The 2014 Paris Motor Show runs from Thursday 2nd October to Friday 10th. Jaguar is using the opportunity to showcase their latest and most technically advanced saloon to date, the brand new Jaguar XE which officially went on sale yesterday.
This is the car that was launched 4 weeks earlier in an extravaganza before 3000 invited guests at Earl’s Court. It’s pretty common now for car manufacturers to have a bit of a party when they launch a new and important model.
Jaguar went one further and commissioned a 90-minute musical, I kid you not, to celebrate the building of the car and the company’s heritage, which was streamed live online. Supporting acts for said extravaganza were the Kaiser Chiefs and a certain Emeli Sande who wrote a song for the launch. Think opening ceremony of the Olympics and you’ll get what they were aiming for.
They’ve attracted a lot of flak for this from car enthusiasts who thought it was a bit much to be asked to sit through a musical before we got to see the car. My dirty little secret is that I really rather enjoyed it. Moreover, I think that the person who said, ‘I tell you what. Let’s commission a musical to mark the launch of our new car.’ is the kind of lateral thinker I’d like on my team.
So what’s the car like? In many ways it is almost disappointingly conservative. It looks very similar to its big brother, the Jaguar XF. This is not in itself problematic as the XF is a very elegant car.
Moreover, it is a formula employed successfully by 2 of Jaguar’s main competitors, BMW and Audi, whose cars all have an obvious family resemblance. However, many anticipated that Jaguar would have moved the game on a little from the XF which was launched in 2008 and is due to be replaced in by 2016.
It’s conservative in other ways too. It’s a four-door saloon, of almost exactly the same dimensions as the Audi A4, BMW 3-Series, and Mercedes C-Class against which it is designed to compete. Again none of this is problematic, it’s simply that Jaguar had been talking about doing something different from the competition but it looks like it has simply copied their playbook. Given the success of those companies, however, one can hardly blame them.
However, in other ways the car promises to be very cutting edge. It is described by Jaguar as aluminium intensive, their way of saying the car is not quite all aluminium but nearly. About 75% of the car is made of the light and strong but expensive alloy.
This has at least 2 benefits. First, it makes the car lighter with all the consequential benefits for handling, emissions and fuel consumption.
Secondly, it allows for certain manufacturing advantages. Aluminium is more widely recycled than steel and Jaguar are committed to increasing the percentage of recycled aluminium they utilise in their manufacturing. This has obvious environmental benefits.
In addition, manufacturing cars in steel is a dirty, loud, hot and sweaty process of spot welding and hot forming, compared to the comparatively clean and quiet process of riveting and bonding aluminium.
Jaguar Land Rover have staked their future on aluminium and intend to manufacture all future cars from the alloy. The XE is very unusual in having such an exotic construction material for a car that is at the lower end of the premium car market.
The exotica doesn’t end with the construction material. The car shares at least one engine with the Jaguar F-Type sports car and is claimed to utilise more advanced suspension components usually reserved for more expensive cars in the class above. The less racy engines will be the all-new and advanced Ingenium engines which JLR have been working on for the last few years.
So we have the launch of a newly engineered car, on a newly engineered aluminium platform, utilising newly engineered engines. That is a pretty rare combination of newness. Most new cars utilise existing tech. So the newly launched C Class, for example, utilises engines that are already in existence.
However, the XE has not been without controversy. Jaguar have just released figures which reveal that the lightest XE at launch will be only 21kg lighter than the equivalent BMW 3-Series, which is made from heavier steel.
Though it must be acknowledged that BMWs are typically among the lightest and most efficient in their class, many are wondering why Jaguar spent extra money to engineer a new aluminium intensive platform if the result is measly 21kg weight saving over a car that was launched 3 years ago. This hardly moving on the state of the art.
It’s a tricky one this. Jaguar are being criticised for being only 21kg lighter than the lightest car in the class. That’s a bit like Usain Bolt being criticised for not beating his competitors by a sufficiently convincing margin rather than congratulated for winning the race. And improving on his personal best.
The problem is with the weight of expectation (geddit?). Pundits were predicting a weight advantage of up to 10 times as much, at around 200kg, with the hugely significant emissions and fuel efficiency savings that would have created. In fact, what we have is a car that is only a small improvement on the state of the art in the weight department.
No one has yet driven the car so we have no idea whether there are other elements of the car that move the game forward in more significant ways.Certainly the technology on the car promises to be special. Head up display allows certain information, like the sat nav, to be projected onto the windscreen in the way that that jet pilots have information projected in front of them so they don’t have to look down.
The car has optional remote control which allows you to unlock, heat or cool the car from a distance using your mobile phone. Bound to be popular on frozen mornings, it could make scraping ice from your windscreen a thing of the past.
And they promise that it will drive and handle better than anything in the class. So if Jaguar can deliver on these promises we might just forget that the light new XE is not quite as light as we had hoped.
I have a theory about why this is which I’ll share in a later post.
From Next week Friday Motoring moves to Monday Motoring so I’ll be back on this theme in a few days.