Jaguar's XE unveiled

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Andrew Frankel

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After last (Monday) night, when we get to drive it, the new Jaguar XE had better be good. In more than 25 years attending car unveilings, I’ve never seen anything quite like it.

The venue was predictable enough – Earls Court has witnessed the birth of 14 new models since the first SS Jaguar was launched there back in 1935. The rest was not. First there were the number of invitees, over 3000 of us all instructed to dress in ‘London cool’ clothing.

You might expect more than a smattering of celebs at such an event but it shows what kind of reach Jaguar has (or would like to have) when you get to see the 94-year-old legendary Jaguar test driver Norman Dewis being introduced to Nicko McBrain, who I am sure you don’t need me to tell you is the drummer for that collective of heavy metal minstrels called Iron Maiden.

I got to chat to Land Speed Record holder Andy Green (the car rolls out next summer with the aim to beating the existing LSR by the end of the year and cracking 1000mph a year later after 12 months of data acquisition). Also there was José Mourinho, Stella McCartney, David Gandy, Eva Herzigova, Paloma Faith, Damien Lewis, Sir Steve Redgrave, Gary Lineker… I could go and were this the Daily Mail I undoubtedly would, but you get the picture.

After an hour or so we filed into a vast auditorium where a 90-minute show took us through the entire history of Jaguar interspersed by performances from Emily Sande, Eliza Doolittle and the Kaiser Chiefs. It was interesting and inventive and while it probably ran for half an hour too long the message was clear: despite its thoroughly modern brief, the new Jaguar XE was born from the same passion for car, engineering and style that produced so many great Jaguars from time gone by.

Oh, and under no circumstances must you mention Formula 1. From five failed seasons in the sport’s Premier League, not one positive could be found sufficiently strong to stay in the script.

Sometime during the show the official embargo for press pictures and information lifted, so those of us who were there found ourselves somewhat bizarrely receiving pictures via social media of a car we had yet to see. That caused some muttering among the press corps I can tell you.

But when it finally appeared the XE received the warm welcome it clearly deserved. A small minority carped that it looked a little bland but I liked it at once, which is not always a given for Jaguars which tend to look their best not static and under artificial light, but out on the road and moving in the real world.

My mind flashed back to the launch of Jaguar’s hitherto only prior attempt to build a small saloon. Happily this lightweight, svelte machine with its unique architecture, brand new powertrains, aluminium intensive construction and state of the art telematics seems as far removed from the awful and ugly re-clad Mondeo they called the X-type as can be. They didn’t mention that car either.

The XE will go on sale early next year priced from £27,000 powered by 2-litre petrol and diesel engines sharing exactly the same block, the latter capable of 75mpg and class-busting 99g/km emissions. There will also be a 340bhp 3-litre V6 ‘S’ version that will get to 62mph in under 5sec.

In time this car will spawn a cast of thousands, including an estate, a small SUV and probably coupe and convertible versions too. Jaguar Land Rover’s strategy guru Adrian Hallmark told me its new platform was so adaptable it could be turned into ‘more different kinds of car than we’d be either inclined or able to make.’

How important is it? Hallmark told me that in saloon guise alone, the XE is intended to outsell every other Jaguar currently on sale put together. In short the company has bet the farm on this car and time alone will tell if their sums have added up. All I can say that if you believe that if it looks right then it generally is right, then they have at least stepped off on the right foot.

One last story from the show. I happened to be standing with AC/DC frontman and car nut Brian Johnson when it was suggested to him that he might like to meet Sir Stirling Moss. ‘Oh, I couldn’t,’ he replied in Geordie you could wade through. ‘Why would he want to meet me?’

But he was eventually coaxed over to where Stirling was sitting and soon they were laughing away together like they’d been mates for years. But just for a moment a man who thinks nothing of spending two hours yelling at the top of his voice in front of stadium packed with 100,000 people was rendered utterly speechless by the prospect of meeting Sir Stirling. It was a rather good end to a highly entertaining, quite encouraging and often really rather strange event.

 

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