Jaguar XJ’s driver engagement isn’t enough to save it
Porsche’s engineers spend a lot of time on the autobahn, Jaguar’s on the A444 to Nuneaton. Guess whose sports saloons are more usable?
They have had two very different fortunes for two cars with not entirely dissimilar outlooks on life – luxury four-doors that are also entertaining to drive.
The XJ, production not far into five figures a year, is winding down to the extent that Jaguar even discussed whether to replace it at all. There is, we understand, a replacement XJ, an electric one, in the plan and, presumably, already a long way down the development cycle.
At Porsche, meanwhile, the Panamera’s trajectory is more solid. Porsche sold more than three times as many Panameras as Jaguar sold XJs last year, and that you’ll find the Panamera’s architecture elsewhere within the Volkswagen Group must give it economies of scale that make it way more profitable.
And yet, for what it’s worth, on British roads I suspect the Jaguar is the more engaging car of the two to drive. Model for model, I don’t doubt it is slower, with less tech inside, a different image and so on: all valid reasons to pick one car over another.
But when it comes to that fairly important job of making its driver happy, the XJ, for me, is that bit smoother, that bit more rewarding.
I think this is because they’re both very much products of where they’ve been developed. And this geographical difference matters.
I’ve spent a bit of time around the new Vauxhall Corsa and its engineers and designers recently, and one of the factors of its make-up, despite having a platform conceived in France, is how ‘German’ its engineers say the car has to feel on the road.
The autobahn network and its occasional stretches without a speed limit mean Opel’s engineers have undertaken more high-speed testing than their PSA Group counterparts in France will have done.
Although they’ll come to the UK, too, because they realise that the Vauxhall badge is important and Britain regularly offers them something they struggle to find in Germany: roads consisting of broken asphalt, with tree roots and subsidence meaning vastly different chassis inputs to the left and right side of the car, on heavily crowned roads, with lots of turns, that are narrow, and where speeds are high. “Steering is so important there,” one Opel engineer told me the other day. And that can mean two possibly conflicting desirable dynamic traits.
In the UK, it’s better to have steering that guides easily off-centre, is uncorrupted by bumps, is millimetre-accurate and has good road feel as you drive between corners on a country road, spending little time with the front wheels and the steering wheel pointing straight.
In Germany there are quite a few places where this is good too, but so is the ability to drive deep into three-figure speeds without a hint of instability come crosswinds, camber changes or if the driver sneezes. So in one place high agility is a good thing; in the other a lack of it is key.
But the truth is that a car that works well on the road here will work well pretty much anywhere else. And whether we’re talking about an XJ versus a Panamera or a Corsa versus, say, a Citroën C3, the same isn’t necessarily true in reverse.
Source: – autocar
Matt Prior: Jaguar's country roads gave its XJ the edge