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