Monday, 8 September 2014

Jaguar XE - why it deserves to succeed

FORGET Euro 2016. The most realistic chance of watching England going up against the Germans and giving them a comprehensive thrashing is in the car mags, sometime next spring.

It’s not often you get three hugely important automotive unveilings within a week of each other, but that’s precisely what happened when the Land Rover Discovery Sport, Mazda’s new MX-5 and Jaguar’s XE all waded into your Twitter feed at roughly the same moment. For what it’s worth, it’s the unveiling of only the fourth MX-5 in 25 years which pressed all my petrolhead buttons, but that’s a small, open top sports car enjoyed by hedonists in search of a hairpin bend in the Welsh countryside.

The XE, on the other hand, could very well be the most important new car launched this year. Largely because it offers to take the fight to the BMW 3-Series and Audi A4 and actually win. A victory which – and I know Jaguar Land Rover is owned by an Indian conglomerate – would be fantastic news for UK Plc.

It’d be a particularly hard-earned result if the Jaguar’s new saloon did pull it off because – in a well-established tradition of so-near-yet-so-far established by England’s footballers on their business trip to Italy back in 1990 -  the company got so close to pulling it off originally with the X-type 14 years ago.
It was far from a bad car, essentially being an improved and upgraded twist on the hugely accomplished Mk3 Ford Mondeo, but even being that wasn’t quite as talented as the contemporary 3-Series, and as a result few BMW salesmen lost any sleep over the British upstart. All anybody remembers about it now is it being a bit of an also-ran in terms of sales figures and (unfairly) that it’s a Mondeo-in-drag.

The XE, on the other hand, has got everything going for it. It’ll be keenly priced - £27,000 should get you into the entry-level version – and comes with the exactly the sort of small diesel engine which has helped the 3-Series storm past the Mondeo to earn the top spot as Britain’s favourite big saloon. It’ll also be rear-wheel-drive (which is important, given the X-type was also castigated for being propelled by the ‘wrong’ wheels) and it looks like a younger, fresher version of the XF, which is a bit like Dannii Minogue looking like a younger, fresher version of Kylie.

Obviously, the real proof will be out on Britain’s roads in a few months time, when we’ll discover whether England really has scored the automotive equivalent of 5-1 over BMW and Audi. If it has, expected every motorway outside lane to be packed with XEs this time next year.