep on hammering away at conventional solutions, or more so.

Edmund Burke said that any system that did not have the capacity to change was doomed (he said it more eloquently). And an engineer will tell you rigidity implies brittleness. It’s time for Jaguar to flex. But they should keep it a four door saloon. Flex, but don’t break.

** Maybe it isn’t making money but they do sell a lot of them. For buyers, all is well.

*** Have I talked about St Stephen’s pudding before? It takes only fifteen minutes to mix the ingredients and an hour to steam them if you halve the quantities in Smith’s recipe. I have made this a few times every year for several years and it’s delicious – I use butter not suet. I have a bergamot lemon the zest of which I am going to use in this pudding.

Author: richard herriott

I like anchovies. I dislike post-war town planning.

13 thoughts on “Jurors the Dawn, Dusk and Midnight Silently Attend”

  1. Aachen to Freiburg is around 480 kilometres when using German autobahns (not necessarily fun to use because Aachen to Cologne is notorious for its traffic jams).
    That kind of distance is an insurmountable task for any battery powered car including a Tesla S at anything faster than absolute snail’s pace.
    In any German Diesel powered luxo barge you should be able to fully exploit their speed
    potential (if and where you can) and still have not some but plenty of fuel left on arrival (and you will be there several hours before the Tesla).
    If you decide to go somewhat slower (but still in about half the time you’d need in the Tesla) you should be able to do the journey and its return trip and still have some fuel in the tank.
    I don’t think it would be a good idea for Jaguar to build a car that competes with the Tesla and not the Audis and BMWs on that trip.

    I just wonder what sense weight reduction strategies for the interior make in a car carrying around tons of batteries in the first place. With a power source that heavy it should be irrelevant if the interior materials are a couple of kilograms heavier but infinitely better. The lack of quality surely is the result of their expensive and hand labour intensive production processes. Look at the underside of a Model S, particularly its suspension elements, which look like a half baked DIY attempt of a medium talented hobby welder and are light years away from the production quality of its competitors.

    1. Indeed: you point out some problems with the eXJ concept. It is not so simple though. Presumably the many who have bought a Tesla are aware they can’t go 480 km in one hop but have still stumped up a lot of money anyway. Jaguar evidently isn’t winning minds/hearts by competing with 1000km autobahn missiles. So if Jaguar (I am guessing their reasoning) can create a market out some e-car customers and some breaksways from Germany and their loyalists then they can increase sales figures. Will it work? I reckon it’s worth it. There’s always a first class seat for the Aachen-Freiburg trip or a rental car. Or Skype.
      About quality: it’d be wrong for Jaguar to lower their apparent quality in the name of weight control. At the same time they must balance everything so I expect some pressure on any element adding mass. Sure it may only be a few kilos but you can say that about every element. Such “global” compromises are why an Auris will never feel as good as a Lexus. It all has to add up to a minimum weight in relation to range – what use is a heavy slab of luxury that won’t go any further?

    2. Do you have any photos of the shoddy suspension members as the ones I’ve seen appear to be neat castings sans welding. As regards to weight reduction by interior design verses battery weight ( which is not “tons” but 1,200 lbs 540 kg) any reduction enhances the efficiency of an electric.
      I think the simplistic design chosen for the interior is hard for those who have been accustomed to traditional ideas of luxury to accept.
      Why should a “modern” car still use natural (wood) or animal products in its interior to be considered luxurious?
      This blinkered view also surfaces when discussing the BMW i3 interior another simplistic style using recycled materials that solicits comments of cheap and hard from the less flexible critic .

    3. At Dgatewood: I have no problem with simplicity or the avoidance of noble materials. I do have a problem with the quality of the materials (surface finish) and assembly concepts. A Volvo 240 has no leather or wood but is well made. A Focus, Astra or Golf is more pleasingly finished too.

  2. If Tesla wouldn’t fabricate their suspension elements by shoddily welding together some coarsely cut lengths of tube but cast or stamp them like everybody else these parts would be a lot lighter, leaving room (or weight) for better materials in the interior.
    Jaguar surely can do better than that because they have the necessary experience to produce a car using properly controlled industrial processes, something Tesla sorely lacks and which is the root of their problems with getting their model 3 on the roads.

    What customers could an eXJ attract?
    If they stop to compete with the German supersonic autobahn missiles then what would be their market niche?
    The substitute religion of electro mobility is already served by Tesla which even has the advantage of providing a guru in Elon The Enlightened. Competing with them would make Jaguar kind of a Samsung Galaxy against Apple’s i-something.
    But there are cars that are hardly driven at all because they are used as mobile conference rooms like a Rolls Phantom. I wonder whether Jaguar could compete with those.

  3. The key markets for the new XJ are USA and China. California is mad for electric, East Coast metropolitan areas are surely following. These are key markets. China is going for electric in a big way.

    Whatever we may think, customers clearly consider the Tesla Model S to be a luxury car, and it’s a sales success. There is a clear opportunity here for Jaguar to make an electric XJ that does what the Tesla does but with more refinement and more attention to detail. If that means missing out on a few sales to long-distance German commuters… well, so be it.

    A smart move by Jaguar, I think, although I am not convinced by the hatchback format. It will look very different, possibly with a snub nose like the i-Pace, but that is to be welcomed. The current XJ, bless it, looks very old these days, and reinvention seems the best solution.

    I just hope Jaguar’s new electric ‘skateboard’ allows for proper comfortable seating fore and aft, and does not compromise rear seat comfort with a raised floor as in many MPVs and SUVs.

    1. We may not like the hatchback. I think it is a feature for R16 fans and those considering a CUV. Question: does that clientele want the hatch? Or is it merely the H-point and pointless bulk they demand?

    2. Richard, I don’t know.

      There is, though, something fundamentally more appealing as a back seat customer to have an enclosed window behind your head, with the luggage stored in a sealed compartment aft, rather than a large hatch which will let the cold or heat into the cabin when opened.

    3. Why not a hatchback? On a big, long and low car there is nothing more beautiful than a flowing fastback, and a hatch is the natural thing to put there. Even today’s notchbacks (where are thenotches, actually) are almost there: steeply inclined windshields, very short boots, making really impractical openings.

      Mind you, I’m not talking about C- or SUVs at all here, that’s a completely different kind of thing. And not estates, either (although they can be elegant sometimes, think of the V90).

    4. Simon: a fastback with a boot like the CX would be acceptable. A fifth door isn’t really, not for this sort of car. The XM gets away with it due to its inner window. That Rolls Royce fastback worked too. Funny, I wrote a long article about it and I don’t think anyone stumbles across it at all.

  4. As someone who is well known to be anything but agnostic about the Coventry cat, I view this news with a mixture of relief and trepidation. Relief because I was concerned that Dr. Speth would axe the model line entirely, given its latterday sales performance. It clearly has been a superhuman effort by Jaguar’s people to keep it, but the fact that it’s being twinned with a Range Rover-badged model has probably allowed the business case to hold water.

    Trepidation, not because I necessarily lament the move away from ICE’s – I won’t miss what’s on offer now – but because once again, JLR’s powers-that-be appear to be looking at what the market is choosing and making a facsimile of that. A Jaguar Panamera or Model S is not going to get Jaguar out of its current saloon car slump. To do that, it must stand out. I know, it’s an old and somewhat tired shibboleth, but at the risk of repeating myself ad nauseam: Styling. Styling. Styling.

    As much as I admire the outgoing car, I acknowledge that it was too big a stylistic leap for most people. It’s probable that a better-proportioned Callum-era version of the classic XJ template would probably have been more easily digested, but we can’t go back now, even if Mr. Callum would countenance such a thing.

    However, its incumbent upon him to dream it all up again and for Dr Speth and his management team to once again be brave. Me-too resulted in the XE / XF twins and hasn’t that turned out well?

  5. Should this not be the opportunity – assuming it will be a pure EV – to come up with a truly beautiful design? You know, real elegance, low height overall, low bonnet (no ICE engine, see?), bob-on proportions? I crave for someone to us the opportunity of radically different packaging requirements to create something that takes your breath away for all the right reasons. I like the i-Pace from the photos I have seen, but some of it does not make sense and there is a bit too much fussiness in the body surfacing up along the flanks. The Teslas are a stylistic disappointment – a clear ambition not to alienate anyone who could be put off by the EV tech. And Fisker … The Porsche Mission E is rather nice, but trying to be sporty rather than just gorgeous. Jag’s are supposed to be gorgeous, aren’t they? So, what about it Mr Callum? The artists impressions of the new eXJ don’t cut it, so hopefully they are just someone else’s creative.

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