Fresh talent devises new Jaguar F-Pace that now looks/feels like a Jaguar
Jaguar Cars has endured more than enough problems over recent years, states long-time brand fan Iain Robertson, and there is nothing quite like a vital blood transfusion to effect a necessary sea-change that puts the past truly behind it.
You might call it ‘coincidence’ but I believe there are innumerable parallels between our nation’s British Broadcasting Corporation (the ‘Beeb’) and Jaguar (‘Jag’). Both are proud brands that are much-loved by consumers, whether they can afford them, or not. Yet, both brands are seriously faulted. Take the BBC’s perpetual support shown towards its star turns…it is a broadcaster that finds it incredibly hard to change direction, even when airing some programmes results in a big switch-off.
For several years, Jaguar Cars was reliant on the much-vaunted design talents of one man and his team of acolytes. He was exceptionally well-paid. Some sectors of the motoring press treated him like a ‘design god’, elevating his status (sadly) to a level from which it was difficult to topple him. Yet, the best job that he had turned out for his employer was the wonderful XK in its final 2007 iteration, all sinewy and with defined muscles…everything else thereafter could have worn any one of several competitors’ badges, because so few of them reflected the vital Jaguarness that made the brand so special.
Jaguar’s financial issues resulted from an aspect that Ford Motor Company (which owned the brand for several years) had recognised but was unwilling to elucidate, for fear of wrecking its share value. Unlike Land Rover, which is a large company for such a specialist, Jaguar has always been a smaller operation, albeit one possessing a giant-killing image disproportionately larger than it ought to be. Yet, Jaguar was demanding a huge amount of investment from its various funders, which (to remind you) included the British government, Ford Motor Company and, now, the Indian conglomerate headed by Tata Motors.
Ford had attempted to expand its model range in a typical Ford manner: using the Mondeo platform for the X-type and the Lincoln Town Car platform for the S-Type models, both of which were moderate sales successes but not in the volumes expected by the American giant. The Tata deal effectively returned Jaguar to the nationalised status it had ‘enjoyed’ for several years prior to Ford’s ownership. It became a money sluice and behaved as though nobody within the company seemed to care enough…that was until a couple of years ago, when following the collapse of the Chinese market (a factor that inflicted immense pain on Land Rover too), JLR posted the biggest losses of its existence. Tata realised that something was inherently wrong but still bailed out both brands, albeit with some very specific instructions.
Electrification had been on the cards for a while but little had materialised. Land Rover would take the lead, literally, and Jaguar would be able to follow suit, as the obedient but smaller relation. The firm’s original design boss, Ian Callum, retired and Julian Thomson was promoted to the senior role in 2019. Already, he has reworked the failing F-Type sportscar project. However, just as the archetypal SUV has been the ‘saviour’ model line for several car manufacturers, the latest F-Pace has endured major but subtle surgery and the results should be hugely satisfying to the majority of the remaining Jaguar fans. At last, the car looks like a Jaguar and not a rebadged Toyota!
Of course, the brand has other issues to confront and reliability is the biggest of them. Regardless of how attractive the new model looks, Jaguar has a mountain to climb on the dependability front, having rated at its lowest ebb since the 1980s, when most damage was incurred. Sharing its problems with Land Rover, trying to get electronics packages to relate with its architecture has been fraught to put it mildly. Business class customers had their patience tested to breaking point by JLR and innumerable lease programmes were terminated on the back of high dissatisfaction.
One of the key instructions issued by Tata was that component supply needed to be better organised and managed. Having explored the employment situation, with many of the thousands of new starts of the past few years finding themselves unemployed, as a means to make financial ends meet, Jaguar Cars is now much leaner and more determined to resurrect the best aspects of its sometime better image.
Externally, the new F-Pace is more dynamically focused and less fussy than its predecessor. Internally, the car is bolder, more luxurious and driver focused. Metal trim is machined metal and not a faux alternative. Introducing ‘Est.1935 Jaguar Coventry’ reminder tags on the high-quality hide trim helps to provide a positive sense of direction. While tradition has its place and an important one at that, the F-Pace’s HVAC (heating and ventilation) system is bang up-to-date and the vital integration of various electronic packages should resolve many of the aforementioned reliability issues.
For economies of scale, Jaguar leans on its Land Rover partner for joint engine supply. The petrol line-up includes a 2.0-litre turbo producing 247bhp, with the same unit providing the base for the 400bhp plug-in hybrid model, although 336 and 396bhp versions of the firm’s lovely 3.0-litre straight-six engine (with mild hybrid technology) also provide petrol service. Diesel 2.0-litres (160 and 201bhp) and 296bhp 3.0-litre (available without mild hybrid tech) complete the current line-up of all-wheel drive estate cars, all driving through an 8-speed fully automatic transmission.
The plug-in model is the star turn, capable of up to 33 miles electric-only motoring. Typical of the breed, it can be 0-80% recharged via public Rapidcharger in around 30 minutes (a full recharge can be completed using a domestic wallbox in less than two hours). Strong performance is delivered from all of the units and, when I test individual versions, I can be more specific about 0-60mph times, top speeds and both CO2 emissions and fuel economy expectations.
Conclusion: With prices starting from a competitive £40,680, rising to £64,490, for a well-specified, modern, safe and executive class car, the all-new F-Pace is where Jaguar should have been at least four years ago. It is playing ‘catch-up’ but it is also doing so from a more independent standpoint. If it can maintain this momentum, there is every reason to believe that it might be on the right track…finally.