The last time Jaguar built an entry-level car based on front-drive architecture, it built the X-Type, a car that was nearly universally panned as “not quite a real Jaguar.” At thee time though, Ford was desperate to make a little money on its Premier Auto Group, and bringing Jaguar downmarket was the only way to do that relatively cheaply. And, all things considered, it could have been a lot worse: at least Ford was working from a good basis in the form of the Mondeo (Contour), which at the time was considered one of the better driving mass-market sedans. But if anything, the fact that the Jaguar brand was being used as Ford’s corporate pawn was a big part of why the X-Type flopped (the company’s overly-earnest insistence that the X-Type was in fact a ‘proper Jag” (see above) didn’t help either). And flop it did: sales topped out at 33k units in the US, and enjoyed only four years of rapidly-declining five-digit sales. While reviewers like Robert Farago used terms like “laughable distraction” to describe the baby Jag.
But those who don’t learn from history are destined to repeat it. Now owned by India’s Tata Motors, Jaguar is once again aiming at the entry-luxury market, and it’s planning… a front-drive sedan.
Of course, times have changed a bit since the go-go 90s, when Jag last dove into the volume market. Mercedes has a a front-drive CLS coming, Buick’s Verano is warming up the segment, and a new Audi A3 will continue to build interest in entry-compact luxury sedans. Besides, it’s not that Jaguar wants to build another X-Type… but American CAFE standards demand that Jag return to the scene of its greatest mis-step in recent history. According to Autocar
Despite the reputation of the unloved X-Type, Jaguar’s decision to build a range of front-drive cars is being partly forced on the company by the stringent new CAFE fuel economy regulations due in the US from 2016.
According to the CAFE rules, by the time the 2016 model year arrives, Jaguar needs to be selling significant numbers of petrol-engined vehicles capable of more than 50mpg, as a result of the US market’s lack of interest in diesel. These fuel economy demands will then become progressively more stringent by 2025.
Anyway, on to the car itself.
the new model is thought to be about 4.5 metres long and will be powered by Jaguar Land Rover’s all-new three-cylinder, 1.5-litre engine and four-cylinder, 1.8 and 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol and diesels. Sophisticated new-generation eight and nine-speed automatic gearboxes are also thought to be on the menu.
Of course there’s far too little information out now to know how this car will turn out, or how it will impact the Jaguar brand (for example, it’s not clear if this car will be based on the Evoque’s platform, or a new “mixed-materials” architecture). But there’s no lack of awareness among the Jag boys about the fact that they’re treading on dangerous territory. Jag’s global brand director Adrian Hallmark admits
We’ve got to be careful, and not be too British and think that just because we didn’t hit the bull’s-eye first time [with the X-type], we can’t hit it a second time