An inside look at Jaguar’s goals and directions

Jaguar performance tour

Like a Formula One race car tearing through turns, Jaguar Land Rover has been flying.

T he company has brought out a new vehicle every few months this year. We’ve seen the all-new Discovery and Velars on the Land Rover side and a trio of new models from Jag, including the E-Pace compact crossover, the XF Sportbrake wagon, and the ultimate XJR575 powerhouse sedan. There’s no grass growing under Jaguar Land Rover’s feet, so we sat down with two of the brand’s leaders on the design and business sides of the house to find out where they plan to take things next, and why.

David Larsen is GM of Product Management at Jaguar Land Rover North America, so he’s deeply responsible for the brand’s trajectory in the United States. Just a few years ago, Jaguar seemed destined to be the war wagon of choice for retirement communities in the sun belt, but today that’s all turned around with new models like the F-Type sports car and the F-Pace – the brand’s first crossover SUV. Now this fall, Jaguar is assaulting the largest single market segment in America with the E-Pace compact crossover SUV.

Jaguar feature
Jeff Zurschmeide/Digital Trends
Jeff Zurschmeide/Digital Trends

“Jaguar’s approach is that it’s got to be a sports car,” Larsen insists. “It’s our DNA. With the E-Pace that we just introduced, this vehicle has the functionality of an SUV but it’s really, at its heart, a sports car. You can see that through the styling elements on the exterior. But it’s really in the driving dynamics of the car. When you get a chance to experience it, it’s phenomenal. It drives more like the F-Type.”

“Jaguar’s approach is that it’s got to be a sports car. It’s our DNA.”

The new E-Pace starts at $39,595 including all fees, and comes with your choice of a 246 or 296 horsepower turbocharged 2.0-liter engine. The base engine delivers 269 pound-feet of torque and will push the E-Pace from 0 to 60 in 6.6 seconds. That’s faster than a Mercedes GLC300 (6.8 sec) or a BMW X3 xDrive28i (7.3 sec) or the Audi Q5 Premium Plus (7.9 sec). If you select the R-Dynamic S engine with 296 horses (but the same 269 pound-feet of torque), your 0 to 60 time drops to 5.9 seconds.

“We intend to attract the home buyer with the E-Pace,” Larsen said. “We’re definitely looking to expand volumes. We’re doing that by competing in segments we haven’t done before. A little over a year ago, we only had three models. XF, XJ, and F-Type, and the entry point to the brand was at $50,000. In the last year, we introduced XE and F-Pace, and F-Pace became our number-one selling model within its first year. We could’ve just taken an F-Pace and made a scaled down version. The overall silhouette is similar, but the styling cues and the overall appearance of the E-Pace is dramatically different.”

Jaguar Land Rover designer Ian Callum agrees, noting the family resemblance while emphasizing the individual identity of the E-Pace.

“We picked up cues off the F-type to give it that sportiness, without too much ambiguity,” Callum said. “It’s like a re-proportioned F-type in some ways. I think people see the charm and the fun in that. I think with each car, what we’re trying to do now is to just give them all a little bit of their own character.”

Character was also on Larsen’s and Callum’s minds when they created the 2018 Jaguar XF Sportbrake. It’s a bold move for any automaker to put forth a station wagon these days, but Jaguar made it sexy by giving the XF wagon it 380 horsepower supercharged V6 and the S suspension and driving dynamics package. The XJR575 is similarly designed to take the staid XJ sedan to the extreme. Featuring a 575 horsepower 5.0-liter supercharged V8 engine and a brake and suspension package, this big cat will hit 186 mph. Carrying an MSRP of $122,400, this Jag sedan is built for the race course, not the golf course.

Enter the electric I-Pace

Like all automakers, both Larsen and Callum wanted to talk electric and autonomous. Jaguar revealed its I-Pace electric SUV concept a year ago at the 2016 Los Angeles Auto Show, and says it will be available for purchase by the second half of 2018. For the moment, the I-Pace is still the North Star for Jaguar.

“The I-Pace is a completely different vehicle altogether because it is electric.”

“The I-Pace is a completely different vehicle altogether,” Callum relates. “It is designed in a very different way because it is electric. It means from the ground up we can really design the body and the position of the cabin where the occupants are where we want them to be. They don’t have to sit behind an engine, because the engine’s underneath. It’s between the wheels. And so a lot of the predetermined dimensions of the conventional car have gone. It gives you freedom, really.”

From a product management perspective, Larsen sees potential for success in the I-Pace.

“I think we have a unique opportunity with the I-Pace,” Larsen said. “We didn’t take an existing platform and electrify it or modify it. This vehicle was designed from the beginning as an electric vehicle. You’ll look at the I-Pace and you’re not going to say, ‘Oh, that’s an electric car.’ You’re going to say, ‘Oh, that’s a great looking car.’ The styling is incredible.”

Larsen sees a worldwide transition coming, starting in Europe.

“The transition to electrification is actually going to take place in Europe a lot quicker than in the U.S.,” he declares. “The reason for that is it’s been a diesel game over there. Because maybe a year ago or more than a year ago, before Dieselgate, diesel was the highest majority of the powertrain offering in Europe. Everything was diesel. You’re seeing an extreme shift out of diesels right now, into petrol. People in Europe aren’t sure what to buy. There the acceleration of electrification is actually moving a lot faster.”

Always a place for the driver

As a driver’s brand as well as a luxury brand, Jaguar has a fine line to walk with the adoption of autonomous technology. They know they need to keep current with technology, but at the same time, there’s almost 100 years of Jaguar heritage written at race tracks and rally courses around the world.

We’re introducing features in our vehicles today that are going to be further developed towards that autonomous future.

“Never say never,” Larsen says. “We’re on a path toward autonomy. We’re introducing features in our vehicles today that are going to be further developed towards that autonomous future. Jaguar Land Rover, but Jaguar especially, envisions a world where you have autonomous driving, but you also have the option of having what they call engaged driving. Once you get out of that urban environment where you don’t want to be driving, yeah, you want to hit the country road being in an engaged car.”

One concept Jaguar Land Rover is presenting is their “Sayer” steering wheel. In this vision of the future, you might use several different vehicle platforms, but the steering wheel would go with you from car to car, and carry your personal preferences.

“The concepts behind the Sayer steering wheel are fantastic,” Larsen says. “The notion that I’m going to have this bit that has all of my preferences and everything else so that it doesn’t matter whether it’s my own car or I’m picking one up. I plug in the steering wheel that’s got all my preferences in it.”

“It’s autonomy without anonymity,” Callum added.


Car-branded phones need to make a U-turn if they ever want to impress

Your car and your smartphone are becoming one, yet smartphones branded or co-created by car companies are a problem. We look at the history, some examples of the best and worst, then share hopes for the future.
Product Review

Audi built an electric SUV for buyers who want gasoline-free to mean stress-free

We finally got to spend time behind the wheel of the electric 2019 Audi E-Tron bustling cities and arid desert of the United Arab Emirates to see how it compares with Jaguar and Tesla's competitors.
Digital Trends Live

Digital Trends Live: Self-driving cars, ocean exploration, and holiday shopping

Today on Digital Trends Live, we discussed the first self-driving car service in Phoenix, an expedition heading to the bottom of the world's oceans, and talked to Liz Dunn from Pro4ma about holiday shopping trends.
Smart Home

Is old-school Airstream finally embracing smart home technology?

Airstream's vintage-looking trailers have a huge audience but its 2019 Classic camping trailers are getting a modern upgrade with the addition of app-controlled smart home technology to bring modern convenience online.

Did that car just wink at you? Daimler previews car-to-pedestrian signals

Eager to show off progress with autonomous cars and perhaps do some consumer softening as well, Daimler and Bosch previewed car-to-pedestrian communications. A sensor-loaded Mercedes S appears to wink to acknowledge a pedestrian's presence.

Uber is about to restart self-driving car tests but on a reduced scale

Uber is reported to be on the verge of restarting its autonomous-car test program. The company halted it in March 2018 following a fatal accident involving one of its vehicles, but its cars could be back on the road within weeks.

Bosch is developing a Rosetta Stone for autonomous and connected cars

Bosch and start-up Veniam want to create a common language that autonomous and connected cars can use. The two firms have developed a connectivity unit that transcends the national boundaries of technology.

Aston Martin bets classic car owners will choose volts over carburetors

Aston Martin has converted one of its most sought-after classic models to run on electricity instead of gasoline. The roadster uses electric components sourced from the upcoming Rapide E sedan.

Volkswagen may be planning a tougher challenge for its all-electric I.D. R

The Volkswagen I.D. R electric race car may head to the Nürburgring in 2019 for a lap-record attempt, according to a new report. Volkswagen will reportedly aim to set the quickest lap time ever by an electric car.

600-hp, $155K Polestar 1 is the alluring Volvo coupe you’ve been waiting for

Volvo's return to the coupe segment just took an interesting turn: the model will join the Polestar lineup, and it will get a 600-hp plug-in hybrid powertrain. The Polestar 1 will be built in China starting in 2019.

The Aston Martin Vanquish Zagato Shooting Brake is the sexiest wagon ever

Aston Martin has revealed new photos of the limited-production Vanquish Zagato Shooting Brake. The Vanquish Zagato line now includes the Shooting Brake, Coupe, Volante, and Speedster, each with bespoke styling.

Nissan and Italdesign’s GT-R50 concept will become a $1.1 million reality

The Nissan GT-R50 is a customized sports car built to celebrate the 50th anniversaries of both the GT-R and design firm Italdesign. Underneath the sleek bodywork sits a 710-horsepower engine fortified with race car components.

Ford’s new Shelby GT500 Mustang will have 3D-printed brake parts

Ford's new $45 million Advanced Manufacturing Center will focus on emerging technologies, including 3D printing. One of the staff's first jobs is to print parts for the 700-horsepower Shelby GT500 Mustang.

World’s fastest electric race car to display at Petersen Museum

The Volkswagen I.D. R Pikes Peak race car smashed the all-time record at the hill climb for which it was named. The all-electric VW record-holder will be on display at the Petersen Automotive Museum in Los Angeles until February 1, 2019.