WHAT an evocative name Jaguar is — even when the giant brand names of our age,
WHAT an evocative name Jaguar is — even when the giant brand names of our age, Apple and Google, dwarf just about everything in sight.
But will these masters of the digital universe really usurp today’s top-selling auto brands and become carmakers of the future?
Well, it’s no secret that Google has driverless cars on Californian roads now and Apple, though famously secretive, might not be far behind.
The mobile phone king is developing an electric car, according to The Wall Street Journal and may go driverless in future.
But a driverless Jag in 2050? Who knows? Not long ago a hybrid Range Rover — the first diesel hybrid SUV in the world made by Jaguar Land Rover — might have been unthinkable. Now it is a fact.
An eco-friendly Jaguar couldn’t be far behind. Even if those old stalwarts at the golf club who love their straight-six Daimler Jags splutter into their G&Ts at the thought you cannot — as they say — halt progress.
The jury might be out on whether Apple will go driverless — though I would think that with billions of dollars in its coffers it is a distinct possibility.
Think of the massive global market that awaits the successful and affordable driverless car.
My appetite for nostalgia was whetted when someone mentioned that a friend had just had a track day in a D-Type Jaguar.
Now that combination sets the pulse pounding. The D-Type was a racing car produced by Jaguar between 1954 and 1957. Its basic 3.4-litre straight-six engine was uprated to 3.8 litres in the late Fifties. This car won the Le Mans 24-hour race three years running from 1956 to 1957 — the stuff of dreams.
To drive around a racetrack in 2015 in the D-Type is indeed a privilege. Back in the real world, this week’s drive is a million miles away from the D-Type but the definite face of Jaguars to come.
The Jaguar XE SE 2.0 i4 163PS Automatic is probably the “greenest” Jaguar saloon ever — a veritable lean machine that gobbles up the miles but not the fuel.
I remember going on a trip to Wales in a big strapping Jag that at top speed on the motorway I could watch the fuel needle on its inevitable descent towards empty.
But this XE has an official combined fuel rating of nearly 70mpg. Sure, this was not the same Jaguar experience I had on that trip to Wales, but it was pleasant driving nonetheless.
Jaguar has come on in leaps and bounds in recent years. Under the ownership of the giant Tata Group of India it has thrived and with its thunderous F-Type and sure-footed XF models, put pride back into cars that bear the Jaguar badge.
So what makes the XE the most efficient Jaguar ever made? The test car had a 2.0-litre diesel engine with excellent torque (pulling power) and is well placed on the “good green” radar by producing 106g/km of emissions.
This was an automatic: with the six-speed manual gearbox fitted the XE notches up average fuel economy of 75mpg and emissions of 99g/km of CO2. This car has become a serious contender among its nearest rivals.
Apparently not only does this new XE compete on price with rivals but also gets the better of them on residual (secondhand) values.
The XE might not get your juices flowing overmuch but that depends how you drive it. I found that I could have fun turning up the speed a bit and using the paddle gears.
But what I liked about it most of all was its ease of passage on motorways. For a relatively small engine — a two-litre diesel is not a large power unit — its willingness was complete.
I think I also detected a hint of that famous Jaguar growl somewhere deep in the power base of the XE — but that might have been me getting all misty eyed yet again. If you really want some growl there is available a Jaguar XE S powered by a supercharged 335bhp 3.0-litre V6 engine that delivers 0-60mph in 4.9 seconds.
This new diesel engine is part of an upcoming Jaguar “programme” of all-new turbo-charged four-cylinder petrol and diesel engines due soon. Jaguar says they will all “deliver class-leading fuel efficiency, refinement and performance”.
I think the XE proves thankfully to those of us old-time fans of the brand that Jaguar has its mojo back. Besides, someone has to take on the likes of Apple and Google. Surely those doyens of the digital age cannot be allowed to have it all their own way by breaking the mould on future car production? Or can they?
Anyway, I think we should all beware driverless cars. Stephen King’s driverless car in his new book of short stories, The Bazaar of Bad Dreams, lures motorists into a layby then eats them!
Jaguar XE factfile:
Jaguar XE SE 2.0 i4 163PS Automatic
Price as tested: £35,676
Prices start from £26,995 for the entry level petrol-engined model