Jaguar: The Comeback

Everybody, and I mean everybody, loves a good comeback story. It’s the final lap, of the final race, of the year. The championship as well as bragging rights are on the line and you, in second place, have to make a move. Either you pass the first place driver early in the lap and risk losing the lead or you risk passing on the final turn and straight-away which is just as risky as option A. You pick option B and through a final triumpant push, you win the championship with inches to spare. I won’t say Jaguar has necessarily “won” the championship, but Jaguar’s comeback is one of the greatest in automotive history.

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Think about it. Has Jaguar been relevant in the past twenty years? You might say XK220, XKR and XJ, but really the only notable car in that group is the XK220, due to its time as the world’s fastest. The XK and XJ were nice, but in comparison to other European luxury automakers, Jaguar had more than a couple toes in the casket. If I remember correctly, the only time I heard of Jaguar was in a Missy Elliot song, where she referenced the XK8 and the XKR in NFS: Hot Pursuit 2. Let’s also not forget to mention reliability issues that plagued the company. That, as bad as it was, sparked owners to replace their blown engines with Chevrolet 350s. The worst was yet to come however.

When Ford held it’s controlling interest in Jaguar, in 1989, the downfall almost hit a irreversible spiral. Still the XK and XJ were notable. The X-Type and S-Type Jagaurs, while expansions for the Jaguar line-up, didn’t meet the standards needed for a luxury automaker. Let’s focus on this point for a moment.

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The X-Type Jaguar was Jaguar’s volume seller, and was the best seller during it’s production run. It actually wasn’t a bad car, according to reviewers and a one Jeremy Clarkson. In my opinion, The X-Type is a XJ on the Ford Mondeo platform, with less “XJ”-ness. Sure, a 50,000 unit peak in the first three years was an achievement, but lets consider other competitors. According to sources, in 2005, the X-Type, sold roughly 11,000 units. The indomitable BMW 3-Series sold over 100k units, the A4 from Audi, near 50k units and the C-Class from Mercedes, sold roughly 70k units. See where I’m going with this.

The S-Type was equivalent to a classic horror film. Reliability issues plagued this one. Engine and transmission, issues ruined the first part of the S-Type’s tenure. As a matter of fact, when I spoke to an owner about his S-Type a few years back, he told me he had recently replaced his entire engine. He told me this while circling his car like a hawk, during an oil change. This was an 04 model as well. Don’t believe me? Google search S-Type problems and see what results you pull. I know, I know, every car has page upon page of customer complaints, but we are talking about a near 50k msrp vehicle, in 2004.

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The days looked grim but hope was on the horizon, from the Indian automaker, Tata Motors. Hope was the wrong word. More like, a renaissance of design starting with my favorite Jag, the XF. It was a Jagauar that one could call a stray cat. I mean it was different from the past models and it actually was competitive. The design was so good, the XJ and the actual 3-Series fighting XE followed suit. The XJ was actually a competitor in the world’s fastest sedans comparison and if I remember correctly, it fared well. The move to Tata also brought a few other needs to the stable.

The F-Type and F-Pace brought new markets and a new sense of pride to the automaker in my eyes. The F-Type replaced the XJ and seeing as you have a choice V8, V6, RWD or AWD in varying configurations and trim levels, it was the proper sports car for Jaguar. The F-Pace is the company’s first attempt at a luxury CUV which, in my opinion, makes me think of a sub-Bentayga. It’s beautiful and by what I’ve seen, it exactly what the doctor ordered for Jaguars revival. Still, something is missing.

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Jaguar needs a supercar, something like a R8/Huracan fighter. The C-X75 would be a good idea as far as a hypercar, but removing some of the hypercar technology would be ideal. Jaguar also needs a sub-XE, to battle the CLA, 1 and 2 series and A3 and that would most likely become the volume seller for Jaguar. A sub-F-Pace probably wouldn’t hurt either.

Yes, Jaguar still has a way to go before it can be considered an elite European luxury/sports automaker, but at the rate they are going, it wouldn’t surprise me if it happened. The way to beat German superiority is to produce a more superior product than the Germans can and that’s the challenge, Jaguar will have to face. The other sleeper is Cadillac, with changes to the ATS and CTS but that’s another post for another time.

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